Key to Mental Health Might Be in Your Stomach

New studies suggests intricate links between brain and gut

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 24, 2013 8:29 AM CDT | Updated Aug 24, 2013 11:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – The old line about going to a shrink to get your head examined might someday have to be tweaked—new research suggests that psychiatric patients should have their gut examined, too. The Verge takes a look at the growing body of evidence suggesting that our digestive systems have a profound effect on mental health. That's not to say that a dose of probiotics or the like would replace standard psychiatric care, but it could become a bigger part of treatment. "By showing that changing bacteria in the gut can change behavior, this new research might one day transform the way we understand—and treat—a variety of mental health disorders," writes Carrie Arnold.

Among the studies cited is one from McMaster University in which researchers discovered that swapping out the gut bacteria in mice resulted in something along the lines of personality makeovers. Timid mice became aggressive and vice versa. One of the big questions under study is whether "microbiomes" in humans become set at a young age, and to what extent they can be tweaked later. “We have to be very cautious in this field not to be too hyperbolic about what we promise,” says one neuroscientist quoted in the story. “Whether we can use this to improve people’s lives, well, the door is just beginning to open on this.” Click for the full story.

  (Shutterstock)
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