In the past few years, there has been an increasing amount of research conducted on the gut microbiota, the grouping of microorganisms that live within the human and animal digestive tract, and the relationship that it has with mental health and psychology. Due to this amount of research, we are learning more ways to encourage a healthy digestive tract, and to successfully create a micro-ecosystem of healthy microflora. Additionally, this research is reinforcing the importance of maintaining a healthy digestive tract, as an imbalance in gut microbiota can result in worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Along with this increased research on the gut microbiome, research has also turned toward the role that the gut microbiome has in regulating mood and behavior. This is a somewhat new way of thinking in its exact details, but simultaneously, the idea that the body and mind are deeply interconnected in creating a mental stated is not a new one.
A study conducted by Dr. Grace Lucas concluded that “Mental health is not narrowly located in the head but is assimilated by the physical body and intermingled with the natural world, requiring different methods of research to unfold the meanings and implications of gut thinking for conceptions of human selfhood.” Other studies have also provided evidence for the idea that a disruption of the delicate balance in the gut microbiome can have negative effects and agitate pre-existing anxiety or depression in those who already struggle with them.
A study conducted over the last year resulting in a paper published just this month has also concluded that “taking steps to regulate the microorganisms in [the] gut using probiotic and non-probiotic food and supplements,” can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety.
It is exhilarating to continue to imagine how the study of the gut microbiome and the human digestive tract will continue to inform and advance the fields of psychology and psychiatry. I anticipate more research on this and the impact that it will have on the way we view psychiatric disorders and their symptoms as a whole.