Mental Health and the Gut Microbiome

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Mental Health and the Gut Microbiome

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In recent decades, mental illness and its complications have been on the rise. Many view this increase in mental illness as a consequence of modernization. Specifically, economic changes, urbanization, dietary changes, sedentary lifestyles, lack of adequate sunlight, and decreases in social support are all believed to contribute to this increase 1. Although it is hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the increased prevalence of mental illness as it is most likely a combination of many factors, recent evidence has suggested that the gut microbiome plays a key role in the development and sustainability of mental disorders through multiple mechanisms. Additionally, dietary changes that specifically target and cultivate beneficial microbial populations in the gut may be an effective way to treat and prevent mental illness. This literature review explores the evidence linking the gut microbiome to brain diseases and how changing one’s diet may help mitigate symptoms of mental disorders.



The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) is a non-for-profit organization that provides care and support to survivors of torture. The CVT works both within the US and internationally to prevent torture and treat victims, conducts research into best healing practices for survivors, and advocates for an end to torture worldwide. The CVT’s mission is to heal wounds of torture survivors, their families, and communities. The purpose of this project was to research the link between the gut microbiome and mental health to inform nutritional recommendations for patients suffering from severe mental trauma. In conjunction with medication, these recommendations may be used by nurse practitioners and physicians at CVT to help relieve symptoms of chronic depression, PTSD, anxiety, and fear that their patients are experiencing.

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Conducted on behalf of Center for Victims of Torture. Supported by the Kris Nelson Community-Based Research Program, a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota.

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Mysz, Margaret. (2017). Mental Health and the Gut Microbiome. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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