Depression is certainly a silent killer. One that eats you up inside and prevents you from enjoying life to the fullest. Most of the time, depression occurs after an unfortunate event in our lives.
Numerous studies have revealed that some people may even have a genetic predisposition to developing chronic depression, at a certain point in their life.
One thing is for sure: Xanax, Prozac and other prescription antidepressants do come in handy for alleviating the symptoms of depression.
They do this by artificially increasing the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, two important neurotransmitters which are informally referred to as the “Hormones of Happiness”, as they are known to induce that general sense of well-being we all crave.
Nonetheless, the fact that antidepressants come with a fair amount of side effects is not a secret to anybody, this is why an increasing number of people and doctors have turned to natural or holistic approaches.
Discovery Of Soil “Friendly Bacteria”
A recent study has made a breakthrough discovery, revealing the existence of a “friendly bacteria” present in the soil, which can naturally increase the levels of serotonin in the brain. Resulting in the same effect as prescription antidepressants.
The study was conducted at two of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious universities (the University College in London and the Bristol University), on laboratory mice.
It has shown that this friendly bacteria altered the behavior of the laboratory mice the same way as antidepressants.
The explanation for this is more complex than one might think, and before detailing the mechanism of action of this friendly bacteria present in the soil, it must be said that people who suffer from an impaired immune system are more prone to developing mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety disorder.
Bacteria and viruses can strengthen our immune system (our natural defense mechanism) to a certain extent, thus making us less vulnerable in front of diseases and, apparently, in front of depression.
This is precisely what this mood-friendly bacteria seems to do.
There is a strong connection between the brain, the bodily processes and the immune system.
Having a strong and fully functional immune system is vital not only for our overall physical health, but for our mental health as well.
How Does This Mood-Friendly Bacteria Make You Happy?
When your body is not producing enough serotonin, depression is not the only consequence – aside from this, low serotonin levels are also linked to:
- Intense muscle pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
With an obsessive compulsive disorder being particularly dangerous.
Aside from having the potential ability to strengthen one’s immune system, studies have also revealed that this bacteria present in the soil can “trick” brain cells into producing more serotonin.
The bacteria, identified as Mycobacterium Vaccae, seems to stimulate a certain part of the lab mice’s brains – the brain neurons responsible for producing serotonin.
Nonetheless, the brain is not the only organ that produces serotonin, as this neurotransmitter is also found in the blood and the gut.
One of the most common misconceptions surrounding this neurotransmitter is that it is responsible solely for elevating mood, when the truth is that it is also responsible for stimulating the production of digestive juices, constricting the blood vessels as well as sending messages between the cells present in the brain and the central nervous system (which is why it is referred to as a neurotransmitter).
An Insight Into The Study: Premises And Findings
The study was conducted because researchers thought that the increased incidence of allergy and asthma cases arises from living too clean. We are no longer exposed to allergens and bacteria the same way we were, a century ago, for instance.
We have become more and more urbanized over the past few decades, and we started to behave, interact and eat differently than we used to.
Plus, the fact we spend less time outdoors, in the nature than ever before can actually do us more harm than good, from some points of view.
Some microorganisms that are present in the environment, such as soil bacteria, are harmless and they can actually be beneficial for our immune system by strengthening it and making it better at fighting off allergens, pollen and other particulates.
The study involved using dead (heat-killed) Mycobacterium Vaccae bacteria on laboratory mice and the result was more than impressive – as mentioned above this soil bacteria activated a set of neurons that release serotonin in the brain.
The study revealed another notable benefit associated with the increased levels of serotonin, induced by this soil bacteria. The bacterium can actually have a positive effect on learning.
When subjected to the classic maze test, mice exposed to the bacterium were able to find their way out two times faster than the other mice. It seems this learning-enhancing benefit associated with the soil bacteria lasts for several weeks, even after the mice were no longer exposed to it.
Impact Future Depression Treatments?
Graham Rook, an Immunologist working at the University College of London, revealed that there might be a connection between depression and the inflammatory process that occurs within the body.
By boosting your immune system, the Mycobacterium Vaccae bacteria can alleviate the inflammatory response in the body which, in turn, can treat and even prevent depression in the long run.
This is why it is not far-fetched to assume that therapy with the Mycobacterium Vaccae will, one day, become an alternative treatment for depression. One that may compete directly with conventional prescription antidepressants.
In summary… depression is widely regarded as one of the leading causes of disability all around the world.
Statistics have shown that approximately one in two people will experience a mental health-related condition throughout their lives.
Stress is one of the main culprits behind depression, and it takes its toll on one’s professional and personal life.
Fortunately, we can easily resort to antidepressant whenever we feel down, and the symptoms of depression suddenly go away, at least for a short period of time.
The question is:
What if there would be a natural, cost-effective and side effect-free alternative to that? Like playing in the dirt… in your garden… outdoors!