Among the latest discoveries in neuroscience are findings that the human gut microbiome may be linked to depression. Although the study is small and the results are not conclusive, researchers hope to find new ways to treat the mental condition. The bacterial content of the human gut is known to play a role in vitamin production, and a depleted microbiome may contribute to the symptoms of depression.
Gut bacteria are involved in many bodily processes, including the production of vitamins and neurotransmitters. In particular, most gut bacteria synthesize vitamins from a group of B-vitamins. However, the microbiome is also known to produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and glutamate. These chemicals can help to influence behavior, which may help explain the correlation between the two.
Researchers found that the presence of certain bacterial strains can affect the levels of neurotransmitters that are released from the gut. They found that one strain, Clostridium genus, could reduce the amount of mood-boosting serotonin that is released from the gut. Butyrate-producing bacteria were also identified.
The microbiome is composed of trillions of microorganisms. The composition of the human gut varies widely from person to person. For example, people with mental health problems have a different microbiome than those without a problem. But researchers still have much to learn about the relationship between the gut microbiome and mental health.
The gut microbiome is thought to affect the brain through a communication pathway called the microbiota-gut-brain axis (MGB axis). A MGB axis is a pathway that links the peripheral nervous system, the gastrointestinal tract, and the central nervous system. This axis is believed to act as a “two-way highway” for the brain and gut. A variety of factors contribute to the composition of the gut, such as diet and medication use. The bacterial components of the MGB axis are important for brain health and function. In the case of the brain, these substances are needed to maintain energy homeostasis and function.
Earlier studies have shown that the presence of certain bacterial commensals can improve mental health. But scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what the benefits are of a probiotic intervention. While a variety of bacterial species can have positive impacts on the brain, more research is necessary to understand the exact concentrations of the microbiota that are required to improve a person’s quality of life.
Researchers in Belgium found that certain bacteria can be a useful tool in understanding the link between the gut microbiome and mental health. This microbiome may help to improve emotional and behavioral symptoms of depression, and researchers hope to develop novel therapies. The kynurenine pathway, for instance, may play a role in the production of neurotransmitters that trigger depression. The vagus nerve sends messages to the brain and gut, and the production of microbial lipopolysaccharides (LPS) by gut bacteria can activate inflammatory responses.
The microbiome-gut-brain axis is a growing field of research. It’s a good idea to start eating a healthy diet and exercise regularly, because both can contribute to gut health.