Can Gut Bacteria End Your Depression?

gut bacteria affects on depression, how to rid of depressoin, seasonal depression, probiotics affect on health

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

November 4, 2016

  • Don’t let winter dampen your spirits
  • Simple remedies to conquer winter doldrums
  • Feed your gut for a happier brain

Do you start feeling sluggish and withdrawn around this time of the year? Does eating a big bowl of ice cream and sleeping the rest of the day sound better than dragging yourself out of the house?

If so, you might tell yourself this is natural. After all, it’s getting dark earlier and it’s cold outside. Isn’t that when you’re supposed to hibernate and store energy like a bear in its’ winter lair?

While that explanation might make sense, it doesn’t mean you have to trudge through the short days of winter feeling unhappy and low-spirited as you watch your waistline expand.

You see, when darkness starts coming earlier in the day, it can throw several of your brain hormones into a tailspin.

Let’s take melatonin, for example. This is the hormone that tells you when to sleep. Well, the more hours of darkness in a day, the more melatonin your body will produce. It’s no wonder you feel so tired and just want to curl up for a long winter nap!

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At the same time, levels of your “feel-good” neurotransmitters decline. Production of happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine take a nosedive. This explains why it can be so hard to drag yourself out of the doldrums.

However, there are ways to get through the winter months with your spirits intact.

Simple Remedies to Conquer the Winter Doldrums

This type of seasonal depression is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. And you can blame it on the short, dark days of winter that cut off your supply of much-needed sunlight.

Here’s the problem. If you live north of Atlanta, it’s almost impossible to get enough sunlight between October and March to keep your vitamin D levels up to par.

Well, vitamin D has a job to do. It helps regulate the production of those neurotransmitters (melatonin, serotonin and dopamine) that need rebalancing.

This is why one of the first recommendations I make to patients suffering from winter melancholy is to take a vitamin D supplement. Just 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 in the cholecalciferol form each day can ease seasonal depression. If you’re insufficient or deficient, take up to 5,000 IU. Ask your doctor for the simple blood test to find out and look to bring your level to at least 50-60 (if the reference range on the lab report is the usual 30-100).

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Light therapy is another way to rid yourself of that seasonal funk. Blue light is the kind that works best. This type of light suppresses your sleep hormone, melatonin. That’s why the blue light coming from your TV/computer/mobile phone screen (if you use them before bedtime) prevents you from having the deepest regenerative sleep you can have.

As I mentioned previously, this hormone can be over-produced on short winter days. However, light therapy helps reduce levels of it, cutting down on the fatigue and sleepiness that accompany SAD. Better yet, it can cut your depressive symptoms by more than 80%.

There’s also one more thing you can do.

Feed Your Gut for a Happier Brain

You may not realize it, but the vast majority of serotonin in your body is produced by your gut, actually the enterochromaffin cells in your gut. This means your gut plays a big role in your moods and emotional well-being. At the same time, your gut bacteria “talk” to your brain. It’s what we call the gut-brain axis. Google “gut-brain axis” and prepare to be amazed at the information discovered in this second brain of our body.

Here’s how it works…

When you have a large supply of “bad” bacteria in your gut, they send depressive signals to your brain. This makes it hard to keep your spirits up. However, when you replace that unhealthy bacteria with positive microbes, your brain will feel much happier.

Unfortunately the sweet, starchy and fatty foods you crave in the winter are the kind that bad bacteria thrive on.

This makes it a good idea to back away from those foods, and zero in on gut-friendly foods like organic fruits, veggies, nuts and wild-caught fish that’s loaded with brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

You can further bolster your supply of healthy gut bacteria by taking a probiotic supplement. Look for one that includes a prebiotic and multiple live strains of beneficial bacteria, like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria.

The higher the colony count and the more live strains involved, the happier your brain will be. Diversity of gut bacteria is the key. Take it daily and feed it the food it wants for a healthier you.

SOURCES:

Stewart AE, et al. Possible contributions of skin pigmentation and vitamin D in a polyfactorial model of seasonal affective disorder. Med Hypotheses. 2014 Nov;83(5):517-25.

Anderson JL. Lux vs. wavelength in light treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 2009;120:203-212.

Holzman DC. What’s in a Color? The Unique Human Health Effects of Blue Light. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Jan; 118(1): A22–A27.

Anderson JL. Lux vs. wavelength in light treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 2009;120:203-212.

Alcock J, et al. Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms. Bioessays. 2014 Oct;36(10):940-9.

Maha Al-Asmakh, et al. Gut microbial communities modulating brain development and function.Gut Microbes. 2012 Jul 1; 3(4): 366–373.

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