While depression was long characterized as “chemical imbalance” in the brain, scientists have since found out that it’s much more complicated than that.
The theory of chemical imbalances helps us understand depression, but it doesn’t explain the underlying cause. Instead, scientists believe that it occurs due to a number of factors, including inflammation and chronic stress. What’s more, a recent study suggests that depression and other mood disorders may originate in the gut.
Gut Bacteria: The Friendly And The Deadly
As we speak, there are roughly 400 species of bacteria in your belly right now, not to mention the ones that live on your skin (1). The genes within these bacteria actually outnumber the ones in all the cells in your body: genomes of the bacteria and viruses of the human gut alone are thought to encode 3.3 million genes (2).
In fact, your gut acts as a protective layer to fight off harmful pathogens that have made their way into your digestive tract before they are absorbed into your bloodstream.
Gut bacteria are so important that they’re even in breast milk, and babies who are bottle-fed are more likely to suffer from allergies and immune problems because they’ve missed out on these essential critters.
Bacteria even plays a role in enhancing the effect of enzymes such as lactase, sucrase, maltase, alpha-glucosidase, and alkaline phosphatase, as well as metabolizing cholesterol and triglycerides to keep your blood pressure stable.
Don’t believe it, try this: modern medicine has adopted fecal transplants to reverse IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic infections. Current studies are exploring the other applications for this odd but effective intervention (3).
It’s no wonder that gut bacteria serve as a big part of your immune system and control the delicate balance between illness and health. What’s more, the bacteria in your gut also affect your brain.