Thursday, October 14, 2010

M is for Mycobacterium vaccae...

Over Columbus Day weekend, I was able to get outside and do some gardening, and reconnect with the Earth.  I collected some hot peppers, green beans, some tomatoes, the last of the cucumbers from the garden, and did some cleanup too.  
I also was able to plant a few perennials that my mother and sister shared with me, mowed some of the lawn, did a little bit of pruning, and dug up and replanted some perennials that were crowded.  It felt so good to be digging in the dirt!  Working in the garden always makes me happy; I love the exercise, I love the results, and I love the DIY factor.  And, I feel better when I work in the garden for good reason.

As mentioned previously in my blog, I read about 
research at Bristol University and University College London.  Researchers there have discovered that the harmless, naturally occurring soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae helps elevate your mood.   Christopher Lowry, a neuroscientist at the University of Bristol in England, thinks that "the bacteria activate immune cells, which release chemicals called cytokines that then act on receptors on the sensory nerves to increase their activity."  Mycobacterium vaccae, may also be able to alleviate depression, and activate serotonin-releasing neurons in the brain.   

So, gardening does lift my mood, and weeding, digging in the garden, planting, etc. could help get you in a good mood too.  Even a walk in the woods may do the trick because scientists believe that simply inhaling the bacteria results in a healthy dose.  Lowry indicates, “you can also ingest mycobacteria either through water sources or through eating plants—lettuce that you pick from the garden, or carrots."  So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and get down and DIRTY and in the process enjoy some natural prozac in the form of a small bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae.   

Lowry's Study “Identification of an Immune-Responsive Mesolimbocortical Serotonergic System: Potential Role in Regulation of Emotional Behavior,” by Christopher Lowry et al., published online on March 28 in Neuroscience.


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