Within recent years, there has been increasing evidence to suggest gut bacteria plays a powerful role in many aspects of health. The microbiome, or microbial communities within our intestinal tract, have been a suspected agent behind many chronic conditions. Now, one study indicates gut flora may impact mental health, too.
Depression & Gut Bacteria
A recent study published in Nature Microbiology shows that individuals with depression had low levels of two types of “good” gut bacteria, Coprococcus and Dialister. The finding was consistent regardless of whether or not the subjects were taking antidepressants.
Interestingly, subjects who claimed to have a high mental quality of life were found to have plentiful levels of Coprococcus. The gut flora Faecalibacterium was also common among the same group.
While the study findings don’t outright prove that insufficient gut flora leads to mood disorders, they do strongly suggest a correlation. Moreover, it’s possible that the effect works in the opposite way, with mental health problems contributing to microbiome issues. The researchers further discovered that gut microbes can actually communicate with the body’s nervous system via neurotransmitters which support mental health.
The lead researcher said that many gut bacteria can produce neurotransmitters or precursors for critical substances like serotonin and dopamine, both of which play a role in regulating mood. Imbalances in these can also contribute to depression.
Based on this fascinating link, it’s possible that taking probiotics will one day become a prescriptive aspect of treating the effects of depression and perhaps boosting overall mood even in individuals without mental illness. In the meantime, discussing the option of probiotics as a means to promote disease prevention and overall health isn’t a bad idea anyhow. Your doctor may also suggest lifestyle tactics for boosting gut flora, such as incorporating probiotic-rich foods with live bacteria such as yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, and kefir into your diet. They may also suggest Vitamin A as a potential source to help as well.