One area of research that has been getting a lot of attention recently is the connection between gut and brain health. With mental health problems a growing concern, scientists have been trying to uncover some of their causes, and a new study out of Belgium shows that depression could well be a symptom of poor gut health.
In the study, which was published in Nature Microbiology, the researchers looked at the fecal microbiome data of more than 1,000 people who were enrolled in the Flemish Gut Flora Project. They pooled this data with data on depression diagnoses in the hopes of exploring the link between gut bacteria, depression and quality of life.
After looking at more than 500 bacteria that were isolated from the human gastrointestinal tract, they found that people suffering from depression had persistent low levels of two gut bacteria in particular, Dialister and Coprococcus. This was true even among those who took antidepressants. An independent cohort of more than 1,000 people who took part in the Dutch LifeLinesDEEP and clinically depressed patients was used to validate the results. It’s an exciting finding that could well lead to a probiotic-based treatment for depression – something that is sorely needed when you consider all the side effects that come with modern antidepressants.
Many of the most widely used antidepressants today come with black box warnings because they raise the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Common side effects of antidepressants can include insomnia, constipation, nausea, blurred vision, weight gain, increased appetite, and sexual problems. It appears to be no coincidence that many mass shooting perpetrators happened to be using these medications at the time of their deadly rampages. Probiotics, on the other hand, are relatively safe for most people and can have other benefits for your health as well, making them a potentially great solution for a big problem facing the world today.
Brain-gut axis research could lead to safe, effective treatments
Recent discoveries about the brain-gut axis could lead to some promising new treatments for mental health problems. The intestine actually has a nervous system of its own that generates similar neurotransmitters to those created by the brain – such as serotonin, acetylcholine, and melatonin – and it’s believed that the brain and gut communicate with one another. Just as feeling anxious or depressed can cause an upset stomach, poor gastrointestinal conditions could lead to depression or anxiety. Therefore, it stands to reason that probiotics that bring the gut microbiome back into balance could help address these issues.
Brain imaging has shown that people who take probiotics experience changes in the parts of their brain that are involved in mood. Researchers are also exploring whether probiotics can help address issues like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism. Interestingly, gut bacteria has also been linked to conditions like obesity, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Of course, depression and anxiety are very complex, and other factors can also influence mental health issues. A lack of exercise, nutrient deficiencies, stress, thyroid problems and even allergies can also play a role. It’s no wonder, then, that the millions of people taking antidepressants aren’t seeing their depression go away. A problem this multifaceted requires a holistic approach that addresses the many factors involved in its development. Probiotics, proper nutrition, and a clean diet can go a long way toward improving people’s mood and overall health – without turning to risky antidepressants.
Sources for this article include:
- High blood pressure and depression are tied to your gut health, research says
- Proton pump inhibitors linked to increased risk of depression due to destructive effects on gut microbiota
- Probiotics fight depression: Healthy gut bacteria found to reduce symptoms
- Surprising Link Between Depression, Anxiety, and Gut Health