When it Comes to Treating Mood Disorders, Go With Your Gut
Without a doubt, you've seen one of the countless commercials and advertisements which promise to help relieve the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders. They typically show a person who is enshrouded in a gloomy effect muddling through a field of muted colors until they talk with their doctor about 'Insert Wonder Drug Name Here' and then suddenly their lives have changed—colors are vibrant again, and they get on with their lives. All the time this is being shown, the narrator goes through a laundry list of possible side-effects, which often includes 'increased thoughts of suicide' - which should be the last possible side-effect you would want someone who is bipolar or severely depressed to have.
Pharmaceutical companies make it very easy for doctors to throw medications at conditions, especially when patients are self-diagnosing and requesting the drug they saw advertised. Roughly 18% of the population is currently being prescribed some type of mood stabilizing medication, simply because they believe or were told that it is the only way to help them. This type of treatment is nothing more than slapping a bandage onto an arterial wound. And this is because these medications are only masking the symptoms of the disorder and not doing anything to treat the cause of the problem.
To get to the root cause of mood disorders, we have to understand what has caused them in the first place.
There are definitely cases where some type of trauma has created psychological causes for depression or anxiety, and those should be worked on with a qualified professional counselor.
In other instances, mood and emotions can be affected by hormonal imbalance, nutritional or digestive issues, chronic inflammation, medications, or any number of internal and external factors. For example, there are genetic predispositions, and if you have a parent with depression, this could be something you will struggle with as well. Your mood fluctuations may have been present for as long as you can remember, or it can appear suddenly. In either case, there is almost always an underlying cause that is often overlooked.
What are some of the possible causes of my mood disorder?
You may be surprised to find that in most cases, a large percentage of these mood disorders originate in the gut. In Functional Medicine, we often refer to the gut as your 'second brain' - which makes sense when you realize how much of your life is controlled by your digestive tract. Your body produces a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is responsible for regulating your mood. And it turns out that the vast majority of serotonin is produced in your gut. Your gut is host to billions of bacteria that help to digest and metabolize the food you eat. In fact, you are more bacteria than you are human - and this collection of beneficial bacteria is known as the microbiome.
Your microbiome is affected by what you eat, the amount of stress you have, if you were breastfed as a child, if you were born vaginally or through C-section, the amount of antibiotics you take, and other factors.This production can be disrupted if the balance of normal digestion is impeded by inflammation or when large numbers of your microbiome is wiped out by taking antibiotics. And when things are not in balance, or you are under a lot of stress or constantly eat things that you have sensitivity or allergy to, the result is constant irritation.
This irritation can lead to leaky gut syndrome, which is where toxins are able to pass through the weakened lining of the digestive tract and enter the bloodstream. When this happens, it can lead to a wide spectrum of symptoms including:
- Skin and nail problems
- UTIs, vaginal infections
- Strong sugar and carb cravings
- Loss of focus, problems focusing
- Digestive issues, and
- Mood disorders like depression and anxiety
How can I get my microbiome back in balance?
With the proper testing and diagnosis, we can determine what factors are causing your mood disorder, and design a treatment plan that will allow you to begin to heal and free yourself from anti-depressants or mood controlling medications.
First we need to determine the cause of the imbalance and remove it. Then once the gut has had a chance to recover, we re-introduce good probiotic bacteria to repopulate the gut. Then through lifestyle and diet changes, we can ensure you are keeping your microbiome healthy, and it in turn keeps you healthy and in control of your emotions.