Growing up with a mother who was a microbiologist, I often heard her say things like, “bacteria gets a bad name,” and “most bacteria is beneficial.” So when I came across this article about the possibility of the intestinal microbes affecting our mood, I could almost hear her voice saying, “I told you!” Probiotics are microorganisms that are introduced into the body for some beneficial use. According to an article published by Scientific American, probiotics may become a treatment for anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. They call this promising class of probiotics, psychobiotics.
Now, there are many who believe probiotics of any kind are just a hoax. And there are still plenty of studies that need to be conducted before we can draw any concrete conclusions, but the data that has already been collected is intriguing.
In another article, published in Science Daily, scientists estimate that our intestines are home to at least 1000 different species of bacteria.
According to the articles above, each person has their own unique population and proportion of various bacteria in their gut. And studies show that when we alter our diets dramatically, it changes this population and proportion of bacteria. The interaction between the gut and the brain occurs through a nerve located in the gut called the vagus nerve. The bacteria in the gut are thought to make substances that can act on our nervous system and brain.
Researchers from Canada transferred bacteria from the guts of mice that were more active and curious to the guts of mice that were timid and found that the timid mice became more active and curious. They also transplanted bacteria from the guts of depressed human patients into mice and found that the mice displayed similar depressive characteristics.
According to an article, an imbalance of harmful bacteria has been linked to anxiety, depression, stress and other neurological disorders. Though most of this information comes from animal experiments, studies of people with depression have shown dysfunctional bacteria in their guts. Some of these patients have been given psychobiotics with some success.
In conclusion, there are correlations between gut bacteria and mood dysfunction. What is left to discover is the mechanics behind the interaction of bacteria and the brain. Once this is revealed, treatment of depression, anxiety and other mind disorders may be treated with a healthy dose of bacteria!