Mental Health Starts in Your Gut, Not your Brain


by Alex Swanson | Sep 22, 2014 | Gut HealthMental Health | 42 comments


What if the way we treat anxiety, depression, learning difficulties and behavioral disorders is completely misunderstood? When you combine published and unpublished studies of antidepressants, the treatments we have today are no better than they were 50 years ago. How is it that in this day and age, we continue to chase after a cure for modern disorders that have their roots in deficiency and toxicity? It is the same line of thinking in agriculture, that if you keep spraying plants with pesticides or give animals antibiotics, the disease problem is solved without a thought as to why the plants and animals are sick in the first place.

The World Health Organization is projecting that, by the year 2020, depression will become the world’s second most devastating illness, after heart disease. This is alarming not only for our mental state, but the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that women who had long-term depression were 90 percent more likely to get cancer. Cancer is complex, but we have been completely ignoring the mental health and emotional connection. If you or someone you know have experienced anxiety, depression or other behavioral disorders, you understand how devastating these disorders can be.

What I hope to offer with this article is insight into understanding the biochemical nature of these disorders, which will hopefully empower you. Modern medicine points to the brain, not the gut as the target, but if we break down neurotransmitter production all arrows point to the gut, not the brain. The biochemistry points to deficiency of particular vitamins, minerals, and bacteria, not primarily a chemical imbalance that can only be corrected by a drug. Research is confirming that deficiency and toxicity are creating inflammation and excessive release of cytokines from the immune system; which can lead to depression and heart disease.

Two Brains are Better than One

Brain dysfunction is the number one reason people fail at school, at work, and in relationships according to Dr. Daniel Amen, one of the world’s authorities on the brain. So when we break down how the brain functions, we have to look at the two nervous systems: the central and the enteric. The enteric is the nervous system of your digestive system. There, millions of nerves line the digestive system and communicate with the central nervous system via the vagus nerve road to the brain. Your gut bacteria also uses the same road to transmit information to your brain, and it turns out bacteria are transmitting more information to your brain than your brain sends to your gut.

Ninety percent of serotonin (the neurotransmitter responsible for well-being, happiness, memory, learning, and sleep) is made in the gut, not the brain. Anti-depressants work (or don’t work) by raising serotonin levels in the brain, not the gut. According to the highly popular book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, intestinal flora imbalance has been linked to autism, dyspraxia, A.D.D., dyslexia, A.D.H.D., depression, and schizophrenia.

Why Bacteria May Be a Major Key to Understanding Mental Disorders

Think about the last time when you got anxious, depressed or angry, and the emotions gave you an upset stomach. Guess what happens when your gut flora is altered or wiped out from antibiotics, sucralose(Splenda, 50% intestinal flora destruction found), pesticide-laden GMO food, meat laced with antibiotics, chlorinated and fluoridated water or a high sugar diet? Anxiety, depression, anger, confusion, frustration, stress, and even autism. Just recently, an article from the BBC/TV website reported a 67% increase in autism in Northern Ireland. Boys are affected 5 times more than girls, and those in more deprived areas are more likely to be affected. It is time we start asking the right questions, starting with nutrition status and toxicity.

A study found that children with autism have altered gut flora “working as neurotransmitters or controlling neurotransmitter biosynthesis” and researchers “suspect that gut microbes may alter levels of neurotransmitter-related metabolites affecting gut-to-brain communication and/or altering brain function.” Furthermore, researchers from the California Institute of Technology found that some mice exhibiting autistic behaviors no longer showed signs of autism when given probiotics.

Bifidobacterium is capable of secreting large amounts of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter to glutamate, controlling an imbalance found in autism-spectrum disorders, hyperactive behavior, heart attacks, strokes, ADHD, OCD, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, mood disorders, IBS, Tourette’s syndrome and seizures. The Stanley Foundation Neuropathology Consortium found that levels of glutamate were elevated in individuals with Bi-Polar and Major Depressive disorder compared to controls. Another study shows that lactobacillus influenced GABA levels in certain brain regions, leading to lowered stress hormones, anxiety and depression. Could bacteria and GABA be one of the keys to the underlining cause of numerous mental disorders? Or better labeled, mental deficiencies?

Gluten and Mental Health: It Starts at Pregnancy

In gluten sensitive individuals, gluten can actually shut down blood flow into the frontal and prefrontal cortex, the part responsible for dopamine, serotonin, focus, managing emotional states, planning, organizing, consequences of actions, and our short term memory. This process is called “hypo-perfusion” and is strongly associated with ADHD, depression, and anxiety. WGA in wheat has also been found to perforate holes in the intestinal lining, affecting vitamin and mineral absorption, allergies, and bacteria.

A study from Sweden and Johns Hopkins found that babies born to women with a sensitivity to gluten appear to be at increased risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders later in life. Children born to mothers with abnormally high levels of antibodies to gliadin (gluten) had nearly twice the risk of developing non-affective psychosis, compared with children who had normal levels of gliadin antibodies. This makes quite a strong case for avoiding gluten completely during pregnancy. Read More Here

Ann TeppermanComment