We’ve all seen them. Those adverts for probiotic yogurts that seem to imply they are a miracle cure for everything from constipation to a broken leg. Maybe they could even bring about world peace, if we all ate enough.
Why is everyone so obsessed with gut health these days? Is there anything in it? And does it have anything to do with MS?
Although the exact cause of MS remains unknown, evidence indicates that certain triggers may cause the immune system to attack myelin (the protective coating surrounding neurons in the brain), as it mistakenly believes the myelin to be a foreign body – which essentially means the body is tricked into waging war on itself.
These triggers have traditionally been thought to include external things like infections – but recently scientists have been exploring the idea that internal triggers, including certain bacteria in the gut, could also cause the immune system to overreact.
Research carried out in Germany, for example, suggests that gut bacteria can trigger the immune system to attack myelin in rats that are genetically predisposed to MS. Although further studies are required, the German research shows how MS might work in a similar way to other autoimmune conditions, like Crohn’s disease, where a change or trigger in the internal environment (rather than an external infection) causes the immune system to attack the body.
It’s not clear yet what this means for the management or prevention of MS. But the hope is that new discoveries will lead to a better understanding of the disease and how to manage it through diet, nutrition and medical care.