So my roommate is doing an internship at Harvard Med and we got talking about fecal transplants. Long story short, there is a place here in Cambridge that pays you 40 bucks to shit into a container so they can take bacteria from your poop and use it for fecal transplants.
Fecal transplants are used for a lot of things, most notably, they are a life-saver for treating Clostridium Difficile Colitis, which is a horrible bacterial infection that causes chronic diarrhea, nausea, and cramps.
Anyways, so I applied to be a “donor” of my poop and I was rejected. I noticed that on the application it asked if I had any issues of depression or anxiety. Obviously I said yes because I’m not a liar, and my roommate who is working in medicine told me that’s why I was rejected. She was telling me that scientists are starting to find a correlation between depression/anxiety and the bacteria in your gut!
So remember that old figure of speech You are what you eat? …Well, it’s literally true.
Alright so let’s talk science. This is a blurb from a study recently conducted:
The vagus nerve forms a direct connection between the brain and stomach. Hormonal, neuronal and bacterial changes in the bowel are transmitted to the brain via the vagus nerve. The gut microbiota affects brain development and plasticity by secreting various neurotrophins and proteins, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), synaptophysin and postsynaptic density (PSD).
So, in easier language, what this is saying is that bacteria in your gut interacts with the neurons in your guts. The neurons in your gut send signals to the brain through the vagus nerve…my roommate wants me to tell everyone it’s pronounced as VAY-GUS. I have been saying VAJ-US and it’s been making her mad. Anyways, the signals sent to the brain through the vagus then prompt the brain to perform certain tasks. In the context of handling depression and anxiety, the signal sent from the vagus prompts brain development and increase plasticity.
A fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) is a procedure in which fecal matter, or stool, is collected from a tested donor, mixed with a saline or other solution, strained, and placed in a patient, by colonoscopy, endoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or enema. What this does is implant a small amount of “superior” bacteria into your microbiome (your gut). This good bacteria then continues to breed, feed and grow, which helps your body reap the benefits by increasing neuronal plasticity, supporting metabolic function, and promoting proper and healthy endocrine function.
Until the day when FMT’s are routinely used to treat depression, what can you do?
Well, eating a healthy diet and exercising is the best you can do. Fruits, vegetables, and yogurt all contain the good bacteria your micorbiome needs to maintain healthy and stable function. This stability will help boost your immune system, improve brain function, and boost energy!
Future studies may show that FTM’s will be more beneficial than healthy diets alone, or they may show where these increased amounts of good bacterias come from. In any event, in the meantime it is important to be healthy, not just for your body, but for your brain and mental well-being!
~ The Dark Horse
Below are some links for further readings!