Not Only In Your Head: Depression And Gut Health
If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, it may not be just in your head. In fact, it is most likely related to your gut health. Meaning: the creatures that live in your gut.
Did you know you have more neurons in your gut than in your nervous system? That adds a whole new level of meaning to having a “gut feeling” doesn’t it?
The relationship between your gut health and your brain is much more profound than was previously thought, and recent research is uncovering strong pointers to the fact that the answer to common mental disorders like depression may be connected to the gut.
Have you ever wondered why certain meals seem to get you down mentally? Or how your mood seems to improve every time you start to improve on your diet? Why does green tea have such a calming effect on those who drink it?
We address all these in the article so that the next time you feel like you would have difficulty dragging yourself out of bed in the morning, you know where to look— (*hint* it’s not just your mind, there might be parasites and pathogens colonizing your gut).
Depression and Inflammation
Up until recently, experts believed that depression was caused by a deficiency or a drop in neurotransmitters like serotonin. This understanding was the bedrock supporting depression treatments involving the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac and Zoloft.
Other treatments simply involved chalking depression up to being “born that way” or maybe as something that ran in the family which is one of the main reasons why people would worry should someone in the family exhibit signs of depression.
However, today we know that depression is not something you are likely to get because it “runs in the family”. There is a lot of data coming through that suggests that SSRIs don’t work and may even come with dangerous side-effects.
We are discovering that depression has nothing to do with serotonin levels and has more to do with something else: chronic inflammation in the body and gut.
Have you ever experienced these symptoms?
● Prolonged moods and sadness
● Feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem
● Feelings of tearfulness and guilt
● Lack of motivation or interest in doing anything
● Indecisiveness and intolerance of others
● Suicidal thoughts and thoughts about self-harm
Even physical symptoms are observed, for example:
● Craving sugary foods and carbs
● Unexplained pains in your joints and other parts of the body
● Lack of energy, severe fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight change
● Low sex drive
● Changes to the menstrual cycle
● Severely altered sleeping pattern
Do any of these sound familiar?
If you eat junk food, tons of sugar, gluten, and unhealthy fats and suffer from depression – that’s not surprising.
You see, science is showing that inflammatory reactions in the gut are the true cause of depression and not any drop in neurotransmitters as was previously thought.
Yes, your depression may also stem from past traumas and emotional wounds you’ve been carrying all along, but trying to address the emotional pain with an unhealthy gut is going to be an almost impossible mission.
As you alter your diet, cut that cancer feeding food (aka sugar), cut down alcohol, and gluten and start building a balanced microbiome environment and strengthen your gut health – healing the depression that was caused by past traumas is going to be much easier and faster than you imagine.
Many of the drugs prescribed to treat depression often come with their own side-effects that only end up making us worse rather than freeing us from the affliction.
The symptoms of depression, flat mood, and brain fog are enough to affect every facet of your life-family and work included. So it really is depressing to think that you most likely have been looking for solutions in the wrong places.
No pun intended, but your depression and fogginess do not only exist in your head!
Depression starts in your gut, and it’s time we looked at how the food you eat is causing so much damage in your belly the effects are felt all the way up in your brain.
Inflammation in the Gut
The very food we eat in this day and age is the major cause of gut disorders, but the drugs and medication we take also take their toll.
For example, processed foods which form a significant part of our standard American diet are actually foreign to our bodies and a major cause of inflammation as they trigger alarms in our gut cells.
The same goes for genetically modified soy products that are so bad for us, gluten, excess consumption of pastured dairy.
Then, we end up with leaky gut, parasites, and fungus and histamine reactions which cause us to have severe nutrient deficiencies.
Taking pills like antibiotics, birth control, acid blockers and Tylenol can drastically alter the microbiome (community of helpful bacteria in your gut) leading to a leaky gut and inflammations. Your internal balance gets completely ruined.
Apart from the observed link between gut health and depression, a balanced microbiome has been shown to have a positive effect on proper brain function. Certain types of microbial ecosystems have been linked to increased anxiety and impaired brain function.
We live in the plastic age, where everything is neatly packaged and sold as “the best for you”. Foods that were not available to your ancestors naturally are now processed and shipped to your plate and presented as “healthy”, “natural”, and “sugar-free”; and canned drinks have taken center stage over potable water.
The result is a gut that is constantly under fire as it struggles to cope with a situation that was never part of the job description.
When you stub your toe, it gets inflamed, right? Likewise, the inflammation in your gut is a message sent to your brain saying, “Everything is not okay down here, something’s gotta give!” – and because your gut and your brain are so strongly linked, the brain gets the message loud and clear.
The Link Between Your Brain and Your Gut Health
There is a major link between your gut and your brain established by the Vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve stemming from the brain and is connected to several parts along the gut including the stomach and intestines, as well as other organs important to digestion such as the pancreas.
So what happens when your gut senses danger caused by ingesting histamine-producing foods and contact with other harmful factors which are a part of our daily lifestyle?
Widespread inflammation and alteration of our microbiome occur, and the effects are transmitted all the way through the vagus nerve to your brain.
The vagus nerve acts as a two-way information highway that connects between 300 million to 500 million nerve cells between your gut and your brain. You’ve probably been acutely aware of this brain-gut link before.
Every time you have been too upset to eat or have felt butterflies in your tummy because you were tense or anxious you were suffering the effects of an active conversation between your brain and your gut health.
But remember the vagus nerve is a two-way street, and just as emotions in your brain send messages to your gut, in the same way, food can send messages to your brain.
Treat Your Gut Better
The first thing you need to do is get as informed on this subject as you possibly can. It’s time to throw away misconceptions that are being perpetuated among the masses by organizations bent on making a profit off your ignorance.
You can learn more about the gut-brain link in more detail by reading “A Mind of Your Own” by Dr. Kelly Brogan, a Manhattan-based holistic women’s health psychiatrist.
After arming yourself with enough knowledge, it is time to take action. Mind what you put in your belly! A change of diet, and finding the right ways to get rid of worms, bad bacteria and candida can make all the difference.
For example, foods like turmeric, ginger, polyphenols, and coconut oil have been shown to work well against depression because they contain anti-inflammatory virtues and antidepressants more effective than Prozac in treating depression.
Probiotic supplements can also help in bolstering the microbiome to prevent leaky gut and the resulting chronic inflammation. However, if you do have histamine issues and SIBO, make sure to take the right strains.
Magnesium, zinc carnosine, and potassium supplements also work well in strengthening gut health.
Natural antifungals like Pau Darco, raw garlic, grapefruit seed extract, and Apple Cider Vinegar can help you expel these creatures from the gut while supporting your liver with Dandelion greens and coffee enemas.
But changing what you eat is often not an easy process. You also need to change your lifestyle.
That includes – sleep better, preferred earlier, reduce the stressors in your life, and practice relaxation techniques on a daily basis.
When you’re stressed, your limbic system is turned on and that impairs proper digestion. When your body cannot digest properly, you’re lacking the necessary nutrients for your health.
That’s why my mind-tool is also encouraged as a means to combat depression and other ailments like IBS, IBD, Candida, Sibo, and Crohn’s disease.
This specifically designed formula not only works against depression but also works in getting people into the peaceful frame of mind they need to adopt in order to start treating their gut better.
The last thing you want to do is go for SSRIs that have nasty side effects which will leave you more depressed than you were before. Take a look at your gut, and listen to what it is trying to tell you.