27/01/2016 9:59 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Microbiome And Leaky Gut: A Guide To The Gut-Brain Connection

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A woman holding her stomach

If you’ve been hearing terms like “gut bacteria” and “microbes” recently, it’s because a whole heap of new research is showing that the bacteria in your gut actually plays a huge role in your overall health and wellbeing, including mental health.

The trillions of bacteria that live in the gut make up your 'microbiome', which is said to regulate inflammation and immunity.

Experts agree that the state of your microbiome may have a direct effect on brain activity, with the gut bacteria controlling the level of inflammation in the body and therefore contributing to inflammation conditions such as obesity, depression and type 2 diabetes.

“The vast population of bacteria that live in the gut are influencing every manner of brain activity every moment of our lives,” Dr David Perlmutter, neurologist and #1 New York Times bestselling author, told The Huffington Post Australia.

The state of your microbiome is not only dictated by your diet but also by things like exposure to antibiotics and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.

Perlmutter goes as far to describe antibiotics -- one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the Western world -- as a “weapon of mass destruction” in the gut in terms of bacteria.

“Exposure to antibiotics dramatically changes the microbiome and is likely the reason we see increased risk of obesity in children in perfect correlation with the number of antibiotics they’ve had as children,” Perlmutter said.

A recent study at the University of Helsinki found that early use of antibiotics in children could alter the natural population of microbes in a way that leaves them at higher risk of weight gain and asthma later in childhood.

In his latest book Brain Maker, Perlmutter points out that it is our diets that have gotten us into a situation where our gut is making us sick -- and therefore giving us a “leaky gut.”

“It’s the job of the healthy gut bacteria to maintain the gut lining so it doesn’t leak. It’s diet, avoiding antibiotics, eating probiotics and prebiotics that increases the growth of good bacteria,” Perlmutter said.

Perlmutter believes changing the diet and paying strict attention to our medications is imperative to fixing the problem.

“The diet needs to be much lower in sugar and carbohydrates and one of the biggest issues lacking in our diet is fibre -- we need a specific type of fibre called prebiotic fibre. Your diet should also welcome healthy fats like olive oil,” Perlmutter said.

Dr David Perlmutter will be presenting to health professionals at the 4th BioCeuticals Research Symposium, 22 - 24 April 2016 in Sydney.