In January I attended a talk given by Dr. Andrew Weil on the topic of happiness. As you might know, he has a new book called Spontaneous Happiness.
During his lecture, he brought up that our moods are supposed to vary, like sunny and cloudy days. And that inward focus, often labeled as depression, has been associated with creativity and problem solving.
This resonated with me, as I feel that modern society often expects us to be happy all the time and if we are not, we need an antidepressant!
He also discussed the problems with anti-depressants, including how in many cases they may worsen the problem that they are prescribed for.
This makes sense when you consider that antidepressants do not build up your serotonin levels, in fact, they can slow down the body’s production of serotonin over time.
With that being said, depression affects millions of people in the United States and many women and men suffer for years without much relief.
Of course, one of the most important issues to address is the root cause of depression, including genetics, diet, nutrient deficiencies, gut health, chronic inflammation and immune dysfunction, poor lifestyle, and lack of community/strong emotional ties.
As a nutritionist, I am fascinated with how improving gut health, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and using targeted nutrients can help relieve depression. The brain and gut are in constant communication with each other.
The brain affects the health of the gut, and the gut affects the health of the brain. More recent research on gut flora shows that imbalanced gut flora (too many “problematic bacteria” and not enough “good guys”) lead to depression and other psychiatric disorders.
Leaky gut has also been shown to play a role in depression by allowing harmful bacteria into the bloodstream.
Leaky gut, also referred to as intestinal permeability, happens when tight junctions in the gut, which control what passes through the lining of the small intestine, don’t work properly and allow substances such as bacteria that should not pass through the gut wall leak into the bloodstream. These bacteria trigger inflammation throughout the body, eventually resulting in a change in brain chemistry.
Dr. Weil discussed the cytokine model of depression – this model associates inflammation instead of neurotransmitter deficiencies (such as lack of serotonin) with depression. In a nutshell, poor gut health leads to inflammation which can affect the brain and result in depression.
What are some of the symptoms of leaky gut?
We already discussed depression. Other symptoms are brain fog, fatigue, poor recovery after exercise, GI symptoms such as bloating, gas, abnormal bowel movements, and multiple food sensitivities that may result in rashes, joint pain, headaches, and swelling. And autoimmune disease, which is a big topic that I will leave for another day!
There is good news!
Diet and specific nutrients help restore gut flora balance and repair a leaky gut. It is essential to first figure out the triggers that are compromising your gut wall and leading to potential systemic inflammation.
Some common triggers include poor diet, eating pro inflammatory foods such as gluten, drinking too much alcohol, regular use of NSAIDs, antibiotic use, overgrowth of yeast, parasitical infections, and chronic stress.
Food sensitivity testing can be useful in identifying foods that are problematic and pro inflammatory for you. A stool test can give you valuable information on the health of your gut, including potential overgrowth of harmful bacteria, presence of parasites, and how well you digest your foods.
Targeted nutrients help populate good bacteria, crowd out harmful bacteria, rid your body of parasites, help you digest your food better, repair your gut wall, and decrease inflammation.
If you suspect you have leaky gut or feel depressed on a regular basis and have not figured out the root cause, check out my Targeted Nutrition Program to work one-on-one with me to get the guidance you need to move forward!