There are a lot of causes for depression. Most of them you have heard of. They include hormone deficiencies, neurotransmitter imbalances, sugar addiction, and nutritional imbalances to name the most common. But there's another cause of depression that probably most of you have not heard of even though the evidence goes back almost 100 years ago.
The authors of a paper entitled, "Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and mental health: from Metchnikoff to modern advances," discuss what at first seems an unlikely cause of mental disorders — intestinal bacterial imbalances. They start off by quoting a neuropathologist named Armando Ferraro and a clinical psychiatrist, Joseph E. Kilman of the New York Psychiatric Institute.
Together, in 1933, they wrote the following in an article published in the Psychiatric Quarterly entitled, "Experimental toxic approach to mental illness." It says, "It is far from our mind to conceive that all mental conditions have the same etiological factor [cause], but we feel justified in recognizing the existence of cases of mental disorders which have as a basic etiological factor a toxic condition arising in the gastrointestinal tract." Now how in the world is a "toxic condition" in the intestines going to cause depression?
First of all, although the intestines are supposed to prevent the absorption of toxins into the bloodstream, this is not always the case. Many people have alterations in the way their intestines protect them from toxins. The condition is loosely referred to as "leaky gut syndrome." When these toxins get into the bloodstream, they go to the brain. And, in certain susceptible people, they can cause depression and other mental symptoms. In addition, Ferraro and Kilman reported that gut-derived toxins produced brain toxicity at unusually low doses because of the way they work together. To further add to the problem, intestinal toxin levels are increased from antibiotics from the doctor and in our foods, infections, stress, alterations in liver and/or kidney function, and unhealthy diets. The connection is further made in an article entitled, "Major depressive disorder: probiotics may be an adjuvant therapy."
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In that article, the authors point out that the cause of a major depression is often very complex and complicated. That said, they go on to say that, "Emerging research suggests that nutritional influences on major depressive disorders are currently underestimated." Then they list the reasons. It's because patients with major depressive disorders have "elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, increased oxidative stress, altered gastrointestinal function, and lowered micronutrient and omega-3 fatty acid status." All of these factors are affected by our diets. Additionally, there's the issue of an imbalance in our intestinal bacteria. Stress is a known factor in major depression. And stress is known to alter intestinal bacteria by lowering the levels of the healthy bacteria lactobacilli and bifidobacterium. And why is this important to our mental function?
It's because research suggests that bacteria in the intestinal tract can communicate with the central nervous system, even in the absence of an infection in the classic sense. I have reported to you in the past how mice show signs of systemic inflammation from the intestinal tract after exposure to stress. And how this inflammation is caused by an intestinal imbalance of bacteria resulting from the stress. That's why probiotics have the potential to correct stress-induced intestinal bacterial imbalances and thereby lower systemic inflammatory cytokines, decrease oxidative stress, and improve nutritional status. And, in this way, probiotics may be an important part of the way we treat and prevent depression. According to the authors, "It is our contention that probiotics may be an adjuvant to standard care in major depressive disorder."
So, if you find yourself in the middle of some serious stress, especially if you are starting to feel depressed and/or have some intestinal symptoms, pay attention. You may save yourself from a major depression simply by changing to an extra healthy diet high in protein, low in carbohydrate, and high in fiber along with a good probiotic supplement like Advanced Probiotic Formula.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Bested AC, Logan AC, et al. Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and mental health: from Metchnikoff to modern advances: Part II – contemporary contextual research. Gut Pathog. 2013; 5: 3.
Logan AC, Katzman M. Major depressive disorder: probiotics may be an adjuvant therapy. Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(3):533-8.