Antibiotics have been heavily scrutinized for killing off the “good bacteria” that live in your gut, but it turns out bacteria aren’t the only thing antibiotics can kill. Now, recent research has found there is an even more alarming risk that comes with taking these allegedly innocuous drugs: They stop the growth of new brain cells.
Scientists say that antibiotics strong enough to kill gut bacteria are also potent enough to disrupt the development of new brain cells in the hippocampus region of the brain.
The hippocampus is part of the limbic system and is most recognized for its roles in memory formation and spatial recognition. As sources note, the hippocampus is typically the first region of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease; in fact, damage to the hippocampus is a hallmark trait of the condition.
Alzheimer’s disease is already a leading cause of death in the United States, and estimates suggest that some 14 million people will be affected by 2050.
And now, it turns out one of the most heavily prescribed class of drugs in the world interferes with the formation of new brain cells in that very same region.
Antibiotics are anti-brain cell, too
Researchers have long studied the effects antibiotics have on the GI tract, but science is only just beginning to look at how these over-prescribed drugs affect the whole system. And these latest findings aren’t doing Big Pharma any favors.
A team of German scientists recently published research which demonstrated antibiotics capable of killing gut bacteria are capable of harming more than their intended target.
Senior author Susanne Asu Wolf, from the Max-Delbrueck-Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, commented on the findings, stating, “We found prolonged antibiotic treatment might impact brain function.”
Some ten years ago, Wolf first became aware of the immune system’s influence on the growth and health of brain cells. But the link between brain health and gut health had not really been investigated — even though we know how tightly linked gut health and immunity are.
The human body consists of many different organ systems, but it often seems as though modern medicine neglects the fact that all of these bodily systems were designed to work together and not as separate entities.
As Wolf and her team discovered, there is a type of white blood cell which communicates with the brain, the immune system and the gut, Ly6Chi monocytes. In a series of experiments, scientists found low levels of these monocytes correlated with the appearance of cognitive deficits — and that antibiotic use could reduce the Ly6Chi monocytes population.
Probiotics can help
According to Wolf, probiotics and exercise can help mitigate the harmful effects antibiotic use might have on the brain. In fact, she suggests that probiotics and physical activity should be considered “real treatment options.”
In the team’s studies, mice who were given probiotics or used an exercise wheel were able to restore their memory capacity and regain brain cells. The scientists say they are looking forward to future research investigating probiotics as a treatment for conditions of mental health and cognition.
Probiotics have been linked to a number of health benefits, including immune system support, weight loss and heart health. Recent research has also shown that probiotics can help protect the body against the hazards of chemotherapy. While Big Pharma has been touting antibiotics as “miracle drugs” for decades, studies continue to show that probiotics are better in every way.