This week we look at the gut and how it affects the mind and we all need a bit more sanity!
Treating Mental Health Through the gut bacteria
For decades, the treatment of mental health issues such as depression has focused on the brain and brain functioning. Depression is usually treated with medication and possibly therapy. But the brain does not exist in isolation, rather it’s a component of a larger systemic function.
Symptoms of mental health conditions, such as depression, are not limited to mental and emotional symptomatology, but also present largely as physiological symptoms (e.g., weight gain/loss, insomnia, gastrointestinal distress, lethargy, fatigue, and even hair loss).
As such, understanding mental health struggles from a systemic perspective, including the immune system, gut, and microbiome is important in the cohesive treatment of such conditions.
What do we know about the gut and illness in general?
According to numerous studies, the diversity of the gut microbiome of ill individuals is significantly lower than healthy individuals. Or, individuals who struggle with certain health conditions may suffer from an overgrowth or lack of a certain type of bacteria.
For example, Crohn’s disease has been linked with the overabundance of Bacteroidetes and a decrease of Firmicutes Lupus has been associated with the relative abundance of certain bacterial species that trigger inflammatory function.
Multiple Sclerosis studies have indicated that alterations in the gut microbes affect the severity of central nervous system inflammatory demyelination that is often seen in multiple sclerosis.
Overall, a diverse and balanced microbiome has been shown to enhance healthy immune functioning resulting in less systemic illness.
The Microbiome and Mood
Understanding the correlation between the microbiome and mental health first takes an understanding of how the microbiome affects mood. There have been numerous research studies that suggest lack of gut biodiversity can affect neurotransmitter functionality and decrease signals via the vagus nerve.
One interesting study, found that depression was accompanied by the activation of immune-inflammatory pathways. It was demonstrated that when gut flora were given a probiotic with Lactobacilli, GABA in the brain was increased, which influenced signaling via the Vagus nerve. This stabilized mood and behavior.
Further, treatment with probiotics showed lower levels of anxiety, fear, and a decrease in stress hormones.
Studies also show that probiotics may improve symptoms of depression through anti-inflammatory actions, raising the possibility that this internal inflammatory response slows signaling via the gut-brain axis possibly creating neurotransmitter imbalance along the way.
Treating Mental Health Through the Microbiome
So, what does this mean for the future of mental health treatment? Mental health treatment has historically emphasized medication and therapy And all of the many thousands of people that we have had some influence over through our books & courses and consultations, all report improvement in their health when they worked on lifestyle changes, including nutrition and exercise.
But eating healthy and exercising, can sometimes only improve health to a point and countless times we have found that a good probiotic is what is needed to live in that sweet spot of perfect health.
Which Foods and Supplements Can Help Mental Health?
What type of food? The search by National Geographic for the longest living healthiest communities, found that they all had some common factors
1. A wholefood, plant based diet,
2. Informal daily outdoor exercise,
3. Belief in a higher power
4. Regular day or time for daily rest
This resulted in a long and healthy life..
Together with the GRAND PRIX of nutritional studies, The China Study– by the world’s top nutritional. Biochemist and other researchers from various prestigious institutions, Prof T.
Colin Campbell, there is very little argument left as to what foods are needed.
(See The Blue Zones on TED talks – online with Dan Buettner and look up Prof T. Colin Campbell) One of the most detrimental effects to our mental and overall health is processed foods. These foods are loaded with preservatives, refined flours and sugars, nitrates, trans fats, and no fibre.
In addition to lower nutritional values, these types of foods can cause a major inflammatory response in our system due to these ingredients. Processed foods are associated with decreased microbial diversity in the gut, as well as an increase in “bad” gut bacteria.
Studies have also shown a significant correlation between vitamin D and gut flora. Studies have demonstrated that autoimmune diseases tend to share a predisposition for vitamin D deficiency,
subsequently increasing the body’s inflammatory response.
Further, studies also demonstrated the link between conditions such as depression with a lack of vitamin D. Increasing vitamin D intake may play a role not only in boosting gut flora, but also in
curbing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns.
The best way to correct a Vit D shortage is to exercise outdoors daily in natural light – supplements all have some negative side effects.
Finally, there is a strong link between fiber and gut flora, the emergence of low fibre “Western diets” associated with industrialized nations is linked to an increased prevalence of gut diseases such as;
inflammatory bowel disease,
type II diabetes mellitus, and
A high-fiber (from a wholefood) plant based diet can potentially decrease the inflammatory response by modifying the pH and the permeability of the gut. The resultant reduction in inflammatory
compounds may alter neurotransmitter concentrations to reduce symptoms of depression .
Removing foods or lifestyle choices causing leaky gut symptoms, including combing your food correctly (see chapter 4 in our book Perfect Health) as well as increasing gut flora. The best gut flora I have found over the last 30 years is Florafood from Aim
FloraFood is a probiotic dietary: supplement that delivers three billion good bacteria per capsule—Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium longum.
1. Lactobaccilus – improves depression (serotonin increase), improves receptor & more transmitter activity, improves neuro and cognitive ability
2. Bifidum – modulates or regulates the Central Nervous system function and reduces stress related behaviour and response & improves memory
3. Longum – normalizes anxiety like behavior & improves cognitive function – learning power and memory, cognitive function – the ability to think, reason and process information
How is FloraFood Unique?
• Ability to withstand stomach acid
• Bacteria adhere to the intestinal wall
• Distribution throughout the digestive tract
• No refrigeration required
And most important is the perfect balance for humans as it was originally cultured from a perfectly healthy baby 40 years ago.
For more help on living well for life go to www.wholeworldwell.com we would love to support you on your journey.
Cronin P., Joyce, S.A., O’Toole, P.W., and O’Connor, E.M. (2021). Dietary Fibre Modulates the Gut Microbiota. Nutrients: 13 (5): 1655: https://doi.org/10.3390%2Fnu13051655
Ocho-Reparaz, J., Kirby, T.O., Kasper, L.H. (2018). The gut microbiome and multiple sclerosis. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine 8 (6): https://doi.org/10.1101%2Fcshperspect.a029017
Ross, D.A., Travis, M.J. and Arbuckle, M.R. (2015). The future of psychiatry as clinical neuroscience: Why not now? JAMA Psychiatry 72, 413-414.
Swann, O.G., Kilpatrick, M., Breslin, M., and Oddy, W.H. (2020). Dietary fiber and its associations with depression and inflammation. Nutr Rev: 78 (5): 394-422. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuz072.
Tillisch, K., Labus, J., Kilpatrick L. et al (2013). Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology 144:1394-1401
Vitett, L., Bambling, M., Alford, H. (2014). The gastrointestinal tract microbiome, probiotics, and mood. Inflammopharmacology DOI 10.1007/s10787-014-0216-x
Wright, E,K., Kamm, M.A. Teo, S.M., Inouye, M., Wagner, J., and Kirkwood, C.D. (2015). Recent advances in characterizing the gastrointestinal microbiome in crohn’s disease: A systemic review. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases 21(6): 1219-1228.
Yacoub, R., Jacob, A., Wlaschin, J., McGregor, M., Quigg, R.J., and Alexander, J.J. (2018).Lupus: The microbiome angle. Immunobiology 223(6-7) 460-465.