Microbiome and “Gut Feeling” in High Conflict Behavior

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Microbiome and “Gut Feeling” in High Conflict Behavior


© 2024 by Ekaterina Ricci, MDR

The relationship between mental disorders and gut microbiome has become a popular topic in the past five years. Depression and anxiety, which often accompany mental health disorders, have become the major causes of disabilities worldwide (Wainberg, 2017). Depression is also associated with high-conflict behavior, which is usually self-defeating and, therefore, depressing. This article was written to provide insights into the gut microbiome and its effect on depression.

High Conflict Individuals Increase Conflicts

Most individuals, when encountering traumatic events such as family loss, unexpected financial responsibilities, conflicts, and other social factors, can bounce back over time and develop coping mechanisms; that is, most people find their way to enjoy life’s journey. When it comes to high-conflict individuals, however, instead of following the same pattern, they seem to get even better at driving conflicts. It gets increasingly difficult for legal professionals to deal with high-conflict personalities while handling their legal cases (Eddy, 2016).

As professionals in the legal field report, highly conflict-litigious individuals get stuck in the court system pushing for some black-and-white set of opposing ideas, frequently displaying irritability, sadness, stress, anxiety, and difficulties staying focused on a particular topic.

The Role of Human Microbiome in Depression

Recent studies reveal that the human microbiome plays a significant role in depressive disorders (Kumar, 2023). An imbalance in the microbial gut “community” (all the microorganisms in our digestive tract) disrupts the activity of happy hormones, such as serotonin, resulting in bad mood, sleep deprivation, racing, repetitive thoughts, depression, paranoia, and, as a result, worsening relationships.

Our Central Nervous System (CNS) communicates with the gut microbiome to manage stress levels (Sharon, 2017). Scientific studies report that patients who lack microbiome diversity are unable to manage their stress response, which in turn makes them stuck in stress and depression. It becomes a chronic accumulation of unmanaged problems.

Happiness and Mental Health are Gut Influencers

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is proven to be an effective way of treating depression. In some acute cases, cognitive-behavioral therapy is combined with medications to achieve the best results. High conflict-driven personalities, in particular cluster B in DSM-5-TR (narcissistic, borderline, antisocial, and histrionic), frequently are prescribed drugs that help to cope with depression, anger, and impulsivity. Those drugs increase the amount of serotonin in the brain (for example, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, etc). In healthy individuals, over 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut (Appleton, 2018).

Most patients who have depression are also diagnosed with microbiome gut imbalance, which affects the production and utilization of happy hormones. Moreover, studies have shown that the degree of depression varied as microbiome content and diversity of bacteria varied in healthy and depressed patients (Clapp, 2017).

Human clinical studies consistently showed that elevated levels of a microbiome strain linked to depression and anxiety is Eggerthella. On the other hand, low levels of Subdoligranulum, Coprococcus, and Ruminococcaceae are linked to depression (Kumar, 2023). The microbial community diversity and communication between the gut and brain are crucial for mental activity; they influence our emotions and decisions.

The Combination of Genetics and External Factors Affect Gut Microbiome

A combination of genetics and our life choices can induce an imbalance in friendly microbe types. For instance, antibiotic use, poor nutrition, infections, cancer, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and other medical conditions, ASD, ADHD, schizophrenia, and personality disorders described in DSM-5-TR can influence the microbiome, which in turn influences our mood.

Those who have depressive disorders may find it beneficial to feed “good” bacteria with specific nutrients, such as the list below. This “feeding” may influence the marginalization of “bad” bacteria, leading them out of our microbiome. This will, in turn, improve the absorption of micronutrients, regulate serotonin production, and limit inflammation.

Antidepressant Nutrient Plant Foods List (LaChance, 2018):

    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Butternut squash
    • Cauliflower
    • Dandelion greens
    • Kale
    • Strawberry
    • Spinach
    • Watercress

New Ways to Antidepressant

Microbiome diversity is a combination of genetics and environmental factors. While we do not have control over genetics, using probiotics to influence the immune system and boost cognitive functions is becoming increasingly popular (Cleveland Clinic, 2023). The gut microbiome is becoming a new tool for managing depression.

Probiotics are considered safe-to-use supplements (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health), and their effectiveness depends on their colonization (Han, 2021), which can be challenging to achieve.

