Recent studies have found that there may be a relationship between gut bacteria and a person’s emotions.
According to Premysl Bercik, an associate professor of gastroenterology at McMaster University in Canada, there may be a link to gut microbes and someone’s predisposition to mental illness like depression and anxiety.
Berick began studying low-grade inflammation disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) several years ago. In these disorders, Berick states that the body’s anatomy doesn’t look different than it is supposed to, but the gut doesn’t “behave” in a typical fashion.
Berick also noticed that many of his patients suffered from anxiety and depression in addition to their IBS, which sent him on a mission to try and deduce whether or not the two were related.
In 2010, Berick and several of his colleagues performed a study in which they concluded that “mild gut inflammation caused by chronic parasitic infection… induces anxiety-like behavior in mice.”
In 2011, Berick participated in another study that involved colonizing the gut bacteria of two different types of mice by taking samples from one and transferring to the other breed. One type of mice was known for its “daring and adventurous behavior,” while the other was known for being more timid.
It was found that after switching the colonies of the gut bacteria within the mice, the daring mice become more timid and vice versa.
In 2013, a study was performed in which mice were introduced with anxiety and depression and it was found that the disorders changed the way their guts functioned. However, it is difficult to say if the depression and anxiety changed their gut function, or their gut function was the kickstarter to the depression and anxiety.
Also in 2013, it was also found that probiotics help reduce the stress hormones mice produced, especially when faced with chronic stress.
By 2014, researchers found that gut microbes can actually be responsible for the host’s behavior. In a recent study entitled,
Microbial endocrinology: Host-microbiota neuroendocrine interactions influencing brain and behavior, researchers concluded:
“The examination of the microbiota from the vantage point of host-microbiota neuroendocrine interactions cannot only identify new microbial endocrinology-based mechanisms by which the microbiota can influence host behavior, but also lead to the design of interventions in which the composition of the microbiota may be modulated in order to achieve a specific microbial endocrinology-based profile beneficial to overall host behavior.”
Berick says of this exciting new field of study:
“We are just at the beginning. We are just scraping the surface. And probably in the next five to 10 years we will discover how the bacteria can modulate our well-being and probably an important role will be played by the diet.”