Possibly one of the most seemingly illogical treatments for depression I have ever heard of, but in a study coming out of University College Cork in Ireland faecal transplants could be used to treat depression. Scientists at UCC have been investigating the effects bowel bacteria could have on an individuals mental health, examining the substances that result from the bacteria’s metabolic processes.
The stomach and gut is also referred to as ‘the second brain’ as it drives a lot of what we crave and has an effect on our behaviour and habits, if you’ve ever been hangry you know what I’m talking about. It would also appear to have an effect on one’s mood and in the long term, one’s mental health. The scientists over at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre Biosciences Institute at UCC have found that depending on the mix of bacteria in your gut, you could have a good or bad mental reaction. However depression is to mood as climate is to weather, so what could happen on a longer time period than just a few hours? Well Professor Ted Dinan and Professor John Cryan at UCC decided to investigate the first test case for gut bacteria having an effect on depression.
“There are fundamental differences in the microbiota of depressed and non-depressed people.” – Prof Ted Dinan
The researchers ran this experiment on rats first. They cleared the microbiota of the rats using antibiotics first and then preformed a faecal transplant on the rats with the sample coming from a clinically depressed human donor. The rats that were perfectly healthy before the procedure began to show signs of depression, exhibiting the symptoms that people often do, weight loss, fatigue, anxiety and so on. While this is only the first test, these results could affect future faecal transplants where needed as a treatment. Prof Dinan said that this side effect of faecal transplants should be screened for when finding healthy donors from here on out.