Perthuison, Aurelie. “Gut Microbiota Plays a Role in Brain Function and Mood Regulation.” Neuroscience News, 11 Dec. 2020, neurosciencenews.com/depression-microbiome-brain-function-17414/.
Article Review By: Kristy S. Colling, Ph.D., and Robert Coben, Ph.D.
Previous posts have discussed a few ways in which the microbiome in our guts influences our health and well-being. For example, we discussed how our microbiota influence the kinds of foods we crave and even play a role in Alzheimer’s and Dementia symptoms. Today, we return to the topic of gut bacteria to examine the role it can play in emotional well-being.
In a recent study, researchers found that chronic stress changes the make-up of bacteria in our guts, reducing the number of so-called “good bacteria.” This changes the metabolites that are produced as the result of metabolism, specifically a lipid metabolite called endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids coordinate communication within the body. One of their targets is in the hippocampus, a brain region that is known for its role in memory but also contributes to emotion regulation. As the number of endocannabinoids decreases, depressive-like behaviors increase. Interestingly, the researchers found that depressive and stress behaviors can be modulated by microbiota. They transferred microbiota from animals with mood disorders, which was low in levels of lipid metabolites, to normal mice. As a result, the formally normal mice started demonstrating depressive behaviors. Then, they gave those mice microbiota with the correct balance of microbiota, which was high in levels of lipid metabolites, and the symptoms were reversed.
The kind of bacteria populating our guts can be directly influenced by the kinds of foods we eat. When we eat a typical western diet with highly processed flour, sugar and high levels of saturated fats, it reduces the amount and variety of good bacteria. Alternatively, when we eat something akin to the Mediterranean diet with healthy fats and a variety of vegetables, it increases the good bacteria in our systems. Therefore, by changing what we eat, we can affect digestive chain reactions that influence our emotional well-being. If you would like to learn more about how to optimize your nutrition for better emotional well-being, please contact us. One of our health coaches would be happy to speak with you!