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gut bacteria and anxiety copy

New research has found a link between gut bacteria and anxiety — the diversity and quantity of your gut bacteria can affect your anxiety levels. Scientists believe this could play a role in treating PTSD, or post-traumatic stress syndrome.

In the study, researchers subjected mice to stressful conditions until they showed signs of anxiety and stress: shaking, diminished appetite, and reduced social interaction. Fecal samples showed the stressed mice had less diversity of gut bacteria than calmer mice who had not been subjected to stress.

When they fed the stressed mice the same live bacteria found in the guts of the calm mice, the stressed mice immediately began to calm down. Their stress levels continued to drop in the following weeks.

Brain scans also showed the improved gut flora produced changes in brain chemistry that promotes relaxation.

These biomarkers, according to researchers, can indicate whether someone is suffering from PTSD or is at a higher risk of developing it. Improving gut microflora diversity may play a role in treatment and prevention.

The role of healthy gut bacteria in the military

Because about 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD, the military is interested in the potential of influencing gut bacteria to manage and predict the risk of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Enhancing gut microflora may also help submarine crews who go for long periods in confined spaces and with no daylight.

How to improve the health of your gut bacteria for anxiety, PTSD, depression, obesity, eating disorders

The quality and diversity of gut bacteria, or the “gut microbiome,” has been linked to not only anxiety, but also depression, obesity, eating disorders, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, and many other common disorders.

In other words, if you want to improve your health, you need to tend to your inner garden and make it richly diverse and bountiful. Although we’re still a ways off from a magic-bullet approach, there are many ways you can enrich the environment of your gut microbiome:

Cut out foods that kill good bacteria and promote harmful bacteria: Sugars, processed foods, processed carbohydrates, alcohol and energy drinks, fast foods, food additives, and other unhealthy staples of the standard American diet.

Eat tons of fiber-rich plants, which good bacteria love: All vegetables but especially artichokes, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, as well as fruits. Either way, eat a large diversity of veggies on a regular basis instead of the same thing every day.

Use probiotics: Live, “friendly” bacteria that bolster your gut’s population of healthy microbes. Read the label to make sure they are high in live bacteria. Dietary fiber nourish these friendly probiotic bacteria. This combination of pre- and probiotic support is vital for healthy gut bacteria.

Eat fermented foods: Sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha, and yogurt contain live microbes, and can also help boost the probiotic content of your digestive tract. Not all fermented foods have live cultures so make sure to read the labels.

Protect your existing gut flora: Medications, age, health status, and stress influence your gut microbiome. Eating a fiber-strong, gut-friendly diet and supplementing with probiotics and fermented foods is one of your best strategies for supporting gut health, a healthy mood, and stress resiliency.

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gluten depression anxiety brain fog

Do you suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, brain fog, memory loss, or other brain-based issues? While conventional medicine turns to drug treatments, recent research points to poor gut health as the root of mental illness. This is because inflammation in the gut triggers inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain, bringing on depression, anxiety, brain fog, memory loss and other neurological symptoms. Although many factors affect gut health—and hence brain health—one of the more profound is a sensitivity to gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other wheat-like grains. In fact, a gluten sensitivity has been found to affect brain and nerve tissue more than any other tissue in the body.

Gluten sensitivity once was thought to be limited to celiac disease, an autoimmune response to gluten that damages the digestive tract and is linked to depression. However, newer research has confirmed the validity of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, an immune response to gluten that causes many symptoms, including digestive problems, skin rashes, joint pain, and neurological and psychiatric diseases. Recent research shows gluten degenerates brain and nervous tissue in a significant portion of those with gluten sensitivity.

 

How Does Gluten Affect Mental Health?

 

Gluten can affect mental health in a variety of ways.

For instance, gluten sensitivity can lead to depression, anxiety, brain fog and other brain symptoms by irritating the lining of the small intestine, resulting in “leaky gut,” a condition in which the intestinal wall becomes overly porous. This allows undigested food, toxins and bacteria into the bloodstream where they trigger inflammation throughout the body and brain. Also, certain harmful bacteria that travel through a leaky gut into the bloodstream release toxic molecules (lipopolysaccharides) that are linked to depression and various psychiatric disorders.

Another way gluten can trigger depression is through gluten cross-reactivity. Because gluten is similar in structure to brain tissue, when the immune system attacks gluten in the blood, it can confuse brain tissue with gluten and accidentally attack brain and nerve tissue as well.

Gluten is also known to disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract. There is a relationship between gut bacteria and the brain, and an imbalance in gut bacteria has been linked with psychiatric disorders.

