Beat Bacteria to Beat Depression
Can you really beat depression by loving your gut microbiome?
Most of the single-celled organisms in your body are bacteria. There are ten times more – an estimated 100 trillion – of these little guys than any other types of cells. The majority of them live in your gut. They keep your digestion running smoothly, regulate metabolism, contribute to a strong immune system, and process vitamins and nutrients from the foods you eat.
A Second Brain?
That isn’t all. Scientists now realize that having enough of the good gut flora is crucial to total body wellness and are referring to this area of the body as the “second brain” because it has a nervous system that operates independently from your brain! It will continue to function even if the connection to the brain is lost. It isn’t science fiction.
The neurochemicals gut flora produce help the brain regulate basic processes and are especially important for memory and learning. They produce almost all of the serotonin used by your body. These bacteria can even affect your mental health, perception of pain, and your body’s stress response.1
An imbalance in gut flora that is raised or lowered can improve mood or increase anxiety. From mood to brain chemistry, studies proving the gut-brain connection are exploding onto the scene and you need to know about them.
The Gut-Brain Connection Goes Both Ways
While your gut can influence your brain, the reverse is also possible. In fact, as much as 50% of the patients who suffer from chronic gastrointestinal issues such as Crohn’s, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and ulcerative colitis have also been diagnosed with depressive or anxiety disorders. Stress inhibits good bacteria.
Beneficial bacteria – also known as probiotics – could offer a natural way to beat depression, which affects the lives of millions every year worldwide.
Researchers in the field believe that the gut is so critical to good brain health (and vice versa) that studies should be equally pursued in both. Right now, the data is so new that experts know there is a connection that works – they simply are not sure how or why it does.
Initial results are fascinating and the future of probiotics to treat various forms of mental illness is promising. Adding probiotics to your diet is a healthy, no-risk way to regulate metabolism, immunity, and good digestion. If it also aids in improving your mood…that’s a benefit you simply cannot turn down!2
Other Natural Ways to Beat Depression
While the science catches up to the results, there are many other ways to fight depression that will help your entire body, mind, and spirit feel younger, stronger, and happier.
- Talk it out: Whether to friends, family, or a counselor…there’s no shame in seeking help if you suspect an unhealthy drop in your mood. The sooner you talk it out, the sooner you can get resolution and/or treatment so you can get back to living your life.
- Get moving: Increasing your level of exercise – even going for a simple walk – boosts mood almost instantly. Combining exercise out in nature when possible strengthens the effect. A side benefit is that your physical health also improves. A simple walk can vastly improve mood and mental clarity, while boosting cardiovascular health. Yoga and tai chi increase flexibility, strengthen your core, and encourage peaceful feelings.
- Feel the rays: Taking time every day to let the sun warm your bare skin increases your body’s production of vitamin D naturally. Take safety precautions if you’ll be outside longer than 15 minutes or so and apply natural sunscreen. If you live in a location where regular sun isn’t possible, consider supplementing this important mood-lifting vitamin. Getting enough vitamin D is especially critical if you’ve been diagnosed – or suspect you may have – seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
- Good eats: Less processed foods and more fresh options is going to make you feel good all over. Research in the last few years has linked high-chemical diets to increased depression, higher risk of illness, and rapid aging. Foods excellent to improve mood are probiotic-rich yogurt, wild salmon, dark chocolate, and California almonds. Consider adding coconut oil as well, which supplies your brain with ketones – a fuel you can’t find anywhere else in nature. Drink enough water – 90 ounces for women, 100 ounces for men is a good guideline unless you live or work in intense heat...then you need more.3
- Have “you” time: Read a book, listen to music, laugh with friends, or take up a hobby. Time spent in relaxation gives your mind a chance to recharge, to connect to the world around you, to pause and breathe. Spend 5-10 minutes in meditation, take up yoga, or consider tai chi for additional stress relief and low-impact strength training. Getting plenty of sleep is critical for every function in your body! Don’t skimp on your rest!4
Avoid drinking or recreational drugs since these are proven to drop mood even further. Be cautious about spending too much time alone if you can since it causes you to turn in on yourself and increases feelings of isolation and sadness.
The most important thing to remember if you want to beat depression is that you must face it, recognize it, and not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
It doesn’t have to continue – take back your quality of life! Start now!
1 American Psychological Association: That Gut Feeling
2 Science Daily: Are probiotics a promising treatment strategy for depression?
3 Science Daily: Mind-altering microbes: Probiotic bacteria may lessen anxiety and depression
4 Mind Body Green: 10 Natural Ways To Help You Beat Depression