Treat the Gut: Treat Depression

Health

1 in 12 American adults reports having depression.

For some, it’s severe enough to impact their work and home lives. Now, a new study shows how bacteria in the gut might be a target for new treatments.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and children’s hospital of Philadelphia conducted a study that demonstrates the biological interaction between brain and gut, starting in animals.

Jiah Pearson-Leary, Research Associate, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said, “We were able to show that gut bacteria from stress-vulnerable rats if you introduce that into a rat that had never been exposed to stress, that rat would now have some of the depressive characteristics of the rat that was stress vulnerable.”

Turns out becoming more vulnerable from this gut bacteria that caused the stress created another problem in the animals, how they coped with stress.

Seema Bhatnagar, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, University of Pennsylvania said, “Animals that are more passive in coping with stress show more vulnerability because they exhibit behaviors that are more hopeless depressive-type state.”

Scientists say stress changes the gut microbiome and increases inflammation in the brain. There’s a growing body of evidence that brain inflammation is associated with depression.

So, what do the findings mean for humans? Researchers believe future studies will show that altering gut bacteria, possibly with probiotics, might pave the way for treating psychiatric disorders, including depression.

Probiotics are live bacteria that help restore the balance of microbes in the gut and can be taken in a supplement form.

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