gut health and depression - is there a connection?

Gut Health and Depression

Is there a connection between bad gut health and depression?

Our gut microbiome is one of the most underrated organs in our body. It is the last place we check when we suffer from a mental illness.

We seldom link the physiology of our gut to our psychology, but an increasing piece of evidence points out the connection of gut microbiota to extragastrointestinal and gastrointestinal diseases. For this reason, researchers continue to relate gut inflammation to several mental problems that include anxiety and depression. 

Gut health and depression – is there a connection?

Our gut is our second brain. It regulates our central nervous system. There are almost 1,018 microorganisms in our body, and many of them are anaerobic that colonize our gut.

No wonder our gut microbiome is present in our different bodily functions like bowel movement, nutrient absorption, and food digestion—moreover, the brain and the gut function in a bidirectional manner. As a result, they could affect each other’s roles that significantly impact cognition, memory, stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Depression is a severe mental condition that is a result of several factors. Often described as losing confidence and interest in life, this illness is a byproduct of genetics and the environment. 

However, why is depression often linked to an unhealthy gut?

It is because our microbiome is strongly associated with our mental well-being. 

Although there are factors involved in whether an adult’s microbiome is healthy or not, genetic diversity does come into play. Essentially, it differs for every individual. However, studies have shown how individuals with certain types of diet change can alter the physiology of a normal microbiome.

For example, the host immune system is detrimentally affected by a leaky gut syndrome due to increased intestinal permeability. You can observe it in psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, autism, and depression. Still, medical professionals have yet to conclusively say in clinical studies whether this has a cause and effect or not.

The link between the gut microbiome and depression

Depression can hit anyone under any circumstances. Scientifically, it is a result of complex chemical and biological interactions inside the body and the environment. Under stressful conditions, a healthy gut microflora transmits brain signals through neural transmission pathways tapping into behavioral control. 

One of the symptoms of depression is a change in appetite. Why is there weight loss or gain observed for depressed individuals that are not related to dieting? Humans who experience stress and depression exhibit changes in the diversity and content of the gut microbiome.

Depressed behaviors and lack of sleep also happen in patients who had inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In some cases, cognitive behavioral therapy helps treat depression to change the thoughts and behaviors of individuals having severe gastrointestinal problems.

Listening to your gut feeling

What does it mean listening to your gut feeling?

Have you ever experienced that pang in your stomach after an awkward situation? Have you ever felt strange around someone you didn’t even know? These feelings may seem irrational and nonsense, but you could tell in your gut that something’s off. 

Or may it be that one time you made a hard decision (that sounds wrong to the world), and still, your intuition tells you that you’re on the right path and that somehow relieves you?

All of these have a lot to do with your gut feelings. 

Sure, some people refer to it as the internal voice. But what if it’s your gut talking to you?

Some signals could help you listen to your gut feeling more:

  • Goosebumps and chills
  • Body tension
  • The clarity in your sense
  • Nausea or butterflies in your stomach
  • Sensation in your belly 
  • Sweat on your palms and feet

Gut feelings are unpredictable. They could come when we least expect them. Thus, listening to your gut feeling means understanding your gut and brain connection.

Gut health and serotonin

We can find 95% of serotonin supply in our body in the gut bacteria. Serotonin, the “happy hormone,” influences gastrointestinal activity and stabilizes mood. Serotonin levels are often assessed for patients diagnosed with depression.

A new field called nutritional psychiatry correlates what you eat, how you feel, and behave. It also takes into account the kinds of bacteria living in your gut. Nutritional psychiatrists specifically look for serotonin indications in the biochemical makeup in our bodies.

Patients with prescribed antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) often experience gut-related side effects. This example suggests a physiological and anatomical connection between the gut and the brain.

Gut health and depression – you lead the direction

In conclusion, we shouldn’t underestimate the part gut bacteria take in our mood and mental health. They could aid any manifestations of anxiety, stress or depression, or trigger them when we are not watchful of their impact on our body.

A healthy diet to a healthier mind

gut health and depression - how can your diet help the connection?
You are what you eat

Studies continue to claim that the modulation in our gut microbiota leads to the intervention of anxiety and depression. Thereby, proper nutrition should still be our top priority for a healthier well-being. 

The diversity in our microbiome keeps its balance, and that equilibrium supports our optimal health. As it becomes unstable, which takes place during dysbiosis, we experience inflammation because microbes proliferate and abuse our system. 

Our body doesn’t like abusive bacteria, which is why our immune system stays on alert, resulting in inflammation. 

Inflammation prompts depression, and likewise, depression leads to inflammation. During this process, the function of a diverse microbiome comes in, as it could prevent inflammation. 

Hence, improving our anxiety and mood levels means managing inflammation. A healthy and balanced diet is the answer to increase diverse microbes in our body. Good gut bacteria grow on a plant-based diet, and they need fiber as their primary source of energy.

Happy gut, happy you

As the connection between gut bacteria and depression gets stronger, checking our microbiome health status should become a vital part of our lifestyle. 

Although depression is more than just the opposite of feeling good, a happy gut could counteract this behavioral imbalance. The microorganisms living in your gut microbiome are incredibly important to make a happy you. 

It is in your best interest to take care of the home base of your immune system. Watch what you eat in order to build a balanced community of microbes that your brain will be happy about.

Your health is your wealth. A happy gut is crucial for your physical being while a healthy gut is essential for your mental well-being. Fundamentally, your overall happiness and well-being depend on your gut health.