‘’You are what you eat”: maybe you’ve heard it before. And guess what, it seems to be true. Recent research is uncovering new possible links between our diet and serious mental health disorders. New research on our diet and how it affects our bodies could help us explain the cause of many neuro-diseases which have previously eluded us.
Our gut bacteria influences how we feel and think
The human body is made up of diverse bacteria colonies many of which are in the gut. It might sound absurd but evidence is emerging that our gut bacteria can influence the way we think and feel. Links have been made between gut bacteria and anxiety, depression and even Alzheimers.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, an irreversible disease which results in gradual loss of memory and cognitive functioning. It has been found that the gut bacteria in Alzheimer’s patients could be involved in creating the abnormal ’’Tau proteins’’ typically seen in the brains of these patients. An overload of abnormal ‘’Tau proteins’’ are thought to cause some of the symptoms seen in Alzheimers.
Large studies in both the Netherlands and Belgium compared the gut bacteria make-up of depressed individuals against healthy people. In both studies they found that depressed individuals were often lacking the same two species of gut bacteria. One of which is closely related to the dopamine pathway in our brains! Dopamine is believed to play a significant role in our motivation. Low motivation is a typical symptom of depression, illustrating how our diet may be directly influencing how we feel, our behaviour, and our mental health.
A healthy diet
It may all sound like ‘’doom and gloom’’, but it’s important to remember that this works both ways, eating the right foods can change our gut bacteria make-up and therefore improve our health. For example interventions changing someone’s diet, in the hope to change their gut bacteria, resulted in a significant reduction of anxiety symptoms or depressive symptoms. A mediterranean diet in particular has been shown to be particularly helpful for depression.
Although it is not completely clear how gut bacteria is affecting these changes in our brain, there appears to be some link! Giving us even more reasons to consider our diet if we want to improve our mental health.