Study suggests that antibiotics prevent brain cells from growing

Study suggests that antibiotics prevent brain cells from growing

Most of us have taken antibiotics for some sort of infection at some point in our lives. Except for a slight upset stomach, there are no major side effects or long term effects, right? Apparently not.

Researchers at the Max-Delbrueck-Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany have reported evidence that prolonged antibiotic therapy may significantly affect brain function – at least in mice.

Antibiotics affect the mind and body

The gastrointestinal side effects some people experience when they take antibiotics are related to alterations in the gut bacteria. Antibiotics kill the good bacteria in the body along with the bad bacteria causing whatever infection is being treated. Killing the good bacteria has repercussions.

For example, without the good bacteria, yeast multiplies and white blood cell production decreases. This decrease in white blood cells seems to be the link between antibiotics and brain problems.

In the study, mice were given antibiotics long enough to kill off most of their intestinal flora (gut bacteria). The mice showed less brain cell growth and worse memory than untreated mice. They also had low white blood cell counts. Apparently, a certain type of white blood cell acts as a communicator between the gut bacteria and the brain. Without that communication, brain cell growth and memory is hindered.

Fortunately, the mice were able to get their white blood cells and memories back by exercising and taking probiotics.

Alternatives or additions to antibiotics

The human body has an amazing capacity to heal itself, as long as it is given what it needs to do so: exercise, nutrition, hydration, and sleep. And sunlight. And probably laughter as well. Okay, maybe it needs a lot of things to heal itself. But all of the things it needs come naturally.

Except when it needs antibiotics. But even then the body (brain) can heal itself from the negative effects. No matter what it goes through, the body will continue trying to heal itself.

Drug and alcohol addiction can also wreak havoc on every organ in the body, especially the brain. Sometimes those in early recovery also need to temporarily take psychotropic medications can further alter cognitive function. But with exercise, nutrition, hydration, sunlight, laughter, and time, cognitive function can be restored.

As cognitive function normalizes, so do emotions and behavior. As clarity returns to the thought processes, decision-making becomes sounder. Brain cell growth continues forming normal neuropathways. Healthy patterns of behavior become progressively reinforced over time. Assuming there is no further exposure to drugs or alcohol (and no severe head trauma), the upward trend will continue limitlessly.

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About the author

Dana Connolly, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer, where she translates current research into practical information. She earned her Ph.D. in research and theory development from New York University and has decades of experience in clinical care, medical research and health education. 

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