The gut damage caused by a gluten sensitivity can also prevent the absorption of nutrients essential for brain health, especially zinc, tryptophan, and B vitamins. These nutrients are critical for the synthesis of brain chemicals that prevent depression, anxiety and other brain-based disorders.

 

What Steps Can You Take?

 

If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, brain fog, memory loss, or other unresolved brain-based issues, testing for gluten sensitivity can be a valuable tool in knowing how best to manage it. Addressing leaky gut is also paramount.

Ask my office for more information on leaky gut and the connection between gluten and depression, anxiety, brain fog, memory loss, and other brain-based disorders.

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3 03 gut bacteria obesity depression anxiety

We all carry trillions of bacteria in our guts, with as many as a thousand different strains. The composition of these strains, or our “bacterial fingerprint,” can influence whether we are prone to depression, anxiety, or obesity.

Some gut bacteria can make you fat

Studies have shown people (and mice) who are overweight have much higher levels of particular strains of bacteria than thinner subjects. When thin mice are inoculated with bacteria from heavy mice, they gain weight. This is because these fat-promoting bacteria have been shown to encourage overeating, promote weight gain, prevent the burning of fat, and make obese people better at deriving calories from food than thin people.

In a nutshell, your “bacterial fingerprint” plays a role in how much fat you carry and how easy or difficult it is for you to lose weight. Although diet and exercise are important, these findings help to explain why solely relying on the “eat less and exercise more” approach to weight loss is outdated.

Effect of gut bacteria on depression and anxiety

The composition of your gut bacteria can also play a role in whether you suffer from depression and anxiety. For instance, having plenty of beneficial bacteria, such as the Bifidobacteria strain, can promote production of serotonin, the “feel-good” chemical that prevents depression.

On the other hand, too much of “bad” bacterial strains can promote depression and anxiety. This is because the gut is linked to the brain by the vagus nerve, a large nerve that sends messages back and forth between the brain and digestive system. The effects of harmful bacteria in the gut travel to the brain, impacting brain function and mood.

In one study, subjects who took probiotics containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium reported less anxiety, depression, and anger and an improved ability to solve problems. In another study, mice given a Lactobacillus strain cruised through a maze that normally created high anxiety and showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to their probiotic-deprived counterparts.

Cultivating good gut bacteria

Although researchers are still unsure exactly how to banish obesity, depression, and anxiety with probiotics, it’s clear you need to enhance your bacterial fingerprint for optimal health.

Birthing and baby feeding affect gut bacteria

The balance of good and bad bacteria starts at birth—vaginal deliveries and breastfeeding have been shown to improve a child’s chances of starting off with a healthy bacterial colony compared to C-sections and bottle feeding.

Chronic stress and gut bacteria

Chronic stress can throw your bacterial harmony out of balance, as can diets filled with sweets and sugars, processed foods, and fast foods. These foods damage and inflame the intestinal walls, promoting overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeasts.

Cultured food and fiber promotes good gut bacteria

You can promote bacterial harmony by focusing on an anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet that includes cultured and fermented foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented vegetables. If you use store-bought cultured foods, make sure they are the real deal and not simply made with vinegar, or pasteurized, which would kill good bacteria..

A healthy colony of good gut bacteria also relies on plenty of soluble fiber in the diet. Eating plenty of produce will give you just what you need in that respect.

Probiotics for obesity, depression, and anxiety

Fortunately, we have powerful probiotics today that can help you cultivate your inner garden. Probiotics should be stable enough to survive the hot and acidic environment of the stomach and contain ample amounts of beneficial strains. Ask my office for advice on a probiotic that’s right for you.

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what causes anxiety

Suffering from anxiety is like being held prisoner in a place where worry infuses every thought, your heart pounds, and the world seems jarring and disorienting. With anti-anxiety medications among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, Americans are clearly suffering. Though medications relieve the symptoms, they don’t address the cause.

Some causes of anxiety are obvious: stimulants such as caffeine, weight loss pills, energy drinks, or supplements that increase energy. Psychological or emotional stressors, such as having to speak in public or prepare for a major exam, can also bring on bouts of anxiety.

However, chronic anxiety can have lesser-known causes that, if managed, can relieve symptoms and negate the need for medication. Although the cause of anxiety can sometimes be neurologically complex, other times it can be as simple as making some changes to your diet and lifestyle. Below are a few lesser-known causes of anxiety.

