Scientists are suggesting your digestive health may be more important to you than just avoiding constipation.
New studies are coming out showing the link between healthy gut bacteria and brain health.
The term “gut bacteria” means the mix of bacteria that lives in your intestines.
The sheer number of types of bacteria that live in us is staggering.
There are over 500 known types of bacteria living in us, with over two million genes.
When these are paired with viruses and fungi, they make up the microbiome.
There are literally trillions of bacteria in every one of us.
All this stuff weighs about five pounds.
Because of all the possible combinations of substances, everyone’s blend in their guts is unique.
Your microbiome starts at birth and continues throughout your life affected by your food, environment, and lifestyle.
Amazingly this part of your body affects everything about you from your metabolism and mood, to your immune system.
And when you are out of sorts, it can cause clinical depression, according to one study.
Two different bacteria are depleted in people with depression, and it’s not related to the medications they are on.
There is a major study called the Microbiome Project which is trying to chart the various parts of gut bacteria and they noted that depressed people are missing a couple of key bacteria.
While the project seems disgusting, they went through fecal samples of 1,054 individuals with depression.
Two bacteria were consistently missing in depressed people:
Coprococcus and Dialister.
This was verified by another lab before the results were published.
The scientists were surprised that gut bacteria could have such an effect on the brain. They suspected it would make a difference in colon cancer or Crohn’s disease, but this finding came as a surprise.
As of now, there isn’t a pill to take to add these bacteria into the gut to see if it could reverse depression, but there are experiments to see if microbiome transplants can help people with other conditions.
Depression isn’t the only mental disorder being studied.
A small group of children with autism were treated with biome transplants, and 80% of the kids had major changes in their bowel health.
But what was surprising was the improvement continued after the treatment was completed.
And then the parents started noticing these kids started seeing improvements in other areas too and they were able to learn new things.
Here’s a video from the study leaders explaining more about their findings:
While no one is quite sure why this made such a difference, it is hypothesized that the transplants seemed to have jump-started their gut bacteria to start eliminating some of the toxins in the system and allowing the absorption of nutrients that the brain needs.
The researchers caution that the study was preliminary and the sample was small so more research is required before this can become a treatment option for people with autism.
But it is more evidence that there does seem to be a link between how our body breaks down and utilizes food and our overall health.
This is not to mean that we can start taking probiotics and live a better life.
We simply do not know yet which parts of the microbiome affect which parts of our overall health.
But it is promising science that may one day link our gut health with our mental health.
Some scientists go even further, suggesting gut health itself could directly affect neurological health in general not just in terms of nutritional changes.