Our intestinal system contains around 100,000,000,000,000 (100 trillion) microorganisms, over 10 times the amount of human cells we have in our whole body (Evrensel & Ceylan, 2015)! This bounty of life that we harbor in our bellies lives in a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship with our body. We provide these microorganisms with nutrients and they help us by regulating our nervous, immune, and hormonal functions (The Human Microbiome, 2014). Let’s zoom in on how these tiny bacteria can impact our mood and mental health. Today we are going to break down our gut’s connection to mental health!
The gut is where around 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced! Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved with physiological processes (like digestion and the constriction of blood vessels) as well as mental processes (it is thought to be involved in many psychological disorders). In fact, depression, anxiety, and several mood disorders have been correlated to alterations in serotonergic pathways (Lin, Lee, & Lang, 2014; Strandwitz, 2018). To better understand how the microbiota of your gut influence serotonin levels, researchers ran experiments on mice with normal levels of gut bacteria and mice with germ-free digestive tracts. It was found that the germ-free mice had 60% less serotonin than the normal bacteria containing mice (Microbes Help Produce Serotonin in Gut, 2015)!
The bacteria we harbor in our gut are crucial to the proper functioning of many of our bodily systems. Recent years have brought us a significant amount of research on how our gut bacteria can affect our mood. This espouses the importance of taking care of our bodies physically in order to maintain healthy minds!