Can anxiety be caused by gut problems?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting an estimated 18 percent of the American population. Given its wide distribution as a disease, the interest in figuring out the exact root cause of the problem is certainly high.
Over the years, there is a lot of progress in our understanding of how anxiety works and because of these discoveries, we are now able to treat anxiety in a much more therapeutic way than before. Despite these milestones, there is still many questions not yet answered.
One of these questions may now have a possible solution. In a study conducted by McMaster University, researchers found an explanation on why anxiety affects certain individuals while others are spared – a link between the occurrence of anxiety and the disruption of normal gut flora. This shifts the common belief that anxiety is a problem with brain function into a more holistic concern.
To test this hypothesis researchers administered antibiotics known to disrupt the normal bacterial flora of the gut in mice and then observed their behavior. Surprisingly, the subjects given the medication manifested with signs of anxiety. When the drugs were discontinued, the behavior reverted to normal.
Researchers explained that in those mice given the antibiotic, the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF were significantly increased. This factor is known to be associated with depression and anxiety. This could explain why behavior changes are seen in the group given antibiotics.
The researchers involved in the study are optimistic that their work could possibly be a foundation for future treatments that explores the use of probiotic bacteria to safely treat anxiety disorders.
National Institute of Mental Health
Gut bacteria linked to behavior: That anxiety may be in your gut, not in your head.