Disentangling what we know about microbes and mental health
Frontiers in Endocrinology
URL with Digital Object Identifier
Much has been written in recent years about the gut-brain axis. Exciting pilot studies suggest probiotic applications to the gut can reduce anxiety and depression via the vagus nerve. But not to diminish such findings, much still needs to be considered, including the fact that the vagus nerve links to many other body sites that also host a microbiome. Questions remain that touch the core of being human: (i) Do our microbes influence happiness and to what extent? (ii) What components of the gut microbiota and their function, including as it relates to mental health, are critical and how do they differ between agile, fit hunter gatherers and obese westerners or Danes described as the happiest people on the planet? (iii) What role do environmental pollutants play in this microbes-host ecosystem? While approaching life from a reductionist perspective has a long history in science, we need to try to interrogate these health and disease issues from a wider perspective. For verification of a link between the gut microbiota and brain, and to test new therapies, human studies are needed, and are long overdue.