This is one of those topics that seems obvious and straightforward to talk about at first but actually has some curious implications. A recent study by the Department of Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, Massachusetts (1) drew a connection between depression and both constipation and chronic diarrhea.
According to the study, going to the loo doesn’t just “feel nice” but that people who do so regularly and don’t suffer from constipation tend to be significantly happier.
Mood and Bowel Movement
Sarah Ballou, a lead author of the study said that both chronic constipation and chronic diarrhea are “significantly more prevalent” in depressed people which forces the conclusion that these conditions aren’t just unpleasant and annoying but have a strong link with mental health. She puts it like this: ‘Our findings provide support for the relationship between mood and specific bowel habits.’
Approximately 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut. This neurotransmitter is responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness and is directly involved in our emotional state. This means that when your gut and digestive system are out of whack, your bodies’ ability to produce serotonin drops significantly.
Dr. Gill Hart, a scientific director of food intolerance testing at YorkTest Laboratories and a leading biochemist explains it this way:
“If you are experiencing irregular bowel activity, you could indeed also encounter low mood and there are studies that back this. The gut is home to hundreds of trillions of microorganisms that form part of the gut-microbiome-brain-axis.
Mood states have been linked with the composition of the microbiome in mentally and physically healthy adults. If your gut is unhappy, it’s likely to affect your overall well-being too, both physically and mentally.”
That’s important because a lot of depressed people don’t focus so much on their physical condition and simple problems such as bowel irregularities. Thanks to research and scientific insight like these, we now know that fixing simple problems in our bodies such as constipation and diarrhea can have very positive effects on our mental well-being and health.
Dr. Hart also said that “If things are not working consistently it can affect mood. But when constipation is finally relieved, a person’s mood is elevated as the gut is working more efficiently.”
There’s plenty more research supporting these findings too. Jeroen Raes, a microbiologist from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium conducted a study with 1,054 participants (3) to examine their microbiomes. Out of all of them, 173 were diagnosed with depression and two kinds of microbes were found to be missing from their microbiomes – Coprococcus and Dialister. Both of these microbes were present in the rest of the subjects who had no emotional issues. These findings ‘provide population-scale evidence for microbiome links to mental health.’
Steven Horne shared even more insight on the topic. He’s the former president of the American Herbalists Guild (AHG) and he jokes that the term “full of it” that’s typically used to describe people in a fowl mood can be said to have a literal physical meaning as well since people in fowl mood often suffer from constipation and other bowel irregularities.
He also added, on a more serious note that “Researchers now realise that we have a ‘gut brain’ that produces neurotransmitters, which directly influence our emotional state.
If you think about it, you will readily recognise that constipation has an impact on your mood. When you’re physically ‘full of it’ you feel weighed down. You feel heavy and have less energy. Once you let go of it, you feel lighter and your energy and mood will improve.”
This conclusion is also backed by Dr. Hart from YorkTest Laboratories. In short, taking care of your gut is evidently one of the best ways to take care of your mental health as well.