Doctors should be asking questions about their patients eating habits and gastrointestinal health when screening for mental illnesses, according to Dr Raison.
Charles L Raison, MD:
A lot of the connection between the microbial world and the mental health and mental illness is really still at the beginning. We're really at the start of this. There's not a lot of direct evidence-based practices yet around like, you know, if somebody's depressed, do this or that when it comes to the gut microbiota.
But now there are data that probiotics show benefit for depression. I think we're getting to the point where encouraging depressed people to think about this may have relevance, and that's clearly true.
More aggressive things like fecal matter transplants - that's still off the future but people are gonna do it. They're already doing it for autism and someday there's gonna be a lot of interest in the question of, if you transform the gut can you really impact mental health.
I think it does certainly highlight that when we see people with mental illnesses, we should ask about their gut function. I think now it's pretty clear that anything we can do to help diet - especially diet - thats something that is directly relevant.
We know that you can change the microbiota in a couple of days if you alter your diet. I think that the connection between the bugs and the humans highlights the fact that in mental health in general many of us are getting an increasing focus on the fact that avoiding processed foods, these sort of junk food diets, is a very powerful thing to do, not just for your physical health but for your mental health.
There's a lot of data emerging on that. I think it's one of the things it's highlighted is having more rigorous discussions with our patients about their dietary patterns.