Depression – A Brain Problem or A Gut Problem?

By Dr Ernst
June 7, 2017

Up to 80% of your immune system is located within your gut (Small and Large Intestine) in what is known as your microbiome – the largest organ in the body by some accounts. Approximately 100 trillion individual bacteria reside in your intestines (approximately 3 lbs. in all). Scientists only recently (July 2015) discovered their health links to depression risk.

Conventional medicine sees depression as a brain problem and will NEVER get to the cause(s). Want proof?

  • 25% of women in their 40s and 50s regularly take an antidepressant
  • Depression is currently the leading cause of disability worldwide, impacting more than 350 million people according to the World Health Organization (WHO)

Is it a brain issue or are poor lifestyle choices causing this massive uptick in depression?

We need to start focusing on finding the causes of depression and not just covering it up with dangerous medications with major side effects. One of my major beefs with the psychiatry industry is the lack of acknowledgement of the mind-body connection. The state of the mind is inextricable for the state of the body and vice versa. Of course, events occur (deaths, divorce, high-stress situations) that affect a person’s emotional state. But if their body is in good shape, these events tend to have only temporary effects.

Of course, many smart people have acknowledged this mind-body connection, talked about it, written books about it and lived it, but now we’re only barely beginning to see the mechanisms of this connection. And that mechanism appears to be the gut.

When the gut is ANGRY, you are ANGRY! When the gut is UPSET, you are UPSET!

Serotonin is a chemical sometimes referred to as the “feel good neurotransmitter.” The more your brain has, the better you feel. This is why conventional doctors give antidepressants to try and hold on the as much of the serotonin in your brain as possible. But what if your body isn’t making it? Eventually, it’ll run out and the meds you’re taking to hold on to this stuff won’t have anything to hold onto.

These same chemicals found in the brain are produced in the GUT! 95% of your serotonin is made in the GUT and about 20% of your dopamine is made there is well. The availability of these chemicals is determined by:

• Your gut bacteria – the balance and diversity of the different gut strains, the health of the population as a whole and the environment in which they live, which brings us to…
• The amount of inflammation in your gut

The gut bacteria not only control the production of inflammation that affect depression, but they also control the absorption of nutrients, i.e., healthy fats, vitamins and minerals necessary for the brain. The higher the levels of inflammation in the gut means a dramatic increases the risk of developing depression. And the higher the levels of inflammation the WORSE the depression. (1)(2)

What are the answers?

  1. Quit damaging your gut (stress, sugar, bad fats, gluten, stress, medication, etc.)
  2. Replace the healthy bacteria (probiotics, fermented foods, etc.)
  3. Stop the inflammation (increase healthy fats, curcumin, right ratio of omega fats, etc.)

Also, as a general message to society in general: having a range of emotions is healthy. As a matter of comparison, we’d be equally (if not more so) concerned about someone who was deliriously happy all the time as we are about people who are sad all the time. My advice to someone who is sad: let it happen. Recognize that emotions are the most temporary part of your identity. They are so temporary that it’s hard to even argue they are a part of your identity.

Take stock first in what’s going well in your life. Even people at a real low can usually identify something to be grateful for. Work from there. Think about what’s not going well in your life and determine if you can do anything to change it. If the answer is yes, take those steps. This simple formula certainly does not mean your journey to mental and physical health will be easy. In fact, it will almost definitely be one of the most difficult things you do in your life.

The good news is, once you see those issues in your life for what they are, you’ll realize that none of them are fixed by a pill. You’ll see a way to rectify them. You’ll see a light at the end of the tunnel. And you’ll realize that even if these things aren’t your fault, they ARE your responsibility. And that’s when you can really get started.


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