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Depression and Digestion

Depression and Digestion

This article has been written in simple terms so that anyone can understand.

I have often shared the thought with people asking for advise about depression that they should firstly, "Go have your gut checked out". I get some strange looks from people, because very few people seem to know that often times depression stems from a lack of beneficial microflora in the intestines. People describing their depression will sometimes talk about a knot in their stomach, representative of stress and anxiety.

Recent studies have shown that inflammation may be involved in the pathogenesis of depression. In fact, some research has demonstrated that depression is frequently associated with gastrointestinal inflammations and autoimmune diseases as well as with other ailments in which chronic low-grade inflammation is a significant contributing factor.

Furthermore, recent reviews have pointed out several ways inflammation in the intestines could play a critical role in depression. Often depression is accompanied by an autoimmune disease. These two (and sometimes more) together could be why researchers say, "depression may be a neuropsychiatric manifestation of a chronic inflammatory syndrome." In other words, patients have a chronic intestinal inflammation.

How are these autoimmune diseases caused?

It is important to note that all your nutrition is usually taken orally. When it arrives in your gut, it is broken down by your stomach juices and then it moves down your intestinal tract. The intestinal tract is filled with good and bad bacteria, that both play a role in digesting food. However, if the bad bacteria exceeds the good bacteria then, what leaves the intestines is partially toxic, and could be neuro-toxic (it affects the brain).

Normally, good bacteria exceeds bad bacteria but , as a result of a number of factors, including taking antibiotics (an anti-bacterial) the good bacteria could be damaged or destroyed. If bad bacteria pre-dominates in the gut for any length of time your body will absorb excessive amounts of toxins, that begin to poison the organs in the body.

How does depression connect with your gut?

The stomach is built from the same tissue as the brain. This is called the "gut-brain" axis. Furthermore, your gut has more serotonin (a neurotransmitter) in it than your brain. Serotonin, or lack or excess thereof, is what causes mood swings. You stomach and intestines are responsible for your "gut feel", and it acts like a second brain. Have you noticed how depressed people often curl up and hold their stomachs during depressed states?

Clinical studies have shown that treating depression with probiotics, vitamins B and D, and Omega-3 fatty acids, has improved the symptoms of depression. Recent research is showing the increasing connection between intestinal inflammation and neural diseases, such as autism, ADD, ADHD and bi-polar disease.

Why have autoimmune diseases increased in our generation?

The answer to this may lie in the understanding of the function of good and bad bacteria in the gut.

We inherit our gut bacteria from our parents but principally from our mothers at birth. You see, the fluid in the female vagina comes from her bowels. As a baby emerges from the womb, the baby passes through the vaginal canal and receives its first "dose" of microflora (good and bad bacteria). Babies born by Caesarian Section (C- Section) are born with sterile stomachs.

Increased used of the C-Section for birthing and an increase in the use of antibiotics are primary causes of lack of beneficial microflora, but other factors, like stress, axiety and tension, are also important.

How do you increase the amount of beneficial microflora in your gut?
Microflora are sustained and increased by prebiotics and probiotics. A prebiotic assists the intestines in "holding" or preserving, and helping helping good bacteria to develop. Probiotics are the source of, and contain, good bacteria.

Our modern-day eating habits inhibit the attainment of satisfactory levels of prebiotics and probiotics, especially probiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible foods (or sometimes called roughage) that makes its way through the intestines and helps good bacteria grow. Probiotics are primarily fermented foods, like yoghurt and sauerkraut. Natives of many countries used to eat many different types of probiotics, like natto (in Japan). Although they had no research to "prove" it, they simply saw that their well-being was improved by eating these foods. Pickled foods are also probiotic.

The answer lies therefore in obtaining as many pre-and probiotics in our diet. A suggestion is eating as many raw vegetables legumes, nuts and fruit as possible and, including fermented foods regularly in your diet, preferably more than just one (Different fermented foods yield different bacteria)

What happens if you have insufficient good bacteria in your gut?
If bad bacteria is released into your body, it begins to attack healthy cells. If you have an under-responsive immune system then these cells will become inflamed. An excess of bad bacteria could lead to inflammation in the intestines as well.

Published in the International Breastfeeding Journal, researchers stated:

"The old paradigm described inflammation as simply one of many risk factors for depression. The new paradigm is based on more recent research that has indicated that physical and psychological stressors increase inflammation. These recent studies constitute an important shift in the depression paradigm: inflammation is not simply a risk factor; it is the risk factor that underlies all the others.

Moreover, inflammation explains why psychosocial, behavioral and physical risk factors increase the risk of depression. This is true for depression in general and for postpartum depression in particular.

Puerperal women are especially vulnerable to these effects because their levels of proinflammatory cytokines significantly increase during the last trimester of pregnancy -- a time when they are also at high risk for depression. Moreover, common experiences of new motherhood, such as sleep disturbance, postpartum pain, and past or current psychological trauma, act as stressors that cause proinflammatory cytokine levels to rise."

Our bodies have a natural inflammatory response system, mainly antioxidants. However, if we are not eating sufficient antioxidants in our foods we have to supplement them. Inflammation in the body can be caused by these two factors, insufficient probiotics and insufficient antioxidants. This can be exacerbated by continual cell degeneration, such that the immune simply cannot cope with the "call to arms".

Many children are born with insufficient natural probiotics. These children and adults too, are highly vulnerable to neuro toxins, that effect the brain. Women often suffer from yeast infection and candida. The principal cause of which is insufficient good bacteria in the gut (vaginal fluids come from the bowel). It is my contention that as much as 80% of autoimmune diseases are related to insufficient good bacteria in the gut.

Probiotics have a direct effect on brain chemistry, transmitting mood- and behavior-regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve, which is yet another reason why your intestinal health can have such a profound influence on your mental health, and vice versa.

Can depression be beaten naturally without drugs?

One should remember that drugs are poisons. That is why they are controlled. Drugs also only relieve the symptoms of depression, they don't cure depression and don't deal with the cause. Therefore, consuming a poison to deal with a symptom doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Everyone is free to make whatever choices one wants to make, and if drugs are your choice of dealing with the problem then that is your own business, but before going off those drugs, start changing your diet and see what a difference this makes.

There is increasing evidence that depression is linked to the inflammatory responses in the body and that gut bacteria has a lot to do with this, so deal with the cause and not the symptoms.

By: Colin Byrne

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