wechat sharing

Health Matters: How Gut Microbes Influence Depression

Food for thought

Numerous factors contribute to depression—general anxiety, chronic fatigue, and substance abuse, to name a few. One of those factors, unlikely though it may sound, might be our gut microbiome.


Most of us know of the huge role microbiomes play in helping us maintain a healthy immune system, but did you know that they also have the ability to influence our brain chemistry? Several studies carried out on mice and initial studies on humans indicate strong correlations between microbes in the gut, objective (neurochemical) and subjective (self-reported) assessments of emotional well-being, and their corresponding behavior patterns.


What this means is that our gut’s microbial community is actively communicating with and influencing our brain. It does this via several mechanisms. One is through the up or down-regulation of neutrotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Its role in helping to maintain a healthy gut lining also helps us avoid “leaky gut” and the associated inflammation that is known to have a variety of negative impacts on the brain. Finally, the vagus nerve, which connects the gut with the brain, has been strongly implicated too. 


All that has been demonstrated in numerous studies. In one where mice behavior was altered by manipulating their gut microbes, researches found that this influence could be nullified once their vagus nerve was severed.


The Journal of Psychiatric Research also published a report earlier this year, showing a significant and consistent difference in levels of certain beneficial bacteria between participants with bipolar disorder and those from a control group. 


All this means exciting developments in the area of “psychobiotics,” the effective treatment of psychological issues via the gut microbiome without the negative side-effects often experienced with the anti-depressants and mood-modulating drugs widely prescribed today.


But before we get too excited, it’s still early days yet. Researchers will need to leverage advances in microbiome sequencing. There is also high individual variability in what constitutes a healthy gut, so more thought has to be given in how to tailor this new approach in a way that accommodates the wide bio-individuality of gut microbes from one person to the next.


In the meantime, there appears to be no harm in incorporating more prebiotic and probiotic foods into our diet. Prebiotics are generally high-fiber foods that the good bacteria eat, and which helps them to proliferate. These include things like artichokes, asparagus, garlic, onion, unripe bananas, apples, leeks, oats and flax, most of which are best consumed raw. Probiotics are fermented foods that carry living beneficial bacteria. They help bring diversity and balance to our microbial community. Traditional examples are kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, natto and tempeh.


So the next time you’re feeling down, have a look at you diet. Give some thought to your gut microbes. Keeping them happy may help do the same for you.


Follow us on WeChat:
read more city weekend shanghai


health matters growth its all in your mind

By: Crystyl Mo -

Growth: It's All in Your Mind
Have we been unwittingly setting ourselves up for failure?
Read More
health matters what health means

By: John Vallis -

Health Matters: What Does Healthy Mean to You?
What does healthy mean to you? Health Matters columnist John Vallis talks to three people from three different fields for their input.
Read More
health matters forgiveness 20 282 29

By: Crystyl Mo -

Your Superhero Power: Forgiveness
When we cannot forgive, we are defined by the actions of others in our past. When we can, we decide who we are and come fully into the present.
Read More
health matters reconsidering drinking habits

By: Crystyl Mo -

Health Matters: Thinking About Drinking
There are so many opportunities for a drink in Shanghai. We have some of the world's best cocktail bars, craft beers seem to flow like the Huangpu and the city's social life orbits around eating and...
Read More


Download App Now
Select your device platform and get download started
Add & Promote an Event
Tell everybody what's going on. FREE.

You've reached the limit of allowed deals. For more information

Contact us

You've reached the limit of allowed housing listing. For more information

Contact us