A Deeper Look At Depression and Anxiety Through The Gut Microbiome
The microbiome acts much like a command center extracting and processing information from food, directing and regulating the immune system, communicating with the brain and even facilitating communications between the brain and immune system. A breakdown in this crucial central system can lead to widespread issues especially when it comes to brain function, which may even lead you to go so far as to find an autoimmune doctor in NYC. Quite often, problems with cognition, memory, depression and anxiety can all be traced back to imbalances in the ecology of trillions of bacteria residing in the intestine. I’d even so so far as to say that the microbiome, anxiety, depression, and other brain problems go hand-in-hand!
In my last post on this topic,(Depressed? It’s Not All In Your Head), I gave a brief overview of the connections between brain health and gut health. To go deeper, we must understand that the brain is not a discrete and separate organ functioning on it’s own. In reality, it’s part of a system that includes the intestine and microbiome, all of which are intricately intertwined. It’s futile to look at brain function in isolation without considering the health of the gut and microbiome too. As an example, it’s extremely common for patients suffering with IBS and other intestinal conditions to also suffer with anxiety and depression. Even autism and gut conditions are related to the microbiome, anxiety, depression, etc, as high stress situations often trigger diarrhea, constipation and GI upset. These are two sides of the same coin that cannot be separated.
- Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria make the neurotransmitter GABA which has the power to quiet areas of the brain that may become over-stimulated during stress and anxiety
- Escherichia, Bacillus and Saccharomyces generate dopamine and/or noradrenaline
- Lactobacillus produces acetylcholine
- Gut bacteria affect the way neurotransmitters are metabolized, altering the amount in circulation
- Imbalances in gut bacteria, lead to high levels of inflammation that can affect any part of the body, including the brain.
- Studies have found a direct link between antibiotic use and the onset of psychiatric side effects. Even in a single dose of antibiotics has been shown to trigger depression, anxiety and panic disorders with the risks becoming grater with more frequent use
- The microbiome is like a gatekeeper regulating bioavailability of antioxidants, polyphenols and unsaturated fats-all of which protect against cognitive decline
- The microbiome plays an important role in tryptophan metabolism, crucial for the production of serotonin in the brain. Having the correct amount of this “feel good” chemical is necessary to maintain cognition, mood and regulate various body functions like sleep, appetite, gut motility and digestion.
- Studies show use of specific strains of probiotic improves mood and psychological distress; decrease depression, anxiety, anger and hostility
- Early trauma and stress in childhood can change the fingerprint of the microbiome, altering it’s function leading to health conditions later in life
- Anti-depressants will not work in situations where the issues are a result of disturbances in the microbiome.
So while it may seem unusual, the best way to heal your brain, regain a positive mood and sharpen your mind is to tend to the health of the gut microbiome. Our three part series entitled The Microbiome Diet 101, part 1, part 2 and part 3, will take you step-by-step, to empower you to regain your health and beat depression once and for all.
Key take-away points
- The brain, intestine, and gut bacteria work as one system
- Changes in any one area will affect and change the function of the other two
- We cannot properly assess or correct depression and mood disorders without assessing the health of intestine function and gut bacteria balance
- Anti-depressants often fail because they cannot reach the actual cause