The gut is the new research frontier when it comes to learning more about what causes depression. That’s right, the gut. There are new studies that point to a potential link between the human microbiome, the bacteria, fungi, viruses, and archaea that reside in the gastrointestinal system, and depression. While that may seem a stretch, there are some real study results that actually make the case for this connection.
Published this week in Nature Microbiology a study spearheaded by Mireia Valles-Colomer, et al. walks us through the tight link between the human gut environment and the central nervous system. States the authors, “Communication along these lines has been suggested to be bidirectional, with the gut microbiota playing an active role in processes linked to brain development and physiology, psychology, and behavior.”
The article, “The neuroactive potential of the human gut microbiota in quality of life and depression,” references specific studies, outside of their own, that have been looking into the differences in fecal microbiota composition between individuals with major depressive disorder and those without. Citing four different studies, it is clear that this area of research is an up and coming point of focus in studying the mysterious mental health disorder known as depression. Although this research is in its infancy, there is enough to stoke curiosity about the possible connection between gut health and depression.
What Is the Human Microbiome?
The intestinal microbiome contains about a pound or two of bacteria, or 100 trillion bacteria, in addition to other microorganisms such as viruses, fungi, protists, and archaea. While we are conditioned to consider bacteria as something harmful to us, the fact is that inside the gut bacteria actually protect us from infections. Science is continuing to discover new bacterial species in the human gut, and have recently identifies 100 new species.
The problems come into play when there is an imbalance between the good bacteria and the bad ones. Imbalances in the microbiome have been shown to contribute to such conditions as Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel syndrome, as well as allergies and obesity. Now the focus is turning toward studying mental health and the connection to gut health and depression.
How Dietary Choices Cause Inflammation in the Gut
Evidence continues to support the importance of certain dietary choices that are beneficial for general health and brain health, as well as pointing a finger at the culprits that can wreak havoc on the human gut. In fact, it has been shown that process, low quality foods, and pharmaceuticals, can lead to gut alterations such as intestinal permeability, or leaky gut. This, in turn, causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, which is now suspected as one of the identified problems between gut health and depression.
In recent years, the distinction in diet can be summarized as:
Healthy diet: Lean proteins, fish, whole grains, seeds, legumes, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, fermented foods such as kefir and Greek yogurt.
Unhealthy diet: Prepackaged foods and processed foods that are high in salt, starch, and sugar, refined carbs, sugary beverages and treats, high trans fats, and alcohol.
Is There a Link Between Gut Health and Depression?
According to an article published in Smithsonian.com that reported on this important study, there is reason to believe that the vagus nerve, which runs from the lower intestines up to the brainstem, provides a conduit for messaging between the two points. It is believed that the signaling from the gut to the brain along the gut-brain axis may have some role in influencing mental health through the action of gut-producing neurotransmitters.
Citing the research team based at the Catholic University at Leuven, Belgium, it was found that certain bacteria, namely the Coprococcus and Dialister bacteria, were depleted in the study participants with depression. This intriguing discovery may lead to the farming of these bacteria, and subsequently creating a probiotic supplement that can target mental health.
Current Depression Treatment Protocol
Because the connection between gut health and depression is in its nascent stage, there is no defined treatment strategy yet for adjusting the human microbiome for treating depression. To date, the standard treatment plan for treating an individual with major depressive disorder continues to be a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressant drug treatment.
Psychotherapy provided in both individual and group session formats can assist patients in identifying possible emotional factors or past traumas that may be contributing to the depression. Antidepressant therapy adjusts the serotonin levels in the brain, although only about 50% of patients are responsive to these drugs. When someone who trials consecutive antidepressant medications with no symptomatic success, they are determined to be treatment-resistant.
TMS Therapy for Treatment-Resistant Depression
Transcranial magnetic stimulation offers new hope for patients who otherwise were not helped by traditional depression treatment. TMS works by using magnetic fields that are channeled through a coil over the patient’s scalp. Once the magnetic pulses penetrate the scalp, electrical currents are induced. The currents are directed toward the limbic system, or the mood center of the brain, where they ‘wake up’ dormant brain cells.
Over the course of treatment, usually 4-6 weeks, the treatment will help normalize and reset this brain chemistry, resulting in improvements in the symptoms of depression. TMS is well tolerated with few reported side effects, and the therapy requires no sedation or recovery period.
Anew Era TMS is a Leading Provider of TMS Therapy for Depression
Anew Era TMS provides the promising alternative therapy for treatment-resistant depression called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Anew Era TMS provides individuals who were unresponsive to antidepressants a possible solution for their depression symptoms. Until science can clearly determine a link between gut health and depression, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and TMS therapy may be the best avenue for beating treatment-resistant depression at the present. To learn if you are a candidate for TMS therapy, please connect with Anew Era TMS today at (888) 503-1549.