Could Gut Inflammation Be Causing Your Depression?

The hypothesis began in the early 1900’s with psychiatrist Henry Cotton, whose first line of therapy for mental illness was the removal of decaying teeth. If unsuccessful, Cotton moved on to removing other potentially infected body parts – including the colon – to relieve psychiatric disorders. Fast-forward 100 years and it turns out Dr. Cotton may have been on to something.


In the recent NPR article Could Depression Be Caused By An Infection?, a study was highlighted that found hospitalization for any type of infection was associated with a 62% increased risk of developing a mood disorder down the road. Multiple studies show a clear correlation between elevated markers of inflammation and depression, and imbalanced gut bacteria (which makes the body more susceptible to infection and inflammation) have also been associated with mental illness.


These associations, along with the knowledge that mental illness has many physical manifestations – lack of appetite, inability to get out of bed, fatigue – have many scientists convinced that infection, or the presence of inflammation, is the root cause of mental illness. This theory doesn’t preclude the idea that there could be additional elements at play; including genetics, psychosocial variables, diet, and of course, the microbiome.


To learn more about gut infections, please visit GI Infections


By: Dr. Robynne Chutkan