It’s not just click bait. The bacteria that line your gut, from your esophagus to your colon, are now being increasingly recognized to have an impact on brain function via the Gut-Brain Axis. This bacterial composition matters; bacteria can activate nerves that connect the gut to the brain, influence neurotransmitter and hormone signaling, and induce brain inflammation. Different types of bacteria can influence these functions in vastly different ways.
A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology sought to identify how the gut’s bacteria differs between cannabis users from non-users. They also investigated whether differences in gut bacteria were associated with the efficiency of the body to produce energy (the conversion of glucose to the usable form, ATP), and how this relates to cognitive performance.
The researchers identified that stool samples obtained from cannabis users were rich in a type of bacteria associated with animal-based diets (i.e., Bacteroides), where non-users’ stool was rich in bacteria consistent with a plant-based diet (i.e., Prevotella). The greater the ratio of Bacteriodes to Prevotella populations in cannabis users was associated with reduced energy production efficiency (i.e., reduced mitochondial function) and worse performance on behavioral tests of cognitive performance and impulsivity.
This study is the first to investigate the impact of cannabis use on the Gut-Brain Axis, but it’s rife with caveats, primarily the lack of cause-and-effect information.
For a more complete description and discussion, please see my article published in Civilized.