Health Digesting the gut’s relationship with mental health

Digesting the gut’s relationship with mental health

Everyone’s unique responsiveness to medication is now more than a gut feeling thanks to new research.

Australian scientists have calculated — for the first time — how microbes influence the effectiveness of anti-depressant medication taken by about 10 per cent  of people across the Western world.

In recent years, it has become clear that microbe communities in our lower intestine play a significant role in major depressive disorder and other mood and anxiety conditions.

Now, a University of New England (UNE) research team has found that the richness and diversity of the trillions of intestinal microbes that make up our gut microbiome may also determine whether or not anti-depressants work.

Dr Gal Winter, from UNE’s School of Science and Technology, said it has been a mystery why anti-depressants only work for about half of the people who take them.

“Our work has shown that anti-depressants may cause either increases or decreases in the diversity and abundance of gut microbes,” Dr Winter said.

“Such changes could make drug treatments more or less effective.”

The team experimented with the common antidepressant drug Fluoxetine (also known as Prozac) and found the response to be very individual.

“It suggests that the treatment of major depressive illnesses needs to be far more personalised,” Dr Winter said.

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