Healthy gut can help fight depression, protect emotional wellbeing

A healthy microbiome could be key to warding off depression brought on from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent study. Researchers from several universities and health centers published a paper sharing the theory that emotional wellbeing could be linked to the human gut.

COVID and Depression

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic caused a surge in mental health issues due to isolation, stress, and job loss. In particular, depression rates skyrocketed during the initial phases of the pandemic. In the United States alone, there was an 18.6 percent increase in antidepressant prescriptions and a startling 34.1 percent increase in anti-anxiety medications, all during the first month of the pandemic. 

“During such a short period of time, this steep rise hints at the magnitude of COVID-19’s immediate and widespread effect on mental health,” says Dr. Mahmoud A. Ghannoum in a statement. Ghannoum is director of the Center for Medical Mycology at UH and a professor of dermatology and pathology at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

A Holistic Approach

“The impact of the human gut microbiome on emotional health is a newly emerging field,” says Dr. Ghannoum. “While more research needs to be conducted, the current evidence is extremely promising and suggests at least part of the answer to understanding depression in more depth may lie within the microbiome.” The human microbiome is composed of various microbes including fungi, bacteria, and viruses that live primarily in the human gut.

New evidence indicates the microbiome can have a direct impact on our brain and emotions. The human brain and gut microbiome communicate with each other using neural and hormonal pathways. This is why a holistic approach to depression that includes the health of the human gut microbiome could be effective, say scientists.

“Despite the toll that depression has on both individuals and society, understanding and effectively treating depressive disorders is difficult,” says Dr. Ghannoum. “Current research addressing the diagnosis and treatment of depression and mood disorders is ongoing, but needs more time to develop the complexities involved in how to treat them.”

The Gut-Brain Link

More research now points to the gut-brain link, which could be a new and more efficient way to manage depression disorders. “It is clear that the gut microbiome’s makeup in individuals with depressive disorders is disrupted and lacks the appropriate levels of beneficial microorganisms,” says Dr. Ghannoum. “We believe that encouraging the growth of such beneficial microorganisms and rebalancing the gut microbiome in individuals may be a promising step toward helping individuals ease their depression via the gut-brain axis.” 

The study proposes a dynamic approach to depression management that includes replenishing the gut microbiome by eating more fruits, vegetables, and probiotics. Getting enough sleep, reducing stress, and regular exercise are also important for depression prevention. “Not only should probiotic consumption restore the gut balance, it may also decrease the likelihood of colonization of the gut by opportunistic pathogens, as reported in many studies that analyzed the gut microbiome in COVID-19 infected patients,” say scientists.

Find this study in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition. 

9 thoughts on “Healthy gut can help fight depression, protect emotional wellbeing”

  1. Totally makes sense. After some prescribes meds destroyed my colon and a subsequent resection, anxiety and depression have been a way of life. Prior to that totally different person. Thanks for the article. Good to see science is making the connection.

  2. Stop obsessing over the news would go a long way to cure stomach ills from worry and depression. You’d think the world was ending every minute based on what is out there, the news only survives today not by journalism but by fear. 4 years of doomsdays reporting about Trump sent many people into a mental health crisis, and for what? Nothing happened. Now Biden is in charge and people still are cracking up. Go for a walk in the park and you’ll see everything is actually OK.

    • NOTE: It is PROBIOTICS that you may need.

      I was very unwell for years due to a long overdose with anti-biotics. I didn’t know that, while they kill the pathogenic bacteria, antibiotics also kill the healthy ones. The latter are needed for many reasons, even including making certain important nutrients.

      I found an alternative doctor (now deceased) who know exactly what my problem was. This was almost 20 years ago BUT I haven’t forgotten the major prescription: Stop eating all sugar-rich and sugar-containing foods (including fruits and some high-sugar content vegetables); concentrate on vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables (the whole rainbow); take certain herbs that kill pathogenic bacteria (in this connection, he had me take one of the RenewLife products — CandiGone, if memory serves — to kill the unhealthy bacteria), and, of course, he had me on probiotics and fermented foods.

      I subsequently started making my own kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and other fermented, bacteria-rich foods.

      I now make it a point to eat something fermented, often homemade, daily, preferably with every meal.

      It took a year of no sugar and lots of vegetables (the rainbow) for my health to turn around. I remain to this day beyond grateful to Dr. Gordon, who is now deceased.

      For many years after he retired and moved to Florida, I called him on the anniversary of my first meeting with him to thank him. Dr. Gordon turned my life around.

      BTW, Dr. Gordon favored taking appropriate nutrients but the first thing was to stop feeding the unhealthy bacteria (which sugar in ANY form does, including eating pasta which breaks down immediately into sugar).

      Next, take herbs and products designed kill Candida overgrowth.

      Finally, eat fermented foods and supplement with probiotics. The goal: have a range of bacteria growing in your microbiome.

      I hope this helps.

  3. I saw this article pop up on my news feed and it tweaked my interest with the tag line “Healthy Gut”

    I’m one that virtually never comments on an article but this time I feel I must chime in.

    Like one of the commenters said I too have spent lots of money on supplements with very little to no affect and thus I am always more than skeptical. There always seems to be tall claims and yet little real science to back them up and or Reliance on recommendations from sketchy sources in far-flung places of the world.

    I do however believe much of the body overall health and well-being is directly related to gut health. It’s interesting that in all the old medical journals I have read for spanning the last 225 years there was repeated reference to the “gut-being out of trim”. Understanding that food preparation has changed substantially over this time. However it seems that there has been a little emphasis on gut health in my life time and the overall well-being of the gut in relation to the todays prevalent illnesses in the mainstream.

    I am a lifelong asthmatic pretty much from birth and I’ve worked all over the world while dealing with this issue. At 67 it seems that the options which have been beneficial are becoming less effective and yet there is little or no where else to go. I have transitioned through all the steroid inhalers, albuterol rescue inhaler‘s, and now on the latest and greatest steroidal inhaler and it seems my symptoms were only getting worse by time. On my last visit to my pulmonologist I ask him the question “what’s next” ? His answer was not too encouraging at all.

    At the beginning of 2021 began hearing about a probiotic that is been in development at UAB in Birmingham Alabama for the last 7 to 8 years that is specifically geared towards gut & lung health that was getting very promising results. The end result being the product was spun off into a standalone company called ResBiotic. It is a probiotic taken twice daily in pill form it is specifically developed for lung health. I have now been on this probiotic for the last 90 days and the results are as follows.

    Yesterday my pharmacy called me to remind me to pick up my normal monthly prescription of Trelegy. I’m sure I will go by and pick it up today or tomorrow however the refill from December still has 20 doses available and my prescription from January lays unopened in the box. The albuterol rescue inhaler which I would not leave home without also is nearly half full From December and my January refill is still in the box unopened. The benefits of this product have been very subtle but very definite in the fact that I am using less and less of the prescribed medicines and my breathing has dramatically improved. Another interesting sidenote is the fact that the Arthritis in my hands is substantially less also. reduced inflammation I’m sure.

    I stand in total amazement. What even endures me more to this product is the fact that it’s development is well documented at UAB Birmingham AL.

    I’m not here to promote anyone’s product only to say that the result I am getting from ResBiotic for me and speaking for me only is truly amazing.


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