More Than a Gut Feeling: New Research Links Your Microbiome With Depression

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An oft repeated phrase within the wellness community, "your gut is your second brain" takes on a new level of meaning with research now suggesting a real link between the two indispensable systems. Last year, a study linked injections of a particular bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, to reduced levels of stress in rats. Research around bacteria led to greater understanding of the relationship between postpartum depression and the gastrointestinal tract. With new research published yesterday in the journal Nature Microbiology, scientists have found preliminary evidence linking low levels of certain gut bacteria to depression, reports The Guardian.

By studying the feces of 1,000 people enrolled in the Flemish Gut Flora Project, researchers in Belgium set out to understand the relationship between the gut and mental health. Here's the SparkNotes version of their findings: Two bugs found in the gut, Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus, were found more frequently in those who reported good mental health; those with depression had a lower average amount of Coprococcus and Dialister bacteria—regardless of whether or not they were on medication.

Keep in mind that the study doesn't prove a gut-brain connection when it comes to mental health. However, lead researcher Jeroen Raes says follow-up studies do suggest that there's at least a conversation going on between the two, with the help of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin (both of which are crucial for a healthy mental state). "We studied whether gut bacteria in general would have a means to talk to the nervous system, by analyzing their DNA,” Raes told The Guardian. “We found that many can produce neurotransmitters or precursors for substances like dopamine and serotonin.”

Once the connection between certain strains of bacteria and mental health can be proven proven in both animals and humans, you could leave future trips to your MD with personalized probiotics prescribed with your cognitive well-being in mind. So just keep that one-day possibility in (both) of your mind(s).

Wondering how to determine your gut type? Check out this gorgeous guide. And next time you're on the market for a probiotic, here's why some brands are refrigerated

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