Anxiety and Depression

its not all in your head.

Do you only pay attention to your digestive system when there is a problem? Maybe after you have eaten a large meal and feel bloated? Or perhaps you pay attention to your digestive system only when you have had changes in bowel movements, like diarrhoea or constipation? Do you pay attention to your gut when you are stressed? Ever notice any changes? Well there is an enormous connection between your gut and brain. The gut-brain connection is something that very few people think about or know about and yet when out of balance, people experience, irritable bowel, depression, anxiety, chron’s disease, diverticulitis, and mood disorders.

One might wonder how can my gut possibly influence my brain, and how can my brain influence my gut? Ever had a period of stress or an exam and found yourself running to the toilet right before the exam with “nerves”. Well there is a connection, several really.

The bacteria which colonises in people’s stomachs may have a far more dramatic impact on mental health conditions like depression and anxiety than previously thought, according to a new study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology. For each person, the gut is home to about 1,000 trillion bacteria that we call good gut flora. These bacteria perform a number of functions vital to health: They protect against infections and provide nutrition to cells in the gut. Any disruption can result in life-threatening conditions, such as antibiotic-induced colitis from infection with the “superbug” Clostridium difficile. Parasites picked up from family pets, rain water tanks, poorly sanitized town water all affect our gut and good flora levels. Sadly, so does chlorinated and fluoridated water.

Studies are showing links between dysfunction of the brain-gut axis and a number of gastrointestinal disorders. Common types of gastrointestinal disease, including irritable bowel syndrome, have been associated with anxiety or depression. In addition, there has been speculation that some psychiatric disorders, such as late onset autism, may be associated with an abnormal bacterial content in the gut. Further, new research shows that depression is directly related to inflammation on the brain, this can be from food allergies, foreign invaders like bacteria and parasites, etc.

Previous research has focused on the role bacteria play in brain development early in life. This latest research indicates that while many factors determine behavior, the nature and stability of good bacteria in the gut appear to influence behavior and any disruption, from antibiotics or infection, might produce changes in mood and behavior. So if you are feeling blue, having anxiety for no obvious reason, or find yourself with mood swings consider what is happening in your gut.

Probiotics and relaxation herbs have been found to help conditions like irritable bowel, as well as removing aggravating foods, and reducing stress. Stress causes our brain and adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol, over a long period of time this is disastrous for our bodies. Stress speeds up gastric emptying, reducing absorption of nutrients and causes the release of other neurotransmitters that directly affect the gut. Glutamate is a neurochemical that, in excess, is known to cause depression and anxiety, and probably migraines and seizures. Humans will have elevated glutamate in their spinal fluid if they have anxiety. Chronic stress produces Glutamate!

The studies released in the Journal of Gastroenterology were funded by the grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The result is a glimpse into causes of depression that are rarely considered by the traditional medical community.

To put it into simple easy to remember terms: if your body is not digesting your food properly and you have been colonised with bugs other than your own good gut flora, and you consume processed food and hydrogenated fat, well, your brain will be feeling the effects. It may not have the levels of seronin and dopamine required to maintain a positive mood and behavior changes may result.

Further, you add stress to that equation and now you have added cortisol levels affecting blood sugar, weight gain, and inflammation in the body and now not only does your mood level change, but your entire body starts to feel the effects, fatigue and pain may kick in, then your sleep is effected and the entire cycle further affects mood. Basically the neurotransmitters that fire in the gut are the same ones found in the brain and they are directly affecting on another.

So your anxiety and mood changes are not all in your head, they are also in your gut!

Naturopaths have had training in this area for a very long time. We have leaders in our field, like Henry Osiecki, who have been teaching about the gut brain connection and how to balance both.

If you have been suffering with gut dysfunction and/or mood changes, please contact Tara today for an appointment and get your gut-brain connection working for you. Phone 0404136697

1.The Brain-Gut connection, have we forgotten something. Henry Osiecki et al, 2005.
2.Premysl Bercik, E. Denou, Josh Collins, W. Jackson, J. Lu, J. Jury, Y. Deng, P. Blennerhassett, J. Macri, K.D. McCoy, E.F. Verdu, S.M. Collins. Gastroenterology – May 2011