Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Linking anxiety & depression to bacteria & viruses

Remember the old saying about having a knot in your stomach or that someone’s stomach is in knots about something? Its usual meaning is about being nervous or worried. Recently, I noticed several articles on the link between gut bacteria and anxiety (eg, Futurism, Medical Xpress). They all refer to an August 2017 study in the open access journal Microbiome.

Around the same time, some other interesting studies and related articles appeared on bacteria or microbes: (1) 99% of the microbes inside humans are currently unknown to science (eg, Futurism, PNAS), and (2) bacteria can communicate to one another electrically (eg, Quanta magazine, Science). The words “paradigm shift” in a November 2014 study (“Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience”) imply that this insight is rather recent. 

A 3rd article is about a September 2017 study in Science Advances on “Unveiling the role and life strategies of viruses from the surface to the dark ocean”. Deep sea life is full of bacteria and viruses: 1 liter contains 40 million bacteria and 600 million viruses (eg, NRC). There seems to be a symbiosis between both. Both also play an important role “in the production of dissolved organic carbon in the dark ocean, a major pathway in carbon cycling.”

To many people, bacteria and viruses are responsible for spreading diseases. TV advertising is often about selling antibacterial products (eg, soaps). This view is slowly changing. Guardian, 2016: “Antibacterial soaps were banned from the US market on Friday in a final ruling by the Food and Drug Administration, which said that manufacturers had failed to prove the cleansers were safe or more effective than normal products.”

A 2012 Public Health Reviews article by American epidemiologist Steven Coughlin already linked anxiety and depression to viral diseases. Excerpt: “The studies summarized in this review indicate that there are important linkages between anxiety and depression and viral diseases.” A 2014 Daily Mail article wondered: “Could depression be an infectious disease? Condition is caused by parasites, bacteria or virus and could be prevented with a jab, expert claims.”

Dr Gerard Clarke of University College Cork basically confirms this 2014 Daily Mail notion in the recent Medical Xpress article: “This is early stage research but the possibility of achieving the desired impact on miRNAs in specific brain regions by targeting the gut microbiota – for example by using psychobiotics – is an appealing prospect.”
A quote from a 2016 HuffPost article: “The quality of life of many people suffering from mental illness has been improved by antidepressants, antipsychotics and so on, and so these drugs will always have a place in society. However, there are also quite a few patients who do not respond to conventional medication, and this is where I think psychobiotics can come into play.”

Treatment of anxiety and depression with psychobiotics comes closer to the trinity of Body, Mind & Soul. Depression is, however, related to broken faith and a hurt/tired Soul (eg, my Fatigue blog, my 2nd blog on burnout & depression2007 NY Mag, 2017 Patheos blog).

Soul Sick (2009) by Rob Thomas – artist, FBlyrics, songvideo, Wiki


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