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What is the Link Between Depression and Constipation?

There has been a clear link suggested between constipation and psychiatric ailments, especially depression according to various studies. According to the studies conducted it is estimated that roughly 57% of people with depression have constipation. Even though constipation has been referred to as a complaint by various individuals visiting the psychiatrists little research has been done to identify the cause of it or research the issue. This is despite knowing what can happen if constipation remains untreated and the complications that can arise like fecal impaction and aggravation of other digestive issues[1].

Constipation also affects the quality of life of an individual and makes socializing and going out in the community quite a challenge just the way depression does. Studies also suggest that there are a high number of cases where constipation is diagnosed and treated at a very later stage of mental illness, in this case depression[1].

The study mentioned that only about 18% of people actually admitted to their psychiatrists that they have constipation. Constipation and depression going together is mostly seen in the elderly population, although even middle aged depressed people also may have it. The role of antidepressants in fueling constipation is also something that needs to be looked at[1].

Some studies suggest that antidepressants reduce smooth movement of the bowels thus causing constipation. What exactly is the link between constipation and depression is what has been explained in the article below[1].

What is the Link Between Depression And Constipation?

A group of scientists from Irving Medical Center in New York set out to get into the details about the link between constipation and depression. Their main interest was the role of serotonin in the onset of constipation in people with depression. The reason for this was stated to be that the stomach has more neurons than even the spinal cord. In fact, stomach is considered to be the second brain[2].

They were specifically interested because depressed people have low levels of serotonin in the brain. The neurons in the gastrointestinal tract also need to use serotonin. They wanted to determine whether decreasing the levels of serotonin in the digestive tract would in any way induce constipation[2].

For this study, a collection of mice were chosen which had mutations in gene which were similar to humans with severe depression. This was called the mouse model of depression. Due to the gene mutations, levels of serotonin reduced by 80% in the mice which was similar to humans with severe depression. When serotonin was reduced in the stomach of the mouse it decreased the number of neurons present in it[2].

It also damaged the stomach lining and made the movement of food through the stomach much slower. With this it was construed that the mice became constipated. The changes seen in the stomach were similar to those that are seen in humans when they get constipated. This proved a direct link of depression with constipation[2].

The researchers were of the opinion that there is gradual decline of the number of neurons as one grows old. This is the reason behind many elderly people complaining of constipation and even depression[2].

In conclusion, the study conducted by the Irving Medical Center, New York has clearly established a link between constipation and depression. It all has to do with the amount of serotonin produced and the number of neurons present in the gut which use the serotonin as a part of their functionality. There is a significant delay in the treatment of constipation in depressed people as they do not raise this issue with their psychiatrist[2].

This results in a variety of complications later on. Thus it is recommended that if an individual gets a diagnosis of depression then it is in his best interest to discuss all the symptoms with the psychiatrist, especially constipation to get treated early and prevent unwarranted complications[2].


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 18, 2019

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