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What links constipation to depression?

Depression is a mental health disorder that makes an individual feel constantly unhappy or loss of interest in activities. In due course of time, depression starts to take its toll on the daily activities of a person. Stomach is considered as the “second brain” of our body as it operates using similar suite of neurotransmitters as the brain. Often, depression is linked to constipation. Researchers from Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York looked into the matter in detail and had a special interest in knowing more about the activities of neurotransmitter “Serotonin”. Study lead Dr. Kara Gross Margolis explains her reason for the research is the limited treatment options available to patients suffering from depression and that she wishes to widen the spectrum of treatments. They have also come up with an experimental drug which showed positive results. The researchers behind the latest study were particularly interested in serotonin because people with depression are thought to have lower levels of this neurotransmitter in their brain. Also, neurons in the gastrointestinal (GI) system use serotonin. They conducted the study on mice to know whether reducing the level of serotonin in the gut would reflect in their constipation issues and the researchers say that reduction in serotonin caused many changes among which were reduced rate of bowel movements, lowering the overall number of neurons and causing the gut lining to deteriorate.

"Basically, the mice were constipated, and they showed the same kind of GI changes we see in people with constipation.", says Dr. Margolis. In the second phase of the research, scientists tested an experimental drug 5-HTP SR, which is known for producing a slow-release of 5-HTP, which is an amino acid and a precursor of serotonin. Results showed that this drug was able to initiate more serotonin production in the mice’s gut and removed issues of constipation by getting the gut motility back to normal.