An unhealthy gut can not only wreak havoc on physical health, but may lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety, a new study shows.
In fact, having no healthy gut bacteria may result in lower serotonin levels, since 90 per cent of serotonin is produced in the gut, researchers say. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that helps in regulating emotions and behaviours.
Antibiotics are one of the culprits involved in destroying healthy bacteria in the intestines.
Past studies on mice indicate alteration of gut microbes can affect behaviour, but a recent study looking at how gut microbes impact levels of neurotransmitters show that germ-free mice, that is, mice that have no healthy gut bacteria, produce 60 per cent less serotonin than mice with a healthy gut.
When they restored the health of the gut in the germ-free mice, the cells began producing serotonin.
Scientists at the California Institute of Technology conducted the study, published in the journal Cell, to determine how gut flora and the nervous system interact.
In a separate study, researchers at University of California Los Angeles, through a small-scale study of 36 women aged 18 to 55, found that probiotics, which help restore healthy gut bacteria, have a positive impact on brain regions that process emotions and sensation.