For many, it is surprising to discover that gut microbiota play a key role in brain function and mood, but as found in a December 2020 study by the Institut Pasteur, imbalances in the gut bacterial community can reduce metabolite levels, resulting in symptoms of depression. In lab studies, the researchers found that transferring the microbiota of an animal with mood disorders to a healthy one resulted in the depressive-like behaviours in the second animal. On the other hand, an oral treatment with healthy bacteria erased these behaviours. The findings are a wakeup call to the need to consume a varied, healthy Mediterranean diet – one that is high in fibre and healthy spices, and low in refined sugars and starches.

The Link Between Depleted Microbiomes And Depression

A 2019 study carried out at the Flanders Institute Biotechnology came to similar findings as the 2020 study. This experiment centred on the discovery of specific gut bacteria linked to depression. The scientists found that two types of bacteria (dialister and coprococcus) are consistently depleted in people with depression – regardless of the treatment they are taking. The findings back the idea that microbial metabolites interact with the brain and affect our behaviour and emotions. They also concluded that low microbial counts and poor gut bacteria diversity were prevalent among people with Crohn’s disease – which in turn is linked to a higher risk of depression.

Low Enzyme Levels And Depression

In order for gut health to be optimal, the consumption of the right levels of beneficial enzymes is important. When important enzymes are absent, people can fail to digest food correctly, and they can experience a host of IBS symptoms – including bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, stomach pain, heartburn, brain fog, difficulties with concentration, and poor memory and attention. If your diet is inadequate, then speak to your doctor about the suitability of supplementation. Usually, top quality enzyme supplements contain 18 of the full-spectrum enzymes your body needs to digest micronutrients, as well as ingredients such as ginger, peppermint, and fennel – which are also conductive to good digestive health.

Embracing Fibre

Those wishing to ensure they have a varied gut community (so as to foster improved digestive and mental health) should make the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and other fibre-rich foods a priority. As found in a study undertaken at the University of Illinois, dietary fibre promotes a shift in the gut that favours various types of beneficial bacteria. Lead researcher, Kelly Swanson, stated, “Unfortunately, people eat only about half of the 30 to 35 grams of daily fibre that is recommended. To achieve health benefits, consumers should read nutrition labels and choose foods that have high fibre content.” Good choices to include in your diet include nuts and seeds, potatoes with skin, vegetables such as broccoli and carrots, fruits such as oranges, melons and berries, and pulses. Also feel free to add beneficial spices to your food – including cumin, fennel and coriander seeds – all of which aid in digestion (and in some cases, absorption).

There is a vital link between the mind and gut – so much so that low levels of beneficial gut bacteria are linked to conditions such as depression. To improve your gut health, consume a diet that is high in fibre. Ensure your enzyme intake is adequate, and discuss the need for supplementation if you cannot consume a high-fibre diet owing to an existing condition