Cali Curlee

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School


First Advisor

John Carbone, PhD, RD

Second Advisor

Michael L. Williams, PhD, RN


The neurotransmitter deficiency hypothesis suggests that neurotransmitter imbalance is the physiologic cause for mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. With up to 90% of serotonin produced in the gut, it is of particular interest whether diet may influence this balance. The current research seeks to identify a connection between one’s intake of microbiome-influencing foods/beverages and mental health status. The hypothesis of the study is that participants who regularly consume greater amounts of pre/probiotic foods will have a decreased prevalence of depression and anxiety, relative to those who rarely consume pre/probiotic foods. Differences in survey data were not statistically significant, although they do suggest that participants who more regularly consumed pre/probiotic foods were less likely to exhibit depression or anxiety. Similarly, participants with depression or anxiety had higher rates of antibiotic use. While gut health is likely to be implicated in mental and systemic health, it is becoming increasingly evident that there is not a simple or single route to cure mental illness through this connection. A host of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors exert great influence on a person's gut and overall health, and these modalities should be considered in unison when developing a mental health treatment plan.

Included in

Nursing Commons