Exposure to stress in early life can have a profound impact on health in later life, including intestinal pathology. Maternal separation is a well-established and reproducible model of early life stress in rodents that leads to the development of mood disorders and altered intestinal function, including visceral hypersensitivity, colonic dysmotility, and increased intestinal permeability. In this article, we highlight the consequences of disruption of normal programming after exposure to maternal separation in neonates: the development of intestinal alterations in both neonatal and adult animals as well as the accompanying behavioral changes. Mechanisms of action include corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and nerve growth factor (NGF), which signal both in the brain and in the periphery. Exposure to stress in early life also can alter bacterial colonization, which is prevented by treatment with probiotic organisms. We conclude by highlighting the link between stress and colonic permeability in humans, including the increased risk of disease relapse in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health