Could Gut Health Affect Anxiety?

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
While the link between gut health and mental health has already been established, a new study sheds light on why exactly digestive health could be associated with anxiety.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Cork In Ireland, found a connection between gut microbes and miRNAs gene regulators in the brain.
"Gut microbes seem to influence miRNAs in the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex," lead research Gerard Clarke said in a press release. "This is important because these miRNAs may affect physiological processes that are fundamental to the functioning of the central nervous system and in brain regions, such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, which are heavily implicated in anxiety and depression."
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Essentially, the study found that the bacteria in your gut can affect the molecules in the areas of the brain that are associated with anxiety and depression.
The researchers conducted their study by introducing gut bacteria to two groups of mice: one group was raised in an environment without germs, and another group raised in an environment with germs.
The results?
The mice living in germ-free environments ended up having higher amounts of anxiety and even more symptoms of depression, compared to the mice living in a regular environment. However, when researchers added the gut bacteria back in later on, the changes to the mice's miRNAs became normalized.
To make a long story short, a healthier gut could be the answer to regulating brain molecules that have to do with anxiety and depression.
Given that anxiety can worsen gut health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, it's not too surprising that the reverse can be true. However, the study authors say that more work needs to be done to determine whether or not these results can really be applied to humans and not just, y'know, mice.
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