The Root Cause of Depression is in Your Gut, Not Your Brain
For a very long time, it has been believed that a hormonal imbalance in the brain was the root cause of depression. Although it was scientifically proven, what was one major thing that was causing this imbalance in certain people?
Recently, while studying the bacteria in the intestines, scientists have found links between the inflammation of the intestines and certain mental and immune system disorders. The nerve that starts in our brain and travels our entire body all the way to the end of our intestines is called the “vagus” nerve and it is the longest nerve in our body. It is believed to be responsible of many health conditions like mental, respiratory, and gastrointestinal among others.
New research shows that the vagus nerve is affected by the bacteria and inflammation in our guts (you know the expression having a gut feeling) and in return, sends a certain message to our brain creating the imbalance and disorder. The good news is, now that we are able to see depression in a whole new way, we can help ourselves by making simple changes in our diets and improve not just our mental health but our overall health as well.
Here is what you can do to change your diet in order to decrease your depression. (These are natural suggestions only, and are not meant to replace medical therapy, so please do not stop your therapy if you are seeing a doctor, and if you are not seeing one and feel you need it, please talk to a professional.):
- Eat whole foods, stay away from processed food
Processed foods contain too many harmful chemicals and ingredients that are not good for our health and these ingredients are not natural for our bodies so we work extra hard to get them out of our system but unfortunately not everything is kicked out. Certain chemicals stay with us forever and cause damage in our physical and mental health. Eat fresh, whole foods. If you are not a big fan of vegetables, it is time to change this bad habit. Try to buy organic meat and organic vegetables as much as you can.
- Choose food that is high in nutrients so you don’t need extra supplements
If we can eat a balanced diet that contains all the vitamins and minerals we need, we would not need to take dietary supplements. Unfortunately those supplements, if not chosen carefully, can cause more harm than good.
- Eat foods that are rich in antioxidants
If you ever wonder how you will remember which of the vegetables or legumes are rich in antioxidants, here is a simple way. The red and purple ones. Like plums, all kinds of berries, red beans, kidney beans, beets etc.
- Eat protein and good fat
Protein is very important for our nervous system which directly affects our mental state. If we do not include enough protein in our diet, we will soon start noticing the side effects. Weaker muscles, bad moods, feeling sad etc. Keep in mind that in the western world, 30 to 40% of our diet includes fat. We need to replace the bad fats with the good ones. Monounsaturated and unsaturated fats are good for you (foods that include omega-3 like fish for example), trans fat is a no no. Stay away from that bag of chips!
- Eat good carbs
Just like fats have a bad reputation, so do carbs. However, just like there are good fats, there are also good carbs. Carbs you get from fruits and vegetables are not bad for you. But carbs you get from foods that contain gluten are not good for you. So do not dismiss all carbs at once but keep the good ones in and kick the bad ones out.
- Stay away from sugar, bleached flour and rice and salt
Sugar that is not natural and especially the ones that are used in diet drinks and foods are one of the major causes of obesity, bleached rice and flour are known to mess up your blood sugar levels and cause inflammation in your intestines, salt will dehydrate you and will also increase your blood pressure. Stay away from all of these and try to replace them with natural options, like honey or banana or cinnamon instead of sugar, unbleached rice or gluten free flour, try sea salt instead of regular salt for example.
- Eat gluten free food
There is so much discussion about this. But the facts are undeniable. Gluten is directly responsible for the inflammation in our guts which is also related to depression and anxiety among many other things. Gluten can cause skin allergies, gastrointestinal problems, certain autoimmune disorders. Try to keep it out of your diet as much as possible. Eat fresh food and organic meat. Try to stay away from store bought sauces and salad dressings as some of them do contain gluten.
- Eat foods that are rich in amino acids
Legumes and fish will be your best friends. Foods that are rich in amino acids and omega-3 have a direct effect on your nervous system. The healthier the nervous system, the lesser the amount of depression and anxiety. It is that simple.
- Eat foods that are rich in vitamins B and D
Seafood, dairy (organic) and eggs are rich in vitamin D. If you can’t eat enough of these, get enough sunlight every day as it is a good source of vitamin D3 which is very important for a strong immune system. Seafood and dairy are also rich in vitamin B as well as other meat. Legumes, seeds, nuts are good sources of this vitamin as well. Try to include them as much as possible in your diet. Vitamin B is very important for our nervous system and it also gives our body the fuel it needs to run.
- Cut back on caffeine and drink more water
Caffeine will increase our anxiety level and this can very easily turn into a chronic state lowering the iron level in our blood where we will feel tired and depressed all the time. It also dehydrates our body. In order to give our body enough water, yes, we need to drink more water but also stay away from foods and drinks that dehydrate us like caffeine or foods high in sodium and salt etc.
This article 10 Healthy Eating Habits to Treat Depression and Cultivate Healthy Gut Bacteria was originally published here at isoulscience.com August 16, 2016.