(CNN)If you have inflammatory bowel disease, you may be at greater risk for developing dementia, a new study suggests.
People with inflammatory bowel disease might be at higher risk for dementia, study finds
Inflammatory bowel disease, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects more than 3 million US adults and millions more around the world. It intermittently triggers stomach pain, diarrhea and bloody stools.
Researchers have found evidence of a connection between our gut and the brain in prior studies. Now it appears that gut imbalances associated with IBD may impact cognitive decline, the study found.
According to the researchers, their study was the first to explore IBD as a factor for dementia.
"It's been quite a few years that we've known IBD is associated with depression and anxiety," said Dr. Bing Zhang, a fellow in the gastroenterology division of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and coauthor of the new study that published Tuesday in the journal Gut.
"In fact, we knew 30% of people with IBD would develop these," Zhang said. "However, it wasn't until recently that we started looking at more neurocognitive changes and neurocognitive decline."
Our gut bacteria, or microbiome, is composed of bacteria, viruses and microbes that are tiny but actually quite mighty — they appear to aid our metabolic functions, help protect us from pathogens and manage our immune systems.
IBD is thought to originate from a dysfunctional or heightened immune response to changes in the microbiome of a person who is genetically susceptible. It could also be triggered by environmental factors.