As the United States observes the month of March as National Nutrition Month (NNM), reminding all Americans of the significance of making informed dietary choices and inculcating healthy eating habits, much needs to be done to create awareness about the benefits of scientific food and nutrition information. This year, “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” is the theme for NNM 2017, which reiterates the fact that every individual holds the key to make healthier food choices.
In the recent years, an ever-growing corpus of nutritionists, dieticians, psychiatrists, physicians and other experts in the medical community have collectively acknowledged a connection between the gut and the brain owing to the complex relationship between the myriads of microorganisms resident in the gastrointestinal tract and the modus operandi of the human brain.
Research shows that human beings actually have two nervous systems created out of the same type of tissue, the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord, and the enteric nervous system (ENS), which is the intrinsic nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract. During the stage of fetal development, one part transforms into the CNS, while the other develops into the ENS. It is well established that the vagus nerve of the tenth cranial nerve that runs all the way from the brain stem to the abdomen is the primary pathway which the gut bacteria use to communicate with the brain.
The transmission of information from the gut to the brain is a fairly common occurrence. Experiencing the visceral sensation of butterflies in your stomach when nervous or stress leading to a bad stomach are two instances, which exemplify the relationship between the stomach and the mind. Additionally, even the flip side could hold true, gastrointestinal disorders could have an adverse impact on an individual’s mental health, causing anxiety, depression and mood-related disorders.
Probiotics could be new antidepressants
Healing the mind through the digestive system may sound ridiculous but that’s the in-thing now. Altering the bacteria in the gut is the key to better manage stress, mood and even combat anxiety or depression, might be tough to believe. However, overwhelming research into the intriguing world of the gut-brain connection suggests that mind-altering probiotics that are capable of changing the gut microflora hold the key to potential treatments for mental health challenges like depression and anxiety.
Researchers say that psychobiotics, which are actually mood-altering probiotics, when ingested in adequate amounts have the power to transforms moods, reduce anxiety and alleviate depression in patients. The probiotics are known for their ability to produce different types of biologically active compounds, such as neurotransmitters, which facilitate communication between the gut and the brain. The neurotransmitters trigger cells within the gut’s lining to release molecules that signal brain function and affect behavior.
A second way that probiotics work on the brain is by exerting influence on the body’s stress response system, involving the brain and the adrenal glands. Chronic stress causes the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to become dysfunctional, disrupting the production and rhythmic timing of cortisol and other stress-related hormones.
Thirdly, experts believe that the anti-inflammatory properties of probiotics act on the brain, curing the underlying causes of depression and other mood-related disorders.
Eating habits for healthy gut-brain connection
There are certain eating habits one cab adopt to maintain a healthy gut-brain connection:
- Avoiding processed foods: Ultra-processed foods containing refined sugar and processed fructose form about 60 percent of the average American’s diet, and are the main reason behind aggravated depression, migraines, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
- Consuming probiotics: Including probiotic-rich foods, such as kefir and sauerkraut, in one’s diet goes a long way in ensuring harmony between the gut and the mood. Besides, probiotics also help in nutrient absorptions and boosting immunity.
- Reducing gluten intake: Limiting gluten intake will certainly have a positive effect on the gastrointestinal microbiome. Studies suggest that gluten may cause depression and mood disorders in people suffering from non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
- Eating healthy fats: Antioxidants in healthy fats foster brain development, memory and cognitive function. They also help in improving digestive disorders and fluctuating moods. Avocados and olive oil are great sources of healthy fats.
- Consuming mushrooms: Eating shiitake mushroom, which abound in vitamin B6, facilitates the production of serotonin and neurotransmitters in the body. Also, healthy B6 levels are linked to positive moods and lowered stress and known to alleviate mood disorders such as depression.
- Eating a handful of nuts: Nuts such as almonds, cashews, walnuts and Brazil nuts are full of serotonin, which is a feel-good chemical that is known to regulate bad moods. Also, the healthy fats, B vitamins and magnesium in nuts help ward off stress and mild anxiety.
- Eating sesame seeds: Sesame seeds are a powerhouse of mood-boosting nutrients, such as tyrosine, an amino acid known to boost the brain’s dopamine levels. They also contain minerals such as zinc, which reduces anger and depression.
Unfortunately, depression not viewed as chronic condition
Depression is a mental health problem affecting about 16 million people in the U.S. each year. Despite the availability of several effective treatments, the stigma of being branded as a weak person prevents many from overcoming mental illness through professional help. However, the help and support of family members go a long way in reducing the stigma associated with the illness.
Mental health professionals have given tips on how to deal with mental illness. Managing mental illness on the same lines as in the case of other chronic diseases demands a thorough mental health diagnosis, regular check-ups, monitoring of treatment adherence including effectiveness and spreading awareness on the disorder to patients and their families. Family members of patients should ensure that they get sufficient sleep and good nutrition that will further strengthen their desire to overcome mental depression.
Journey to recovery
Depression must be nipped in the bud or else it can be immensely devastating. Do not let it grow to an extent where there is no scope for recovery. The Sovereign Health Group provides treatments for all kinds of mental health disorders as well as any underlying health condition.
Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California offers a variety of customized mental health treatment programs suited to treat the person holistically. Patients can opt for individual and group psychotherapy, or alternative therapeutic activities to regain control of their lives.
Sadly, many people fail to recognize the symptoms of depression. Whether you are looking for mental illness treatment centers in California or at a place closer home, we have facilities in all major places in the country. Our residential mental health facilities in California are among the best in the nation. Call at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 819-0427 or chat online to know about the causes of depression and most effective recovery programs to treat them at the earliest.