Diet, digestion, and detoxification are critical players in the patient with depression. One of the most important aspects of the role of diet is food sensitivities. Delayed sensitivities to food, mediated through IgG food-immune complexes can induce activation of inflammation and subsequently activation of the stress response, thus highlighting how daily dietary exposure to foods can serve as a stressor to some patients leading to symptoms of depression.
The digestive tract and its associated organs, the active bacterial populations, and the gut epithelial barrier that separates the inside and outside environments all constitute important areas of consideration when treating depression.
If you’re not digesting, you’re not absorbing, and if you’re not absorbing, you’re malnourished. It’s basic science to know if you are even modestly deficient in crucial nutrients like magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folic acid, you’re putting your nervous system at risk. Proper production of the brain chemicals that regulate mood ABSOLUTELY RELY on these nutrients. It’s a very simple connection to draw between the gut and the brain, yet no psychiatrist will ask you about your digestion and no gastroenterologist will ask you about your mood. Hmmmm…..
Bi-directional communication occurs between the central nervous system (brain) and the peripheral nervous system, of which 40% resides in the intestines, forming what we know as the “gut-brain axis”. This is further driven home from the literature citing that psychiatric disorders including depression occur in 20-50% of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Stress hormones can be a major trigger in gut barrier dysfunction (ie, leaky gut), thus predisposing to intestinal inflammation and bacterial flora imbalances that lead to psychoactive symptoms such as depression. Psychobiotics are live organisms that, when ingested in adequate amounts, produce a health benefit in patients suffering from psychiatric illness. As a class of probiotic, these bacteria are capable of producing and delivering neuroactive substances such as GABA and serotonin, which act on the brain-gut axis. Evidence is emerging of psychobiotic benefits in alleviating symptoms of depression and in chronic fatigue syndrome. Such benefits may be related to the anti-inflammatory actions of certain bacteria and a capacity to optimize hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis imbalances.
Toxins, and their biotransformation or detoxification, are important as well in relation to depression. Toxins from chemicals, mold, microbes, foods, drugs, hormones and more can have a profound impact on brain function and mood. While we cannot escape exposure to all environmental toxins, we can avoid many in food, water, and pesticides. The average person consumes a gallon of neurotoxic pesticides a year. And there are 3,500 different additives put into our food supply. And the old idea that the blood-brain barrier acts as an impenetrable shield against harmful elements is no longer sufficient. In essence, what we’re beginning to see is this correlation between “leaky gut” and also having a “leaky brain”.
When I treat people for digestion problems, or when I treat food allergies, or when I detox patients from heavy metals, I clearly see their mental/emotional conditions improve. Their mood gets better, their depression lifts, their brain fog resolves.
Not the only important system(s) to treating depression successfully, but these 3 Ds are vital nonetheless to the bigger picture and personalizing care.