Accurately Diagnosing Depression: A Look at Gut Bacteria

Accurately Diagnosing Depression: A Look at Gut Bacteria

Researchers at the University of Florida recently conducted a study to determine if depression is an inflammation-based disorder involving different regions of the brain. “Our hypothesis was that gut bacteria can affect whole-body inflammation, brain inflammation and brain neurotransmitters – all of which can play a role in depression,” said lead researcher, Dr. Bruce R. Stevens. “We found that we could identify and predict accurately if an individual is living with depression or had a healthy mental state based on their gut microbes.” he added.

By using supercomputers to analyse large data samples of participants’ gut bacteria, the researchers at the University of Florida were able to map the “gut bacteria composition, and their biochemical signatures.” The implications of this are massive as it would enable doctors to determine, with far greater efficiency and accuracy, the exact profile of an individual’s gut bacteria, and potentially a more appropriate diagnosis and treatment based on the analysis. “Our research redirects the future of psychiatry by implicating the gastrointestinal tract as a major target for diagnosis, treatment or prevention of depression,” said Dr. Stevens.

According to Mayo Clinic, “Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave, and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.” Globally, more than 250 million people suffer from depression, and based on recent data published by the World Health Organization (WHO), it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Click here to learn more about the study.

During times of uncertainty symptoms of depression can be exacerbated. It is important to find ways to manage stress and monitor symptoms. Here are 9 tips for managing stress during uncertain times, based on a recent article by Lynne Levy:

  • Express gratitude
  • Play some music
  • Meditate
  • Give back
  • Go outside for a walk
  • Schedule a virtual coffee
  • Remind yourself of your shared purpose
  • Share kindness
  • Detach from media

What can you do as an Employer?

  • According to an article by John Rossheim on workhuman, it’s important to “keep your workforce calm and collaborative in the midst of a global health crisis.” This includes the following: 
    • Communicating to maintain trust and cohesion
    • Optimizing remote work arrangements
    • Reviewing your paid time off policy
    • Focusing on team morale
  • Train your managers on ways to support employee mental health
  • Provide employees with training and support for mental health resiliency
  • As a leader in your workplace, model healthy workplace behaviours for mental health
  • If an employee appears anxious or distressed, meet with the employee to discuss ways to support them at work

How can we Take Care of Our Mental Health?

  • Practice gratitude – focus on the things in your life that you are grateful for. Shawn Achor talks about writing down three things each day that you are grateful for
  • Practice mindfulness – try grounding techniques and being present in the moment. Research on mindfulness demonstrates an active change in the brain when practiced regularly
  • Take time for things that you enjoy – hobbies, reading, getting out in nature, etc. Spending time in nature shows heart rate reduction in those with anxiety and depression
  • Engage in social interactions – laughing with friends and spending time with loved ones. Get away from those things that are stressful for time out
  • Participate in physical resiliency activities such as exercise, sports, or going for walks. Use physical exercise to reduce your fight or flight body responses
  • Ask for help and support from your health care provider, EAP or workplace supports

How can Gowan Consulting Help?

In this new time of remote work we have a number of online training sessions that you can provide to your employees as they work VIRTUALLY anywhere. Contact us to schedule your customized sessions today. 

Here are is the list of our virtual training programs:

  1. Worry and Dealing with Uncertainty
  2. Mental health and resiliency for everyone 
  3. The Happiness Challenge
  4. Decreasing isolation – social networking and maintaining social relationships
  5. Parenting and working – integrating your life
  6. Making working remote normal
  7. Coping With Change I can’t control 
  8. Exercise and how to incorporate exercise in this environment
  9. Dealing with depression and anxiety
  10. Conflict resolution from a distance
  11. Communicating Assertively online
  12. Setting up your ergonomic home office 
  13. Time management and priority setting
  14. Keeping attention and focus

Gowan Consulting has many resources for assisting with managing mental health in the workplace. Ask your manager for a referral to get this support. We can assist with auditing for risks and implementing the psychological health and safety in the workplace standards. Our Occupational Therapists can provide an assessment of your accommodation needs and how to improve your health and productivity.

We can provide virtual training to your managers on supporting mental health in the workplace and provide virtual training for employees on mental health resiliency.

If you would like to learn more about workplace accommodations, please check out our services for Providing Early Intervention and Return to Work planning.


Check out our extensive array of Mental Health webinars, on topics such as resiliencybreaking the stigmamindfulness and more!

Gowan Consulting can provide Occupational Therapy intervention to assist in facilitating a reactivation program, a return to work and stay at work plan. For more on all we have to offer, contact us! We want to help make the difference in your healthy business!

Works cited:

Depression (major depressive disorder), Mayo Clinic,

Depression, World Health Organization,

Depression phenotype identified by using single nucleotide exact amplicon sequence variants of the human gut microbiome, by Bruce R. Stevens, Luiz Roesch, Priscilla Thiago, Jordan T. Russell, Carl J. Pepine, Richard C. Holbert, Mohan K. Raizada, Eric W. Triplett,

Depression can be identified using gut bacteria, University of Florida Health researchers find, Doug Bennett, UFHealth,

Mental Health – Recognizing Psychological Health and Safety Hazards,

Mental Health – Psychosocial Risk Factors in the Workplace,

Psychosocial Work Conditions and Mental Health: Examining Differences Across Mental Illness and Well-Being Outcomes, Jonathan K Fan, Cameron Mustard, Peter M Smith

CSA National Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace Standards

Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Volume 63, Issue 5, June 2019, Pages 546–559,  

The COVID-19 Challenge: We’re All in This Together, John Rossheim,

Just breathe: 9 Tips for Managing Stress During the COVID-19 Pandemic,  

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