Another great article was published by New Scientist at the beginning of September on the link between your gut bacteria (microbiome) and your mental health. The article was entitled – “How what you eat directly influences your mental health”:
The article explores the link between depression and anxiety and the state of your stomach bacteria. The science is very new but some key findings are detailed below:
It is estimated at least 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression and anxiety.
The original science on anxiety and depression has focused on chemical imbalances in the brain and subsequent medicines to treat these imbalances. New findings challenge this by positing that the health of your gut is more important and the primary source of most depression and anxiety symptoms. Some researchers theorise that new, safer and more effective treatments may soon be possible (coined psychobiotics).
Microbes in your gut can produce almost every neurotransmitter in the brain including the happy chemicals serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals produced in the gut, and transported to the brain via the vagus nerve, cross the blood-brain barrier (the brains protective shield). It is even suggested that your brain’s overall health and well-being relies on the constant supply of these chemicals from the vagus nerve. The theory is that when your gut bacteria is compromised via poor diet this relationship breaks down and you suffer emotionally.
Up until recently we did not have anywhere near a detailed view of all of the different types of bacteria in our guts. A new technique called “whole-genome shotgun sequencing” has been able to identify significantly more bacteria within our guts than was previously possible. Via this new technique researchers discovered that people diagnosed with depression had reduced numbers of bacteria in two genera, Coprococcus and Dialister. Therefore these could be investigated as potential psychobiotics to treat depression. They also discovered that those subjects in the study reporting a higher quality of life than others had microbes that produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that nourishes and heals the gut (which is also boosted via grass fed butter or ghee). Their gut microbes also produced more of a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine. This led to another bacterium called Butyricicoccus pullicaecorum 25-3T being considered as another potential psychobiotic.
So you may be asking yourself now if there are any dietary changes you can easily make now to boost your gut bacteria. Another article entitled “Healthy gut, happy mind: What to eat to boost how you feel” interviews one of my fellow Australian brethren – dietician Megan Rossi (Megan Rossi is a research fellow at King’s College London and a dietician and founder of the Gut Health Clinic at Harley Street in London.
These 3 responses from Megan are very useful to those wanting to maintain a healthy gut microbiome and live a happier and healthier life:
“…You don’t need to take a prebiotic supplement: prebiotics are found in thousands of foods we would normally eat. If you’re generally healthy, you don’t need any extra probiotics either…”
“…It’s not about taking supplements, but about having a wide range of plant-based foods in our diet. Things like whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruit – all these things should be part of our daily diet. There are beneficial chemicals like polyphenols in plant-based foods too. They are found in nice things like dark chocolate and red wine…”
“…people who have at least 30 plant-based elements in their weekly diet have a more diverse range of bacteria in their gut, which is associated with better weight management, better heart health and better mental health. One easy change is to get a packet of mixed seeds and put a teaspoon on your breakfast – that’s four extra elements right there. Or get a packet of mixed leaf salad, rather than a single lettuce, because each different type of lettuce has different plant chemicals that feed different bacteria
I would like to also add that making sure you limit your intake of foods / drinks potentially high in mould toxins (mycotoxins) will also help you maintain a happy and healthy gut as this study below shows. Foods potentially very high in mould toxins include corn, chillis, peppers, black pepper, peanuts and peanut butter, poor quality coffees etc: