Is Your Gut Causing Depression?
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates is credited with the popular phrase “health begins in the colon” and yet today few people realize there’s a connection between the health of your gut (intestines) and the health of your brain.
I remember picking up a research article in my school clinic when I was just touching the surface of what I do now. It was a medical journal theorizing that serotonin (a nuerotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness) actually starts in the gut. We now know that Approximately 90% of the human body‘s total serotonin is located in the gut which is just one of the reasons why the health of your gut has such a massive impact on the health of your mind & your mood.
What Does This Mean For You?
Your gut is intimately related to how you feel. Depression can stem from the gut first. The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders notes the relationship between psychological symptoms and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and I see the link in the health participants that I work with everyday. It’s amazing how working on healing the gut of the high performers I work with can improve not only symptoms of depression but also brain fog, lack of concentration & anxiety. Let me share an example with you of one of these high performers Robert.
Dead Man Walking
Roberts physical appearance would’ve fooled anyone and quite frankly it did. Weighing in at 200 pounds of solid muscle and having the swagger of a modern day 31 year old Humphrey Bogart, no one suspected anything was wrong from the outside. Afterall, he hit the gym each day,, rode Harleys on the weekends and volunteered at his church every week, there’s no way someone who is sick could do all that right? On the outside things were picture perfect but Roberts insides were another story. When Robert first came to me he nonchalantly mentioned he had been to over 15 clinics in the last 10 years and nothing had helped his symptoms which included depression, low energy, consistent abdominal pain & diarrhea. I could see in his eyes that he was desperate but severely jaded by being a test subject with no results. He had also been placed on every gut medication imaginable, some that were immune suppressants which brought on severe allergies and colds to which he then had more prescription drugs piled high atop all the rest. As part of his treatment, we began with a full genetic profile so I could tailor his treatment plan accordingly. I could immediately see he had high levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA) – an antibody found in high concentrations in the mucous membranes, particularly those lining the respiratory passages and gastrointestinal tract – in his blood.
He also tested positive for mycotoxins and for the gene HLA-DRBQ, or the inability to remove mold and mycotoxins. I now had the ammunition to come at Robert with a strategic game plan as to how we were going to fight this once and for all. This in fact was the reason why Robert was so sick and why the drugs only made him sicker.
I started Robert on a customized supplement protocol right away. Things moved slow at first due to the toxic load on Roberts body but slowly he began to regain his energy and brain function. Robert re-entered the Crossfit Games for the first time in 5 years and even placed on the podium. He reports minimal abdominal pain and has regained his energy. His letter to me ended with: “Life is meaningful again”.
Gorilla Gut Warfare
Your gut is incredibly strong. It’s a labyrinth of large and intricate permeable and semipermeable linings. It’s also incredibly resilient, but when the intestinal lining is repeatedly damaged due to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, mycotoxins or a poor diet, it responds with inflammation, allergic reactions and other symptoms associated with disease.
Inflammatory Bowel diseases affect between 450,000 and 600,000 individuals in North America. These gut issues are multi-factorial ailments caused by bacterial, environmental, immunoligical, and genetic factors; and so are, as you can imagine, not an easy fix. Terms like IBS, Crohns and Leaky gut have been coined to describe gut conditions; put very simply, it’s all inflammation stemming from a cause. Diagnosis is usually given on symptoms alone. This is primarily due to the fact that routine testing seems to produce no abnormalities. Most of my patients have gone down this rabbit hole and have come up empty handed countless times. This is where a different approach must be utilized.
Dietary changes are usually the first line of defense. Maintaining a dairy free diet is a great place to start but this is not for everyone. Eradicating sugar and grain from the diet is also a great next step but again, is not necessarily for everyone.
Gut Stress Equals Mental Stress
Depression disorders are illnesses of the brain. Experts have analyzed brain function of MRI’s and have seen significant differences in the brain of a depressed person as compared to a non-depressed person. Current medical science has provided significant correlations between depression and GI issues. Common signs and symptoms of depression are below;
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Irritability, restlessness
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Thoughts of suicide
- Digestive Problems
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies (sex included)
Dr. Amen, an expert on neurotransmitters, has seen first hand the affect of an unhealthy gut on your brain. If you suffer from depression, it may be a good idea to rule out the gut/brain relationship first (with the help of a doctor trained in human performance healthcare) before taking an antidepressant. Want more information on the gut microbiome and the effect of this on your health? Click HERE.
Get a Healthy Gut
Here is my morning routine that’s sure to help you get on the right path for a healthy GI tract. I recommend doing some of the strategies below in order to get on the right track with healing your gut properly.
Sleep is your guts best friend. It actually heals during this sacred time. I get 7 hours of sleep on average. After you wake up, think of your body as a massive sponge. It’s completely dry and ready soak up whatever is presented to it. During sleep, your body is not partaking in food or beverage. This means that when you wake up, the first hour of your day is when you should be taking in optimal nutrients, ironically 85% of America is throwing back some coffee which just dehydrates the body even more than it is after sleep. The first thing I do is drink 16 ounces of pure water with a little bit of sea salt mixed in. While I’m sipping, I step outside and immediately stretch my arms towards the sky and say what I’m grateful for and I praise God for giving me those things in my life. Next I head for the Kombucha, this is my next 8 ounces. Raw, organic, unfiltered, homemade Kombucha. There is not a single more powerful living probiotic on the planet than naturally occuring, homegrown probiotics (ie. Kefir, Kimchee, Kombucha). Note: my last meal was around 7:30 pm the night before, I don’t partake in the next meal until lunch around 12:30. This process is called intermittent fasting and is extremely powerful for gut health. It allows the gut to take a break from assimilating food and instead it focus on purging toxins and preparing the good flora/bacteria for your next meal. I intermittent fast 2 days a week. I may supplement with a probiotic around 10:30am if I had a cheat meal the day before (a cheat meal for me looks like sourdough bread with grass fed cheese melted over top or rice noodles with homemade marinara and some parm sprinkled on top). I always make sure to get my annual stool analysis just to make sure I’m keeping the neighborhood in check. This may seem like too much poop testing for some but I like to know what’s going on.
Remember, supplements and dietary changes are powerful but are absolutely not the entire puzzle.
Want to get your gut checked out so you have a personalized plan to ensure you are maximising your energy, happiness & performance? Click HERE to schedule in your consultation with a high performance consultant and let’s discuss how to maximise your health & performance!