Your gut wants to talk to your brain

By Rebecca Firkser
February 07, 2018
Photo by Steve Outram via Getty Images

A research team at the University of Virginia has found that a type of yogurt bacteria may alleviate some symptoms of depression. Although the research so far has only been performed on mice, if the study is substantiated, live-culture yogurt bacteria could become a drug-free way to treat those suffering from depression. This study, which deals with the lactobacillus probiotic, is one of several focused on the way the digestive tract can influence the nervous system. If research continues to show such results, there’s a chance we could add “mental health aid” to the already long list of benefits that yogurt bacteria provides the body.

UVa’s research showed that the larger the amount of the yogurt bacteria lactobacillus present in mice, the less the subjects displayed depressive behavior. UVa neuroscience researcher Ioana Marin told The Daily Progress that while human depression is a much more nuanced issue, the team has high hopes for successful results in studies performed on human subjects suffering from depression. "It would be magical just to change your diet, to change the bacteria you take, and fix your health—and your mood," Alban Gaultier, an assistant professor of neuroscience at UVa and the lead researcher on this project, told UVA Today. Indeed, if Gaultier’s study proves lactobacillus’s success in alleviating human depression symptoms, it may seem supernatural that simply eating live-culture yogurt could dramatically improve mental equilibrium. 

This isn’t the first time a new dietary regimen has been discussed in place of medication. The chef Seamus Mullen has spoken out extensively about how altering his diet to favor foods with anti-inflammatory properties keeps his debilitating rheumatoid arthritis at bay, and Extra Crispy’s Senior Food and Drink Editor Kat Kinsman soothes her endometriosis symptoms by eliminating grains, dairy, and sugar from her diet (Lena Dunham has described a similar diet change). While these clear-cut results indeed seem magical, UVa’s study is hopefully another scientific advancement into a collective acceptance of natural remedies, which could dramatically reduce the country’s dependency on prescription drugs.