Depression: A leading cause of disability
One of the most prominent reasons for disability globally is depression. According to estimates by health researchers, 1 out of every 5 individuals will experience chronic depression in their life. Approximately 85% of people who experience an episode of depression for the first time in their lives will suffer a relapse in ten years.
Antidepressants – which boost the production of serotonin in the human body along with cognitive therapy, are together the standard treatment prescribed. However this only works for about one-third of depressed patients. Antidepressants are very useful for many, but just like with any medicine that treats symptoms the goal should be to use it until you fix the root cause.
Recent discoveries about depression have been uncovered which suggest that there is a correlation between gut microbiota and dysfunction within the axis that connects the gut to the human brain.
The new research that has revealed a link between depression and the gut provides strong evidence that bacterial metabolites can influence depressive-like behaviors.
What is the Connection?
The human body is home to myriads of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the microbiome, and they exist in a balance that favors the ‘good’ or beneficial bacteria. Beneficial bacteria help to prevent the wild growth of harmful bacteria as such a development can cause untold harm to your health.
In-depth studies have brought to light the potential harm that is associated with imbalances in the microbiome as a result of intestinal permeability, lack of bacterial multiplicity, or inflammation. Any of these can bring about an uncontrollable growth of ‘bad’ or unhealthy bacteria.
Bacteria and the Human Brain
Presently, in the field of behavioral neurology or Neuropsychology as well as in the research of mental health problems, there are strong speculations which seem to suggest that schizophrenia, bipolar disorder as well as other neurological problems are linked to specific alterations in the microbiome.
According to the speculation of researchers, any interference or disturbance to the healthy and usual balance of bacteria in the microbiome can trigger the immune system to overreact, thereby contributing to the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
This will lead to the occurrence of symptoms of diseases that appear throughout your body as well as your brain.
The system or structure of communication and connection between the GI tract and the human brain is known as the ‘gut-brain axis.’ Researchers have also gone ahead to speculate that infections that transpire early in life could affect the mucosal membrane in the gastrointestinal tract negatively, thereby upsetting the gut-brain axis. This can inhibit the healthy development of the brain.
The mucosal membrane can also vary via radiation treatment, chemotherapy, poor choices of diet, etc.
Things You Can Do
Foods considered prebiotic don’t contain any living organism. They include digestible fibers which ferment in the gastrointestinal tract and eventually consumed by probiotic bacteria.
Then they are converted to beneficial substances that the body requires. Prebiotic foods include:
- Leeks, etc.
Go for probiotic foods that provide copious amounts of helpful live bacteria which can only grow in carefully controlled fermentation environments. Probiotic foods include:
- Plain yogurt
- Fresh sauerkraut, etc.
Bear in mind that the probiotic properties of these foods can easily be destroyed by processing, cooking or preserving them at elevated temperatures.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of the bacteria found in these foods, you want to starve out their competitors by reducing or eliminating sugar from your diet.
Fermented foods are considered functional foods, it is also a good idea to include other functional foods in your diet.
Fecal microbial transplant is another method that is still under research via which probiotics can be delivered to the GI tract. In layman’s terms, stool or fecal matter is obtained from a healthy individual and transplanted in the bowel of an individual with a chronic condition. This field of study is showing great potential to restore gut biome in individuals.
This procedure aims to repopulate the microbiome of the individual with additional but diverse species of bacteria, thus reducing symptoms significantly. This is essentially a cure for C. difficile infections of the large intestine but surprisingly it has also been shown to have an antidepressant effect. (On a side note, the fact that fecal transplants are not the standard treatment over antibiotics for C. difficile is a great example of a dysfunctional health care system. The antibiotics that are the standard treatment are very powerful and often contribute to an even worse C. difficile infection down the road. Vancomycin, the standard drug of choice for C. difficile has an approximate cure rate around 40%, whereas many studies are now showing fecal transplant cure rate at 95% for C. difficile.)
You should discuss the use of supplements especially probiotic supplements that are effective enough to enhance the symptoms of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc. with your doctor.
The increase in depression lately could be another symptom of the disease of civilization. So many diseases are increasing as a result of something about our modern lifestyle and world. The deterioration of our gut could be a major factor in depression and many other diseases of civilization.
Check out some of the research on this topic:
- Largest’ microbiome study weighs in on our gut health
- The role of microbiota and inflammation in self-judgment and empathy: implications for understanding the brain-gut-microbiome axis in depression.
- The effect of fecal microbiota transplantation on psychiatric symptoms among patients with irritable bowel syndrome, functional diarrhea, and functional constipation: An open-label observational study.