Gut Health, Mood, Anxiety & Depression

DEPRESSED? It Could Be Your Gut Health...

Suffering from depression or anxiety? Or both? It might be more than a psychological issue - or a chemical imbalance - causing your symptoms, but a gastronomical one as well.

Studies show that your brain is actually connected to your gut - and not just at a physical level, but an emotional level as well. Part of this new research includes a clear link between imbalances in the gut and mental illness like depression - and fortunately, a possible solution.

In a study released on March 10, researchers at the University of Virginia were able to identify "depressed” mice and offer a reprieve in the form of probiotics. So how do you know a mouse is "depressed?”

This is where a few tests like the "swim test" come in. When a healthy mouse is immersed in a tank of water, it will spend about three minutes trying to stay afloat before giving up and becoming immobile (and hopefully rescued by the experimenter at this point). A “depressed” mouse, on the other hand, will swim for only about one minute before giving up. Another test is to observe behavior. When a healthy mouse is put into a large, open area, it will explore its new environment: run around the center, find the lighted areas, climb an elevated maze, etc. Conversely, a mouse that’s been exposed to significant stress will cower in the corner.

A fascinating thing happens when these mice were given a dose of healthy bacteria. The mice that had been fed the bacteria-laden broth kept swimming longer and spent less time in a state of "behavioral distress."

What we learned from this (and many other studies) is that the bacteria in our body can have a large impact on the state of our emotions and mental health. In fact, it appears the vast majority of psychological complaints suffered by the general population - such as brain fog, depression, mood swings, anxiety, and concentration issues - are rooted in imbalances that begin in the gut.

Our gut is lined with millions of neurons that are constantly sending signals to the brain. In fact, 95 percent of our serotonin (a neurotransmitter that makes you happy) is located within the gastrointestinal tract. An imbalance in the bacteria of our gut can create very real alterations to our brains. There are many things we do that contribute to this imbalance. A diet high in sugar or refined carbohydrates, taking a round of antibiotics, drinking too much alcohol, or even the long-term use of birth control pills can kill off healthy bacteria.

The good news is that unlike our genes, we can actually alter the bacteria in our body. Simple things like eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough rest and taking a good-quality probiotic supplement can all have a positive impact on the bacteria in our body.

Charity Lighten, B.S., M.S.
Silver Fern™ Brand Chief Nutritionist

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