We all know that the gut (stomach, small intestine, and large intestine) does the hard work of taking the food we eat and turning it into fuel. Recently, researchers have been focusing on other ways these organs influence other systems in the body. Studies performed on mice now suggest that the bacteria that lines our digestive tract may have a role in symptoms of depression.
Our intestinal tract is lined with microscopic organisms, commonly referred to the gut microbiome that are now believed to have a role in obesity, Parkinsons, and numerous other conditions. It is unclear how much of the makeup of the gut microbiome is genetic and how much is influenced by our environment and what we eat, but the latest research suggests that a typical Western diet may exacerbate or induce symptoms of clinical depression. In these studies, one group mice was fed a high fat diet, one was fed a high sugar diet, one was fed a diet high in both fat AND sugar, and one was fed a control diet. There were mixed results with the high-fat group and the high-sugar group, but the high-fat and high-sugar group experienced a higher rate of depression-related symptoms when compared to the control diet group.
What do these mouse studies mean for humans? They strongly suggest that the typical American diet (high in both fat and sugar) may be partially responsible for increased or worsening symptoms of depression, specifically caused by changes in the makeup of our gut bacteria. Your best bet? Load your diet with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to keep it within the recommended daily values of fat and sugar and to keep your gut (and your mind) happy and healthy.
Do you have any questions about the gut microbiome and your health? Ask away in the comments!