imageBROKER/Felix Vogel

Intestinal imbalance linked to depression

A team of Flemish scientists has discovered that people suffering from depression often lack a particular bacteria in their intestines.  For the first time the link that was suspected has been proved: mental health is connected to the contents of your intestines!

Why intestinal bacteria impact on your mental health and the exact impact still need to be established.  Bacteria can make you sick, but are also needed to keep you healthy.  Our intestines contain up to 100,000 billion bacteria.  The mix and their number differs per person.  Intestinal bacteria also impact on our resistance, on our brain and behaviour.

Researchers at the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology VIB examined the stool of people who feel less happy than most.  They discovered that two bacteria are less prevalent: dialister and coprococcus.

Depression is often linked to infections in the central nervous system.  Scientists suspect a link between this infection and infections in the intestines.  Intestinal bacteria produce chemical substances that impact on our nervous system, dopamine and serotonin.  We believe this is how intestinal bacteria impact on our behaviour.

Prof Jeroen Raes concedes scientists don't yet know whether depression is caused by problems in the intestines or whether the intestinal problems are the result of depression. Scientists are now looking at adding missing bacteria to patients with depression.