Many of the clients I work with have been struggling with depression and anxiety for most of their life. You could say I am one of the lucky ones because I’ve never personally struggled with depression.
While it’s not something I talk about much, depression has touched my life in a very personal way. My own mother has suffered with severe depression attempting suicide three times and now has Alzheimer’s disease. So depression is personal to me too.
Antidepressants: a Vicious Cycle
When a person is depressed they usually are prescribed some antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication. These medications may work for a while, but most find their effectiveness diminishes over time and they are put on another version of medication.
SSRI’s (selective, Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) do not help your body to produce more serotonin. These drugs simply keep the channels open so the serotonin you do make can be used by the cells. So if you do not make enough serotonin to begin with these drugs will eventually stop working for you because they do nothing to help your body manufacture more of what you need. No one suffers from a Prozac deficiency, but they do suffer from serotonin deficiency! –I wrote about this in a previous post here: Is the food you eat fueling your depression?
According to WebMD.com many people also experience unwanted side effects such as:
- increased appetite and weight gain
- loss of sexual desire and other sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction and decreased orgasm
- fatigue and drowsiness
- dry mouth
- blurred vision
Is it any wonder the prescription treatment options leave many folks looking for another way out?
Why your depression is NOT all in your head…it’s actually in your GUT!
We all have a second brain in our GUT and in fact, we have more of the neurotransmitter serotoin in our GUT than in our brain.
How can that be you ask? It’s all due to the microbiome.
All living things have an ecosystem of bacteria that live symbiotically with their human or animal hosts. That ecosystem is known as a “microbiome” and is an active area of research called the Microbiome Project that has been going on now since 2007. You can read more about the study here: http://www.hmpdacc.org/
By studying microbes on different people scientists are discovering how they impact not only GUT health but brain health. From the Microbiome Project we know that there are at least 100 trillion good bacteria that live in or on the human body. These microbes play a vital role in complex behaviors such as anxiety, learning and memory and appetite and satiety. The mechanism responsible is the activation or inactivation of specific bacteria in the GUT.
These bacteria also impact immunity and influence to a large degree who gets an autoimmune disease and who does not. While we still have many more questions than answers about the role of the microbiome and health what we are learning has enormous implications on the field of mental health.
For example; researchers at Cal Tech have discovered that one specific strain of bacteria lactobacillus rhamnosus seems to reduce depression in mice. They have also used a treatment of a specific bacteria in the endocrine system (where neurotransmitters are produced) called b. fragillis to successfully reduce autism like behaviors in mice. Watch this TED Talk to learn more: http://youtu.be/FWT_BLVOASI
Toxic load and the Central Nervous System
The research paper titled: Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and mental health: from Metchnikoff to modern advances: Part II – contemporary contextual research By Alison C Bested1, Alan C Logan2* and Eva M Selhub3 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23497633 provides some interesting details about the link between an overburdened toxic load and increased depression.
A substance called Lipopolysaccharide endotoxin (LPP) has been shown to be connected to people with high preponderance of depression and cognitive impairment. This research found; “LPS administration at low levels (e.g. 0.4ng/kg) has been shown to cause acute anxiety, depressive symptoms, cognitive deficits and increased visceral pain.”
The authors go on to say, this results in “excitotoxic neuronal overstimulation, the LPS-induced inflammation can increase the activity of indoleamine-2,3-dioxyegenase (IDO), an enzyme that breaks down tryptophan in the kynurenine pathway. IDO activity has been positively correlated with depressive symptoms, and kynurenine itself can increase anxiety when administered in the periphery. The end result of endotoxemia may be decreased tryptophan and enhanced kynurenine availability, along with compromised serotonergic functioning [32–34].”
As I researched this article I discovered the idea of an association between, toxins, gut microbiota and mental illness goes back to 1926. The first practical suggestion to use probiotics for treatment of mental illness was proposed by Scottish physician Hubert J. Norman, but it took over 70 years to combine these ideas with research results.
Better mood foods
By now it’s obvious that a healthy emotional state is highly dependent upon a healthy GUT. Re-building your GUT will take some time and involves a few steps. The first step is making changes to your diet.
- Start by removing excitotoxic foods such as sugar and artificial sweeteners, MSG, food colorings and preservatives. This means stop eating fake foods, fast foods or products that come out of boxes.
- Switch from unhealthy fats like canola, corn and soybean oils to health fats from olive, coconut, avocado and macadamia; and raw, soaked nuts and seeds.
- Eliminate all gluten from your diet. Gluten is highly toxic to the GUT and release zonulin (http://gut.bmj.com/content/49/2/159.full ) which opens up the normally tight junctions in the intestinal walls and leads to intestinal permeability and a cascade of immune responses. Plus leaky GUT also increases susceptibility of proliferation of pathogens.
- Increase live foods that contain enzymes. This means eating fresh vegetables and low GI fruits. These foods also contain fiber with is a natural pre-biotic
- Adding pre-biotic; pro biotiocs (Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root and burdock root, raw leeks, onions, asparagus) to help stimulate good intestinal health. ( I’ve recently begun using a new product that helps protect against E.coli, SIBO and UTI’s). Visit my Products and Programs Page to learn more.
- Add enzyme rich foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables and especially naturally fermented vegetables (kimchee, sauerkraut). For demos, recipes and supplies go here: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/how-to-naturally-culture-ferment-vegetables Another great resource is http://www.wildfermentation.com/romanian-fermented-whole-cabbage-process/
- Eat better quality animal protein (high in omega 3 such as wild caught, pasture raised) and make sure you eat protein with each meal. This help keep your blood sugar stabilized and prevents crashes that result in mood swings for many people.
Beyond these tips uncovering and eliminating food intolerance’s, addressing detoxification pathways, re-balancing the GUT and healing a damaged GUT are all steps in the process which can, and usually does take months.
If all this has left you a bit overwhelmed and wondering where to start I am happy to walk you through the options for getting going on a BioIndividual Nutrition Program. Contact me for a 20 minute phone or Skype consult to see if We are a fit?
Watch this informative clip by Dr. Kelly Brogan as she explains the Microbiome and Brain Connection
For more on Leaky GUT:
What is Leaky GUT? Part I