Could Mental Health Problems Start In The Stomach?

Which Unlikely Sources Can Help Boost Your Brain PowerA team of researchers from McMasters University claim that they now have new evidence that mental health problems may all stem from stomach problems.

The team says that they have proved that types of gut bacteria can change brain chemistry and behaviour, which could potentially mean that the wellbeing of those with mental health problems could be restored using probiotics. The research was carried out by analysing the mental wellness of patients whilst changing the bacteria in their stomach, using antibiotics. These tests were carried out on mice.

In the mice, when the flora in the gut was manipulated, the mice showed a marked increase in brain deprived neurotraphic factor (BDNF), which has often been associated with conditions such as anxiety and depression.

As part of the experiment, some of the mice were bred in a specific way, to be germ free. In the absence of the normal bacteria in their stomachs, scientists discovered that this type of mice was very passive indeed. This group of mice then had their stomachs colonised with bacteria taken from a different batch of mice who were specifically bred to be alert and active, and it was found that when this bacteria was introduced, the mice became far more alert and exploratory in their surroundings, suggesting that the gut bacteria can have a strong effect on mental state and behaviour.

This is the first study that links intestinal bacteria to mental health problems, and it has been published in the journal Gastroenterology. It also notes a potential link between irritable bowel syndrome (and other stomach disorders) and anxiety and depression, which often go hand-on-hand, as this seems to back up their theory that gut microbes have a strong role to play in mental health and behaviour.

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