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Exploring the gut-brain axis and its connection to depression

Showing the connection between the gut microbiome and depression by way of what many health care experts refer to as the gut-brain axis.

Sponsored by Systemic Formulas

Approximately 16 million Americans have been majorly depressed at least once in their lives.

According to data provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, making this one of the most common mental health disorders in the U.S. today. Additionally, the risk of depression is highest for certain demographics, including women, persons in the 18-to-25 age range, and those who report being biracial or multiracial.

The World Health Organization (WHO) adds that adverse life events such as losing a job, going through a divorce, or losing a loved one can contribute to the development of depression. Other causes include physical health issues (such as cardiovascular disease), various social factors and even a person’s biology.

In fact, some studies have found a connection between the gut microbiome and depression by way of what many health care experts refer to as the gut-brain axis. What is the gut-brain axis and how does it impact a person?

Gut-brain axis defined

Research published in the Annals of Gastroenterology states that the gut-brain axis is a phrase describing the bidirectional communication that occurs between the central and the enteric nervous systems, “linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions.” Essentially, it says that our brain can have specific responses based largely on the organisms living in our gut—our gut microbiome—and vice versa.

Medical News Today (MNT) further explains that “gut microbiome” refers to the more than “1,000 species of bacteria consisting of over 3 million genes” that live within the guts, two-thirds of which vary from person to person. These bacteria are designed to help the bodies digest the food, but scientists are also discovering that they serve another important role as well, a role related to the risk of disease.

For instance, research has correlated the presence or absence of certain gut microbiota with the development of obesity and various metabolic conditions, according to MNT. Studies have also tied these gut microbiotas to a higher risk of other health issues, like cancer and autism—and depression.

Gut microbiome and depression

One particular piece of research, published in the journal Neurogastroenterology & Motility, discusses how our understanding of the relationship between stress and gut microbiota goes back several years, with many studies since demonstrating that the proportion of specific types of bacterial phyla found in the gut is highly correlated with the presence of depressive behaviors.

This article goes on to say that some of this evidence involves testing conducted on patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), with many studies revealing that more than 50 percent of the IBS sufferers analyzed also have some type of psychiatric diagnosis. For many, that diagnosis includes depression—sometimes with anxiety.

The gut microbiome can also potentially exacerbate depression, or at a minimum make it harder to combat. In a webinar interview with Chiropractic Economics, Shayne Morris, PhD, a molecular biologist and chief operating officer of Systemic Formulas, says it does this by having the power to “turn genes on and off.” In simple terms, the gut can send signals to the brain to intake certain types of food in order to feed the organisms in your gut, even if these specific organisms are partially creating the problem.

Improving gut microbiome with probiotics

Based on these findings, one way to potentially improve mental health, thereby either reducing the risk of depression or helping to treat it, is to improve health within the gut. This can be accomplished by increasing one’s intake of probiotics.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that “probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to have health benefits.” Further, these probiotics can be increased in many different ways, two of which include making dietary modifications and taking probiotic supplements.

In regard to diet, there are several foods that, when eaten, can promote a healthier gut microbiome. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, these include:

  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Bananas
  • Polenta
  • Broccoli
  • Blueberries
  • Beans
  • Fermented plant-based foods, such as tempeh and miso

Another way to increase probiotic intake is through supplements. The University of California at Berkeley indicates that probiotic products are “considered safe overall for healthy people,” though some may initially experience mild cases of gas and bloating until their bodies adjust.

Additionally, if the immune system is compromised, if bowel issues are present, or if there is serious illness, a doctor’s approval should be obtained before starting a probiotic regimen. They’re also not recommended for women who are pregnant, infants or young children.

Research is finding that the healthier the gut, the healthier the mind. Thus, one way to potentially avoid mental health issues like depression is to increase one’s intake of probiotics, a goal that can be achieved easily with diet and a proper supplemental regimen.

About Systemic Formulas

Systemic Formulas uses a technologically advanced research and production facility to manufacture synergistically formulated herbal blends available through chiropractors and other healthcare professionals. This in-house process enables them to maintain their commitment to the highest standard of product purity.

Systemic Formulas utilizes a proprietary blend of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, RNA/DNA tissue factors, amino acids, and botanicals which are synergistically formulated in a manner that targets a health issue, as well as supports the entire body system. Tested and proven by users for over fifty years, these products are developed to aid the body’s vital functions such as the immune system, organ function, and overall wellness.

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