The Gut-Brain Axis Is More Important Than We Thought
A new study highlights the gut-brain connection in psychiatric patients.
Gut-brain research continues to provide extraordinary insight into the effect microbes have on our mental health, and a new Chinese study ups the ante. If you are depressed or anxious, how likely is it that the cause is gut-related? Is this gut-brain axis something that psychiatrists should be looking at, or can they safely ignore it in favor of standard therapy? The new study may upend the status quo.
There is no doubt that dysbiosis—an imbalance in the gut microbiota—can cause mental perturbations. Even broken bits of bacteria can have an impact. For example, if you inject a person with fragments of a bacterium’s cell wall, called lipopolysaccharide (LPS), within minutes they will become highly anxious. Mice have a similar reaction, suggesting that this effect may be a common outcome in animals. And despite the attempt by the blood-brain barrier to sequester these bodily insults, inflammatory molecules and bacterial toxins may subsequently be found in the brain.
Injecting LPS into mice causes them to retreat to a corner and cower. That’s not the only way to bring them down. When mice or rats are given fecal matter from a depressed human, they start to exhibit similar depressive behavior. This not only shows causality; it also demonstrates cross-species causality. These fecal transplant studies provide definitive proof that microbes can transmit depression. Or, as UCC researchers John Cryan and Ted Dinan put it, microbes can “transfer the blues.”
What can you do to get better, happier microbes? One way is to eat more food with fiber, such as veggies and fruit. And the more diverse the foods, the better. Diverse foods ensure a diverse microbiota, which is healthy. If you can’t get enough fruits and veggies, try a mix of prebiotics like Clarity Prebiotic Blend.
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