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Visceral pain: gut microbiota, a new hope?


BACKGROUND: Visceral pain is a complex and heterogeneous disorder, which can range from the mild discomfort of indigestion to the agonizing pain of renal colic. Regulation of visceral pain involves the spinal cord as well as higher order brain structures. Recent findings have linked the microbiota to gastrointestinal disorders characterized by abdominal pain suggesting the ability of microbes to modulate visceral hypersensitivity and nociception to pain. MAIN BODY: In this review we describe the neuroanatomical basis of visceral pain signaling and the existing evidence of its manipulation exerted by the gut microbiota. We included an updated overview of the potential therapeutic effects of dietary intervention, specifically probiotics and prebiotics, in alleviating hypersensitivity to visceral pain stimuli. CONCLUSIONS: The gut microbiota dramatically impacts normal visceral pain sensation and affects the mechanisms mediating visceral nociception. Furthermore, manipulation of the gut microbiota using prebiotics and probiotics plays a potential role in the regulation of visceral pain disorders.

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