When battling life's adversities, a ray of hope is sometimes hard to come by. For people with social anxiety disorder, this hope has recently come in the form of research linking the disorder with the gut microbiome. The microbiota - a collection of bacteria, fungi, and other organisms inhabiting the digestive system - was previously thought to have no connection to mental health and only interacted indirectly through the immune system. But recent studies have revealed microbial-derived evidence that there may be a new path for those dealing with social anxiety disorder (SAD).
SAD is a form of mental disorder characterized by persistent feelings of fear, self-consciousness and dread around groups of people or any social situation. It prevents one from enjoying the comfortable comfort of social interaction, making it difficult to live a normal life. Just like many psychiatric conditions, SAD is multifactorial, meaning it is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. This complexity makes traditional forms of therapy challenging and oftentimes not very effective. Furthermore, a few medications prescribed for SAD have been linked with dangerous side effects which can be a cause of concern to many potential treatment seekers.
The possible microbial connection marks the emergence of a new possibilities for treating social anxiety disorder. Thus far, evidence suggests SAD burdens are exacerbated by some particular microbial populations while healthier compositions improve the effects. This suggests dietary strategies as an effective option when considering treatment. With diets thought to influence serum metabolites, researchers identified how altering the microbiome significantly moderates levels of metabolites associated with SAD such as 5-HIAA adrenaline, dopamine, cortisol and other biogenic amines. This tells us these neurological mediators are productive in moderating the symptoms of social anxiety disorder, providing further suggestions regarding diet as a core treatment strategy.
Contra to past opinions, this research implicates gut microbiota as a significant factor in defining psychiatric disorders such as SAD. This insight into the underlying molecular pathways catalyzed by gut microbiota opens a pathway for improvement that was not available before. While it still remains unclear why these distinct microbial differences are featured amongst those with SAD, this avenue grants sufferers hope that dietary interventions may offer an effective way to mitigate their pains. The dawning of such insight also serves as an inspiration to those who suffer from this condition - that one day they will too find relief from their plight.