Anxiety and depression (or the combination of both) affect nearly 20% of Americans – That’s 1 in 5 people, a statistic which continues to grow with the decline of overall health across the country. Symptom-based treatments for these conditions typically include medications such as tranquilizers or benzodiazepines, SSRI or SNRI antidepressants and ECT (Electroconvulsive) or psychotherapy. Many of these treatments are necessary for more severe cases, but for a significant portion of those affected by depression and anxiety, dealing with and reversing these conditions may be simpler than they think.
That solution? Maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria.
Your gut, a combination of the small intestine and colon, contain a complex ecosystem of trillions of bacteria which aid your body in digesting food. During the process of digestion, this bacteria creates the vitamins necessary for bodily functions, aids in the control of the immune system, and creates molecules that help with proper brain function.
Physicians at the California Center for Functional Medicine believe that depression and anxiety can be thought of simply as “disruptions in brain health.” Because your gut acts as a central hub of energy, immunity and brain function, keeping it healthy could be the key to improving your mood.
So how does someone improve the health of his or her gut?
Eating probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, miso soup, pickled vegetables or taking physician-recommended probiotic supplements are a good start. Also make an effort to greatly reduce your intake of processed foods, foods high in sugar, and alcohol, as they can greatly offset the bacterial balance in your gut. Cutting caffeine consumption can help to reduce anxiety and also eliminates excuses to ingest more sugar, either through coffee or carbonated beverages. In addition, try to incorporate more plant-dense and high-fiber foods to maintain proper bowel movements and health. And of course, remember to get plenty of sleep and exercise throughout the week to keep your digestive system and your overall health in check.
At Verve Health, our integrative approach challenges our program participants to take control of their health to prevent and reverse chronic health problems and achieve an overall state of real health. Maintaining proper gut health is only one piece of the greater health puzzle, but represents an effort in building a healthy foundation for a happier, healthier life. Before taking any significant health steps, always remember to speak with a physician, especially if you intend to reduce or eliminate the use of medication.