Systemic Neurodegenerative Disease and the Brain-Gut Axis

Kathleen O’Neil-Smith, MD, FAARM

Presentation Overview:

Optimal functioning of the immune system and the nervous system is dependent upon a healthy gut. The opposite is also true.  Our gut is our major interface with the outside world and has a direct effect on our immune system and our central nervous system. As an important line of defense, it is a very dynamic interface, where our immune system is developed and the neurotransmitters are made, among other things. Neurogastroimmunology encompasses the study of the brain, the gut, and the immune system interactions. We will focus on the relevance of neurogastroimmunology with respect to its relationship to neurological disease with systemic manifestations.  Recently, associations have been realized between our inner gastrointestinal and microbial environment, and numerous diseases including anxiety, depression, and multiple autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, obesity and arthritis.  This is an area of extensive research. In this discussion, we will review some of the emerging links between the gastrointestinal system, the immune system and neurological disease.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explore the relationship of the brain and gastrointestinal tract as it relates to symptoms of multiple disease entities.
  2. Identify diagnostic tools and biomarkers to guide the use of conventional and emerging therapies for brain and gut health.
  3. Review clinical case studies, diagnostic and therapeutic options for healing and symptom resolution.