Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or health official. Instead, I am just a college student sharing my gut health journey and what works for me.
Trigger Warning: Discussion about mental health conditions such as depression.
Do you ever get butterflies or that gut-wrenching feeling when you’re nervous? You may not have daily stressors contributing to this feeling, or stresses that make you feel worse physically and emotionally. What if I told you that many depression disorders may link to your gut health and that there are ways to heal that?
The pharmaceutical industry makes billions each year by prescribing antidepressant drugs to people in order to help alleviate their depression symptoms. Food and curing your microbiome or gut is the key to improving depressive symptoms and moving one step closer to getting off prescription drugs for good.
My Gut Health/Family History:
All my life, I grew up always having random stomach aches, migraines, severe acne and minor panic attacks. It was not until about the seventh grade when I found out that a few family members suffer from Celiac disease, which is an immune reaction to eating gluten. From here, I started paying closer attention to my diet and how certain foods affected my mental and physical health negatively or positively.
Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The side effects from long-term consumption of gluten consist of inflammation that causes damage to the small intestine lining. Over time, this prevents the absorption of certain nutrients, which can have a direct effect on development, as well as depression and anxiety disorders. According to Beyond Celiac, the risk of developing depression is 1.8 times more likely in someone with Celiac disease than the average person.
Those suffering from Celiac disease have found relief in their depression symptoms after they stopped consuming gluten in their diet.
Hypothyroidism Related to Gut Health:
About a year ago, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism after running several tests to pinpoint the cause of depression and anxiety. Hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease that causes your thyroid to be sluggish and in need of artificial hormones. Hypothyroidism has been linked to an unhealthy microbiome and leaky gut. Leaky gut is also connected to anxiety and depression disorders.
How changing my diet positively affected my mental health
As soon as I started to eliminate gluten from my diet, increasing my fiber, probiotic and water intake, I noticed a drastic improvement in how I felt physically and mentally. I started to wake up without my heart racing and without crippling nausea. In addition, I noticed that my bloating in my mid-section decreased and going to the bathroom was a lot easier.
According to a collaborative study at a few universities, Intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut,” has been linked to mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Leaky gut is a digestive condition in which toxins can leak through the intestinal wall.
To explain how leaky gut manifests itself into mental health problems, we start with tryptophan, a component of serotonin production. Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter that regulates your mood, learning and even functions such as vomiting. During periods of stress or inflammation from leaky gut, if tryptophan continues to decrease, serotonin levels will deplete, and toxic substances build up in the brain. Therefore, there is a neurotransmitter imbalance in the brain that may cause anxiety and depression.
How you can heal leaky gut:
- Consult a doctor with any concerns related to bowel movements or unusual pain or symptoms.
- Increase your intake of high-fiber foods.
- Reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates. Too much sugar feeds the harmful bacteria in the gut and can affect barrier function.
- Take probiotic supplements.
- Reduce your alcohol intake.
- Quit smoking.
- Drink more water.
- Reduce stress levels through physical activity.
After following these tips, especially when taking probiotics and cutting out gluten, I have found a drastic improvement in my mental health. Not only am I less anxious and depressed, but I also have fewer stomach aches, fewer migraines, and I have more energy daily.
Like I said before, I am not a licensed health official or doctor, but I share my health wisdom in hopes that it can help you solve your medical or mental health mysteries.
Stay happy and healthy!