Have you heard of the gut-brain axis? Or perhaps heard the phrase “the gut is a second brain?” Research is continually linking the gut microbiome with mental health, identifying that our gut really does impact our brains.
For example, in a large Flemish population cohort study, participants reported on their mental health, including quality of life and diagnosis of depression (1). A link between mental health and the microbiome was confirmed, as two bacteria (Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus) were directly correlated with a high perceived quality of life. This is particularly interesting because these bacteria produce short chain fatty acids that have been shown to improve gastrointestinal health (2) and have been previously shown to be lower in individuals with depression (3,4). When looking at the microbiome and its role in depression, specific bacteria (Dialister and Coprococcus species) were found to have a negative correlation. As there was overlap between the species associated with higher quality of life that were also depleted in a depressive state, this could indicate an area for further research and possible therapeutic potential.
Some researchers have supported the idea that there may be specific, characterizable types of microbiome profiles (5). In the population cohort study described above, the investigators found that individuals diagnosed with depression were more likely to fit one of four profiles (Bacteroides enterotype 2), a profile which is associated with a low density of bacteria. Again, this strengthens the hypothesis that the gut microbiome and mental health are inextricably linked.
To go a step further, researchers have shown that there are numerous pathways by which bacteria can produce chemicals that are important for the brain (1). There is also evidence of an association between reporting a high quality of life and a bacterium that produces a metabolite of dopamine (1). This shows yet another way the microbiome may be impacting perception of quality of life, and even diagnoses of mental health disorders.
At Integrative Phenomics, we understand that we are whole beings, and our health should be treated in a way that respects that. An integrative approach is essential to achieve weight loss and reduce health risks while also targeting other aspects of life, such as mental health. Approaching health with a personalized strategy and using the microbiome as a tool can help us achieve optimal long-term results.