Is Your Gut Making You Depressed?

Anthia Koullouros

Naturopath and Holistic Health Expert

Healthy gut microbiota, also referred to as microflora is vital for our health and wellbeing. The role of healthy gut microbiota and the immune system and digestive health are well-researched topics. However, recently the spot light has turned towards the relationship between gut microbiota, the nervous system and depression. Studies show that there could be a link between our mental health and gut health, meaning there is more reasons that ever to listen to your gut.

gutImage via pinterest 

What Is Gut Microbiota?

The term microbiota refers to the ecosystem or microbe population living in our intestine. According to Gut Microbiota For Health, ‘Our gut microbiota contains tens or trillions of microorganisms with at least 1000 different species and can way up to 2kg’. Having well balanced and healthy levels of gut microbiota is essential for good health. It performs a host of useful functions, such as fermenting food, training the immune system, preventing the growth of harmful bacteria and regulating. It is when our gut microbiota is out of balance as an overgrowth or undergrowth of bacteria that health problems can occur.

Depression and Microbiota

The topic of gut health and depression is currently trending in the research world. With studies on the subject matter highlighting this connection rapidly expanding. The term ‘Gut- Brain Axis’ has been coined to define the complex relationship or communication system between the gut and central nervous system or brain. Most simply, our digestive system has its own nervous system called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), commonly referred to as the ‘second brain’. According to recent research, there is accumulating evidence that points to the critical role the gut microbiota plays in regulating this axis. When our microbiota is imbalanced this communication can be disturbed and this can impact our mood, concentration and focus. This is highlighted by the fact that 90% of serotonin, our ‘happy chemical’ is created in the digestive system. In my own clinical practice, I have experienced how addressing imbalanced microbiota can help improve mood and depression.

One example of how our microbiota is linked to our brain can be seen with Escherichia coli or also known as E.coli. Escherichia coli is responsible for the production of a number of important metabolites. It produces Chorismate, which is the precursor to the production of folic acid and Tryptophan, the precursors to our happy hormones. When our digestive microflora is out of balance, this can then impact our mood.

How to rebalance microbiota?

If you feel as though your gut health may be impacted your health or mood the first thing to do is visit your health care practitioner and do a Comprehensive Stool Analysis to assess imbalance (under or overgrowth). Your practitioner will work out whether a herbal or antibiotic approach is best for you to eliminate the pathogens, reduce the numbers of yeast or increase or decrease the numbers of bacteria in your microbiota. Once the imbalance is corrected it’s all about maintenance.

Food and Lifestyle Tips To Encourage Healthy Gut Microbiota.

1. Enjoy Bone stock broths on a daily basis. Bone stock broth is a rich source of gelatin, a nutrient that promotes healthy digestion by restoring the gut lining.

2. Incorporate one to two serves of probiotic foods daily. Probiotic foods include: Fermented foods and drinks include beet kvass, kombucha, kefir, yoghurt, sauerkraut or fermented vegetables.

fermentImage via pinterest 

3. Eat fresh, clean and unprocessed foods from both plants and animals. Enjoy vegetables, fresh and cultured, whole fats and proteins from healthy pastured animals, non-farmed seafood, some well-prepared nuts and seeds, small amounts of seasonal fruit and whole unprocessed cultured dairy.

4. Avoid sugar, gluten, additives, caffeine and alcohol. These foods are harmful to the balance of your gut microbiota and encourage gut dysbiosis.

5. Stay Hydrated. Ensuring you drink enough fluids will help create healthy bowel motions.

6. Exercise! Move your body and exercise to create healthy circulation to the digestive system.

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