The link between your gut health and depression

Go to most doctors with a case of the blues… or anxiety… or even trouble concentrating, and there’s a good chance you’re going to leave with a powerful antidepressant.

I can’t tell you how many patients I’ve treated who were failed by these drugs — who suffered from the weight gain, loss of sex drive and sometimes even thoughts of suicide, all side effects linked to antidepressants.

There’s one good reason these drugs fail time and time again. They’re doing nothing to address the root cause of your depression.

In fact, many times the secret to beating depression has nothing to do with your brain at all. And everything to do with your gut.

You see, the bacteria in your gut do a lot more than digest your food. They help direct your immune system, regulate your metabolism and even send signals to your brain that control your emotions.

It works like this. The biggest nerve in your body is called the vagus nerve. It carries electrical impulses from your gut all the way deep inside your brain to the places responsible for basic emotions like anxiety or happiness.

When you have a good balance of healthy gut bacteria, it has a positive effect on your mood. You can stay calm and focused and resist depression and other mood disorders. And, of course, when your gut bacteria are out of whack (I’ll explain more about how that happens in a moment), you can quickly become depressed.

In fact, a recent study found that mice that were fed a probiotic with healthy gut bacteria became more outgoing and suffered from less anxiety. They would explore a maze with dangerous edges, while the mice without the bacteria were timid, lethargic and stayed in one place.

So what does this all have to do with you?

Our gut bacteria are unhealthier right now than at probably any time in human history. We’re eating twice as much sugar as we were a century ago — and that doesn’t even count fake sweeteners, artificial flavourings and other chemicals that are constantly assaulting and upsetting the balance of our gut bacteria.

Our guts are so unhealthy, it’s no wonder antidepressant use is up 400 per cent over the past 25 years.

But what amazes me is that so few doctors make the connection between our diet and depression. The typical patient who ends up on an antidepressant has never had their gut function tested, nor have they been encouraged to try a simple probiotic.

Heck, believe it or not, many of them have never had a simple blood test to see if other factors may be causing their depression.

If you’re feeling depressed, I’d encourage you to try a probiotic and discuss any digestive issues you may have with your doctor. You might find that the secret to beating the blues lies in your stomach.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Editor
Nutrition & Healing
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Sources:

Can the bacteria in your gut explain your mood, nytimes.com

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