GAD autoimmunity and anxiety

GAD stands for glutamic acid decarboxylase, an enzyme that triggers production of the brain’s primary calming chemical, called GABA. Some people develop an autoimmune reaction to GAD, which means their immune system erroneously attacks and destroys it. As a result, they can’t make enough GABA to calm the brain and anxiety goes up. GAD autoimmunity is also linked to obsessive compulsive disorder, motion sickness, vertigo, facial tics, and other symptoms. GAD autoimmunity is more common in those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease and a gluten-free diet can alleviate symptoms.

Gluten and anxiety

Gluten has other links to anxiety. It’s hard to believe something as innocent as your morning toast or a bowl of spaghetti could cause anxiety, but recent research shows that is the case for many people. Gluten has been shown to trigger inflammation in the brain and autoimmune attacks against brain tissue, which can cause anxiety. Although a gluten-free diet is an important first step, many people find they also need to eliminate other foods such as dairy, eggs, or other grains to dampen immune flare-ups and anxiety. An anti-inflammatory autoimmune diet is a good beginning to address brain health.

Blood sugar imbalances and anxiety

It’s amazing how many chronic health issues stem from a blood sugar imbalance caused by eating a high-carbohydrate diet. Every time you eat too many carbs in the way of breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, desserts, pastries, soda or sweet coffee drinks you send blood sugar and insulin surging and crashing. When this happens daily it can create a multitude of neurological symptoms, including anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, and fatigue. Skipping meals and drinking too much coffee also feeds this cycle. A lower-carb, whole foods diet with enough healthy proteins and fats can keep energy on an even keel and tame anxiety.

Unmanaged Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

The majority of cases of hypothyroidism in this country are autoimmune, meaning the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. When an autoimmune attack flares, damage to the gland spills thyroid hormone into the bloodstream, which can amp up metabolism and cause symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, and heart palpitations. In this case proper management of the autoimmune thyroid condition can help subdue anxiety.

These are just a handful of possible causes of anxiety typically overlooked in the standard health care model. Ask my office for other strategies on managing anxiety using natural means.

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Childhood stomach aches adult depression anxiety

Many dismiss childhood stomach aches as a normal part of growing up. However research shows that chronic childhood stomach aches could result in anxiety and depression later in life.

A Stanford University researcher found that gastric irritation early in life could pave the way for lifelong psychological problems. Of course, not all childhood stomach aches will lead to adult depression and anxiety; genetic makeup and when the stomach aches occur developmentally are also important factors.

Researcher Pankaj Pasricha, MD, notes that 15 to 20 percent of people experience chronic pain in the upper abdomen, and are more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression than their peers.

Gut and brain hardwired together

Dr. Pasricha points to the connection between the gut and brain as an explanation for psychological issues related to childhood stomach aches. The gut has its own nervous system—similar to that of the brain—and is hardwired to the brain by the vagus nerve, a nerve that runs from the brain to the internal organs. As a result of signals transferred back and forth, disturbances in the gut can impact the brain.

To test whether chronic childhood gut problems could lead to adult anxiety and depression, researchers performed experiments on baby rats, irritating their stomachs for six days.

Study shows early gut problems lead to adult anxiety

Researchers found that these rats showed significantly more anxiety and depression than their peers. They also had higher levels of stress hormones. It was concluded that the early gastric irritation permanently altered their brain function. However, when the researchers inhibited the release of stress hormones in the affected rats, they behaved more normally.

Addressing gut-based anxiety and depression

A number of studies show that chronic inflammation rewires the brain to become more sensitive to stress. This causes one to become “stressed out” very easily and suffer from disorders such as anxiety and depression.

So what can you do? First (if you have children), think preventively. Take colic and chronic stomach aches seriously. Intolerance to certain foods, such as gluten or dairy, is often the culprit. Other possibilities include bacterial infections, yeast overgrowth, or parasites.

Bearing all this in mind, the most important first step is to remove the inflammatory triggers that perpetuate the stress. An anti-inflammatory diet is a great way to start. However you may need additional support—such as a gut-cleanse and repair—to unwind inflammation affecting both the brain and the gut.

Chronic stress also leads to depleted and imbalanced brain chemicals, called “neurotransmitters.” Neurotransmitters regulate our moods, function, and even our personality. And because the gut has its own nervous system, neurotransmitter imbalances also lead to poor digestive function.

My office can recommend specific nutritional therapies to help unwind stress, restore gut health, and improve brain chemistry. If your child complains of stomach distress, it’s important that you address the problem right away, in order to reduce the risk of depression or anxiety later in life.

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