Scientists have long since suspected a connection between gut function and mental health (see also http://www.gesunde-bakterien.de/en/ravenous-hunger-and-anxiety-when-your-gut-affects-your-mind/). Now, this thesis is supported by recent scientific research. In Belgium, microbiologists of the “Flemish Gut Flora Project” surveyed the gut bacteria population of more than 1000 participants, some of which suffered from medically diagnosed depression. The result: among participants suffering from depression, bacteria of the Dialister and Coprococcus species were depleted. These gut bacteria produce butyric acid, which forms anti-inflammatory salts (butyrates).
Scientists are also aware that a deficit in specific gut bacteria reduces the body’s own production of dopac. Dopac is a metabolite of the neurotransmitter dopamine, also known as “happy hormone” and part of our reward system. Dopamine helps motivate us to take action and boosts feelings of pleasure. It is assumed that the effect of dopac is similar. In addition, the study’s data suggest that production of the neurotransmitter GABA could also have a positive impact on mood and help avoid depression.
Jeroen Raes, who headed the study, showed cautious optimism but warned of drawing excessive conclusions. Research was still at a very early stage and as yet, we were unable to provide reliable information on possible ways of treatment. He considered it unlikely that depression and mental health issues may in the future be successfully treated by tweaking the gut flora. “People long for simple answers. I don’t think that there are simple explanations for any of the most common diseases”, Raes explained in the German weekly “Die Zeit”. Human mental health was influenced by too wide a range of factors. Yet after this latest study, it seems more than likely that bacterial conditions in the gut are one of these factors.
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