Many people living with depression also face bowel difficulties such as constipation. A new study has identified a reason why: low serotonin.
The link between the two conditions is serotonin, a neurotransmitter often called the “happy chemical” because of its importance to happiness and wellbeing owing to a range of complex cognitive functions it performs. As well as its effect on our nervous system, serotonin is involved in a number of other important biological processes such as blood clotting and digestion. In fact, most of the body’s serotonin is found in the enteric nervous system located in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
This is where the potential link between depression and bowel difficulties comes in. As serotonin affects our mood levels, many link serotonin deficiency to mental disorders such as depression. In addition to this, bowel problems such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome have been linked to serotonin shortage in the GI tract. According to researchers in the United States who conducted a study in mice, for some, treatments aiming to boost serotonin levels in both the brain and the GI tract could serve to both improve mental wellbeing and gut function.
In India, almost 22 percent of people experience constipation. This includes thirteen percent of Indians who experience severe constipation. Meanwhile, depression affects 56 million Indians whilst around 150 million require some form of mental healthcare. Just ten percent of those who need such treatment in India can avail it, with a treatment gap of between fifty and seventy percent for mental healthcare.
These issues mean that individuals with disorders such as depression may also be suffering with bowel difficulties in a way linked to their mental health, but go unaware of this. Promoting factors such as a healthy diet could help alleviate some digestive problems, but now that we know the two seemingly disparate conditions could be tied, it is important to ensure that an expanded effort is made to catch mental healthcare wherever it may arise.