A rather new and somewhat unusual concept connects brain functions to gut microbiota. It is called “gut-brain axis” (or “microbiota-gut-brain axis”) and states that probiotics consumption and a healthy gut microbiota positively influence brain functions related to behavior and cognition. Synergistic with a low chronic grade peripheral inflammation, this faulty barrier exposes the aged brain to negative extra-cerebral signals. Given the quasi-constant failure of pharmacological treatments in neurodegenerative diseases, increased interest is directed toward allopathic medicine, including dietary supplements. Interplay between gut microbiota and central nervous system by immune, neural and metabolic pathways is being explored as a possible modulator of cognitive impairment and behavior disorders. In elderly persons, this axis has been reported to be altered, contributing to systemic inflammation and was also indicated as a possible marker for early frailty in younger population. Currently, there are several clinical trials addressing the relationship between gut microbiota and central nervous system psychiatric disorders and at least one directly investigating whether there is a correlation between composition of gut microbiome, permeability of intestinal barrier and systemic inflammation in patients with dementia. This chapter discusses evidence-based data on positive modulation of gut-brain axis to alleviate behavior and cognition alterations in the elderly.
Part of the book: Gerontology