Probiotics require creating an environment that promotes their growth and division, which can only be possible by investing in high-quality organic food, nutrition, water, and prebiotics.

However, the quality of organic food may be declining due to soil health, a decline in nutrient density, and poor water quality. If our food lacks nutrients, then it is challenging to provide the necessary “food” for probiotics; thus, they don’t stay.

Prebiotics, the food source for probiotics, can be a good alternative to investing in high-quality food (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).

Before using probiotics, we should evaluate whether we can reasonably maintain the “food” for probiotics so it does not go to “waste” after we finish the bottle. It’s essential to prioritize the health of our microbiome by providing them with the environment and nutrients they need to thrive.


Research can help us change the composition of our microbiomes with expectations for health benefits. Increased anger, irritability, lack of focus on a particular topic, and sadness are signs of depression. High-conflict individuals are often prescribed drugs that target the increase of serotonin in the brain. However, research shows that 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut and can effectively manage stress and happiness in healthy individuals. This is why maintaining a diverse abundance of good bacteria can be life-changing for individuals with depression.

Factors such as genetics, diseases, drugs, geographic location, lifestyle, and diet can all affect our microbiome. However, we do have some knowledge about the link between microbiomes and mental health. Focusing on specific nutrition can improve our gut feelings and promote more positive emotions. We can use particular nutrition to optimize our gut feelings from negative to positive. Stay tuned for more.

Disclaimer: This article does not offer a treatment with a nutrition plan to treat high-conflict behavior or depression. There are many limitations to what we currently know about effective methods to restore microbiomes.


Appleton, J. (2018, August). The gut-brain axis: Influence of microbiota on Mood and Mental Health. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6469458/#:~:text=The%20gut%20provides

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. (2022, December 21). Food as medicine: Prebiotic Foods. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. https://www.chop.edu/health-resources/food-medicine-prebiotic-foods

Clapp, M., Aurora, N., Herrera, L., Bhatia, M., Wilen, E., & Wakefield, S. (2017, September 15). Gut Microbiota’s effect on Mental Health: The gut-brain axis. Clinics and practice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/

Eddy, B. High Conflict People in Legal Disputes. (Scottsdale, AZ: Unhooked Books, 2016).

Han, S., Lu, Y., Xie, J., Fei, Y., Zheng, G., Wang, Z., Liu, J., Lv, L., Ling, Z., Berglund, B., Yao, M., & Li, L. (2021, March 10). Probiotic gastrointestinal transit and colonization after oral administration: A long journey. Frontiers in cellular and infection microbiology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8006270/

Kumar, A., Pramanik, J., Goyal, N., Chauhan, D., Sivamaruthi, B. S., Prajapati, B. G., & Chaiyasut, C. (2023a, April 9). Gut Microbiota in anxiety and depression: Unveiling the relationships and Management Options. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10146621/

Kumar, A., Pramanik, J., Goyal, N., Chauhan, D., Sivamaruthi, B. S., Prajapati, B. G., & Chaiyasut, C. (2023b, April 9). Gut Microbiota in anxiety and depression: Unveiling the relationships and Management Options. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10146621/#:~:text=The%20gut%20microbiota%20

LaChance, L. R., & Ramsey, D. (2018, September 20). Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World journal of psychiatry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6147775/

professional, C. C. medical. (n.d.). What is your gut microbiome? Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/25201-gut-microbiome

Sharon, G., Sampson, T. R., Geschwind, D. H., & Mazmanian, S. K. (2016, November 3). The central nervous system and the gut microbiome. Cell. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5127403/#:~:text=Indeed%2C%20emerging%20data

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Probiotics: What you need to know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know

Wainberg, M. L., Scorza, P., Shultz, J. M., Helpman, L., Mootz, J. J., Johnson, K. A., Neria, Y., Bradford, J.-M. E., Oquendo, M. A., & Arbuckle, M. R. (2017, May). Challenges and opportunities in Global Mental Health: A research-to-practice perspective. Current psychiatry reports. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5553319/

Headshot of Ekaterina RicciEkaterina Ricci, MDR, is distinguished for her expertise in high-conflict resolution, mediation, and coaching. With a graduate degree in dispute resolution from Pepperdine Law School and an undergraduate degree in microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics from UCLA, she brings a unique blend of legal acumen and scientific insight to her work. 

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