Our gut is much smarter than we realise—and could determine the state of our mental health. The micro-organisms in the gut—known as the microbiome—influence mood and anxiety, and could even cause chronic problems such as depression and bipolar disorder.

Strange as it seems, it’s something we’ve all experienced when we say we have ‘butterflies in the stomach’ when we’re feeling nervous, say researchers who are beginning to see a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the health of our gut and our mental states.

In one experiment with laboratory rats, researchers noticed that the animals’ gut micro-organisms reduced as they were exposed to stressful experiences. Towards the end of the seven-week experiment, the rats seemed to lose any feelings of pleasure and displayed ‘despair-like’ behaviour.

Another group of rats started to display the same behaviour when the micro-organisms from the first set were placed in their gut, suggesting some cause-and-effect pattern.

Other researchers have noted that similar reductions in the gut microbiome have been seen in people suffering from depression and bipolar disorder.


(Source: Neuopsychopharmacology, 2016; doi: 10.1038/npp.2016.239)

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