Gut Feelings: Diet, Depression And Bacteria

In another setback for the notion that depression is all in your head, recent research suggests it may be a gut reaction. Literally.

Brain has always bested bowel in the body battles for executive organ status. However, the gastrointestinal tract is moving up in the world and recently was labeled the second brain. Laboratories all over the world have been mapping a bi-directional information highway between these two organs called the gut-brain axis.

This connection has revealed the gut’s influence on a wide range of things, from satiety and obesity to mood and anxiety. Even how we respond to stress is no longer the sole dominion of the brain.

The latest chapter of this story introduces the bacterial community living in our gut. The microbiome (the name given these bacteria) appears to be a key player in modulating brain chemistry and consequently mood.

Your microbiome is determined by age, genetics, geography, medication, stress and perhaps most importantly, diet. Apparently we never dine alone. When we feed ourselves, we are also serving the bacterial colonists in our gut. What they are fed defines which types of bacteria thrive. We are just beginning to appreciate the health consequences of specific microbiome profiles.

Using a variety of interventions including diet, antibiotics, probiotics and fecal transplantation, investigators have begun to understand how these gut bacteria affect mood. Two mechanisms have dominated much of this research, serotonin and inflammation. . .  reader_3