Trust Your Gut: Your Microbiome Might Be the Cause of Your Depression

Maybe there really is something to that “gut feeling” you have, but only in terms of your emotional health.   

A new study has investigated the microbiome more intensely to discern that there may be a link between certain gut bacteria and the prevalence of depression. Specifically, the study shows that some bacteria can produce neuroactive substances that can interact with the nervous system.  

Analyzing microbiome data from the fecal matter of 1,054 patients diagnosed with depression taken as part of the Flemish Gut Flora Project, researchers found there are two types of bacteria absent from the guts of those diagnosed with depression.  This was also true even among those who took prescription antidepressant medications. 

The next step in the study was to confirm the data, which the researchers did.  In two other cohorts, researchers collected samples from 1,063 people who were treated for clinical depression (at the University Hospitals Leuven) and those involved with the LifeLinesDEEP study which collected gut microbial data for general study.

Jeroen Raes, of the KU Leuven University department of Microbiology and Immunology, explains that this relationship between microbial metabolism and mental health is still quite a controversial topic.  However, this research could be an excellent first step in understanding and appreciating this relationship. 

The lead study author goes on to say, “The notion that microbial metabolites can interact with our brain—and thus behavior and feelings—is intriguing, but gut microbiome-brain communication has mostly been in animal models, with human research lagging behind.”

Professor Raes adds that this population-level study resulted in the identification of several groups of bacteria which can co-vary among those with human depression to affect quality of life across many populations. Raes also makes sure to note that even though they found a link between these two components, they have not necessarily been able to discern direct causation one way or the other. 

The two microbe groups they discovered are known as coprococcus and dialister; and all you need to know about them for the sake of this topic is that they are known to have anti-inflammatory properties.  

Raes confides that we definitely know that neuro-inflammation is important when it comes to depression.  This is what has caused them to assume they must be linked, even though there is not yet evidence of how the relationship functions.