Gut Health Could Help Fight Depression, Study Says
A new study is giving insight into the link between gut and mental health.
We’ve all heard by now how gut health can impact our digestion, immunity, and help us manage chronic disease, but what about our mental health? Scientists have thought for years there might be a link between the two, and a recent study shows just how interconnected gut and mental health could really be.
Researchers from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, analyzed the gut and brain health of 1,054 participants, 173 of which were diagnosed with depression or a mood disorder. Their findings, published by Nature Microbiology, found the presence (or lack thereof) of certain types of bacteria seriously impacted both mood and depression in participants.
The researchers set out to assess what a normal microbiome ought to look like and sought to discover if there was a true link between gut bacteria and mental health. Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus are two bacteria indicative of better mood, according to the study. Evidence showed several species of gut bacteria, including these, were missing in the participants with depression. Even those participants on antidepressants still showed to have too few of these important bacteria. While researchers cannot yet declare this a cause or effect of depression itself, evidence showed certain substances produced by gut bacteria can affect nerve cell function and possibly mood.
Interested in adopting a more “gut-friendly” diet?
Researchers noted age, sex, and antidepressant use were all taken into account, as those factors can influence gut health and bacteria on their own. They also discovered some depressed participants had higher amounts of a specific bacteria related to Crohn's Disease, which is related to inflammation and digestive problems. This is an interesting link, as many studies have showed the prominence of inflammation-associated depression.
The bottom line: While we don’t advise ditching antidepressants for kimchi and kombucha, there are many studies out there suggesting our diets can have a serious impact on our mental health. Changing the way you eat by opting for healthy fats, choosing whole grains over refined, and incorporating more produce won’t cure your ailments, but it could be a good start in fueling your body (and good bacteria) with what it needs to fight illness. Until then, more evidence needs to come forth to show just how much gut and mental health are intertwined