Study Finds Lack of These Two Gut Bacteria May Lead to Depression

Shot of unhealthy young woman with stomachache leaning on the bed at home.

As studies of our microbiota become more focused, scientists have realized that our guts are inextricably linked to the brain and its functions. We now know our gut definitively factors into decision making, though we’ve probably known this informally for hundreds of years, hence the phrase “go with your gut instinct.” And now a new study believes it has pinpointed two specific species of bacteria that, when missing from our microbiome, may lead to depression.

According to the study recently published in the journal Nature Microbiology, out of a group of 2,000 participants, researchers found that those reporting symptoms of depression were lacking two particular strains of bacteria in their gut – Coprococcus and Dialister.

Coprococcus in particular was found to be a pathway for dopamine, the neurotransmitter believed to play a role in our brain’s reward system – one that’s known to dysregulate in people experiencing depression.

Though their results are only early indicators that will require significantly more research to be applicable for any future treatment, these two bacterial strains could lead to a future in which doctors might prescribe probiotics to treat mental disorders, or what some are referring to as “psychobiotics.”

The ability for our gut bacteria to send neurotransmitters between the brain and our gut’s brain, the enteric nervous system, is not found in bacteria outside of our guts and is believed to have evolved as we did.

This enteric nervous system, often called our second brain, contains somewhere in the range of 200 to 500 million neuronal pathways of its own – about the same as a dog’s brain – and communicates with the cerebellum through a two-way highway called the vagus nerve.

Our gut microbiome has something in the range of 500 to 1000 different species of bacteria, with scientists continuously discovering new ones. And in this most recent study, of the more than 500 strains tested, 90 percent of those strains were capable of producing neurotransmitters.

These bugs in our gut form somewhere in the range of three to five pounds of biomass and have essentially evolved to control our behavior. Along with the fungi, viruses, archaea, and other microbial cells, our guts are believed to contain somewhere in the range of 37 trillion bacterial cells. And unless we proactively maintain them, losing diversity in our microbiota can have severely negative side-effects. Now we’re closer to knowing that depression may be one of them.



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Dr. Jack Kruse Explains the Importance of Sunlight Vitamin D for Health

Of all the health secrets, one of the most sought-after is how to optimize our health, and a common question is why health and healing have to be so complicated. But perhaps it doesn’t.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Jack Kruse carries a simple message to think about how exposure to sunlight has gotten a bad rap over the past few decades and how our relationship to the sun is the key to staying well and energized.

Dr. Kruse says we seem to have forgotten that the sunlight’s system of photosynthesis supports most of the food chain on this planet. And, since our skin is derived from neuroectoderm (cellular structures associated with the brain and nervous system) we rely on the sun for photosynthesis to make vitamin D to protect our health. Vitamin D is too often overlooked by modern medicine in its role to keep us alive and healthy. Maybe, suggests Kruse, we need to rethink our position on Vitamin D and how we produce it.

Let There Be Light

In a recent interview, Dr. Kruse tells Regina Meredith that too many of us are continually exposed to artificial indoor light, causing us to miss out on vital factors required to boost the immune system and allow it to work optimally. Our bodies require the full spectrum of the sun’s rays to produce vitamin D, a hormone naturally created in our skin cells and used for myriad biochemical processes.

The Mayo Clinic explains that vitamin D is needed to regulate many cellular functions in the body and acts to support anti-inflammatory responses, antioxidant activity, nerve cells, the immune system, muscle function, and brain cell activity. Beyond this, explains Dr. Kruse, vitamin D is helpful in warding off viruses and bacteria, and helping the cells efficiently create and use energy.

Vitamin D is an overlooked nutrient, especially in northern climates where sunlight can be scarce for months at a time. Kruse links a number of health issues with vitamin D deficiency, including obesity, bone malformation, psoriasis, heart failure in the newly born, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, mental illness, diabetes, and even cancer, as well as most autoimmune diseases. Much of these health issues may be attributed to what Dr. Kruse calls a “quantum-biological problem,” meaning that it’s a story about sunlight and our relationship to it. 

A fact of nature is that skin color, as well as other personal health factors, influences how much sunlight we need, which determines our state of health, the efficiency of the immune system, and the production of energy in our cells. People with darker skin need more sunlight than those with lighter skin to produce vitamin D. It’s not a racial problem, says Kruse, but rather a biological issue, despite how media may misinterpret it and how some physicians can misunderstand or overlook this fact. We have to be aware of our skin type and gauge our exposure to the sun accordingly, to glean the benefits of good health and to ward off a host of illnesses.

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