Can Gut Health Impact Mental Health?

Can Gut Health Impact Mental Health?

Mental Health Gut Article

It may be hard to comprehend that our gut has anything to do with our emotions. But, there is growing research showing that our gut has an instrumental role in managing our mood and supporting our mental health. Now, more than ever, the prevalence of mental health issues and mood disorders have been soaring to all-time highs. This has a huge impact on our ability to function at work, manage a household, puts strain on relationships, and challenges our ability to enjoy what life has to offer.

For many, the first line treatment for mood disorders are a prescription for antidepressant medications. Unfortunately, although some people find antidepressant medications helpful, a growing body of evidence is showing they are often ineffective or provide only minor relief and come with a whole host of side effects. With mood disorders and mental health challenges, as with most aspects of health care, we believe it is really important to address the underlying root cause.

There are a number of contributory factors concerning depression. Among the common factors are trauma, life events and genetics. There are also biophysiological factors that can also heavily influence our mood, and these include:

Why does our gut impact our mood?

Believe it or not, there isn’t one reason, but rather multiple factors that influence our brain chemistry and mood via our gut.

Our gut – and in particular our gut microbiome – can play a role in a wide range of neurological conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, chronic pain, stress, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and of course, depression and anxiety. (15)

There are various nerves that connect from our brain to our gut and these are in constant communication with each other. Plus, we have neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which play a crucial role in regulating mood – and 80% of serotonin is produced by the gut!

How does our gut impact our mood?

 

  1. Gut-brain connection

Our gut has also been coined “second brain” and that it because it has its own complex nervous system called the enteric nervous system (ENS). Our gut contains an estimated 500 million neurons, stretching 9 meters long. No wonder it is referred to as the second brain! There are hundreds of millions of neurons connecting the brain to the enteric nervous system. 

The gut-brain-axis connects the ENS and central nervous system (CNS), allowing your gut to communicate with the brain, and vice versa. So, when our gut is not working properly then our brain can often become negatively impacted as well via a feedback loop in the nervous system.

  1. Good versus bad bacteria in the gut

We all have good and bad bacteria in our gut. What is important is that we keep the bad bacteria in our gut to a minimum and make sure we have plenty of good bacteria that include a variety of different healthy species. In fact, bacteria outnumber human cells in the body 10 to one and they have an instrumental role that these bacteria have in our body.

Research suggests that healthy gut flora may help reduce depression symptoms and that changing the gut microbiome could potentially be a treatment option. (4) One of the reasons for this is that research shows the gut microbiome can influence levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter — a chemical messenger — that helps regulate mood and promotes feelings of happiness.

Different types of species can have a role to play too. Researchers found that those with depression showed differences in specific groups of “bad” gut bacteria and that people with higher concentrations of certain other “good” gut bacteria generally reported better mental well-being. (1). People with depression were also seen to more likely have depleted levels of the good bacteria (specifically Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus Coprococcus and Dialister) compared with people who reported a higher quality of life and mood.(2,3)

The gut microbiome is so powerful in influencing our body chemistry that it can even affect our response to medications in both the effectiveness and/or side effects of medications used to treat these disorders. So, even if you are taking an antidepressant your response to that medication, either positive or negative, could be as a result of your bacteria in your gut. (5,6)

  1. Digestive Disorders

Another reason why the gut impacts mood can be seen through individuals that have issues with their digestion. Research has found that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) had higher levels of depression than people without IBS. (7) One reason goes back to the microbiome imbalances. One study showed that people with depression also had bacteria associated with Crohn’s disease. (2,3)

Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are particularly common among patients with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and IBS. Changes in neurotransmitters play a role in the development (or potentiation) of mood disorders seen in patients with SIBO and other GI issues. 

How to Improve Gut Health to Benefit Mood

  1. Follow a Mediterranean diet

A 2018 systematic review concluded that people who followed the Mediterranean diet had a 33% lower chance of being depressed than people who did not. (8) This is due to the limited intake of processed foods and sugars and the high intake of fish, good fats, nuts/seeds, whole grains and a variety of fruits and vegetables which support gut health and help feed good bacteria.

  1. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables contain high antioxidants that can help manage inflammation associated with depression and other mood disorders (9). A recent study found eating four extra portions of fruit and vegetables could boost people’s mental health. The more fruit and vegetable people ate, the less likely they were to be diagnosed with a mental illness. (10)

Dietary fiber, like that contained in fruits and vegetables, supports the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria. One study found the variety of bacteria in the gut microbiome was based on the variety of fruits and vegetables in a person’s diet and that the microbial composition of the gut can be rapidly altered with dietary changes. (11)

  1. Make sure you include berries in your diet each day

Berries are high in anthocyanins and fiber to support healthy gut flora and digestion. They are also a great option if you have sugar cravings and need a healthy alternative. One study associated a diet rich in anthocyanins (such as berries) with a 39% lower risk of depression symptoms (12).

Research also shows that blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries may block the chemicals that cause depression and anxiety (13).

  1. Avoid sugar and processed foods

Sugar and refined grains feed the bad bacteria in our guts which can negatively impact our mood. Research shows that people who ate more unhealthy food were more likely to report psychological distress compared with people who ate a healthy diet. In fact, research showed that eating fried foods or foods contain too much sugar and processed grains is linked to depression. (14)

  1. Eat fermented foods

Fermented foods includes kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha. Fermented foods are filled with good bacteria to help support healthy gut flora. Many beneficial probiotic strains are contained in traditionally fermented foods. Research has shown that these healthy bacteria not only help to produce neurochemicals, but also help the body respond to them as well.

Summary

If you are someone that struggles with depression or other mood disorders (and potentially have digestive issues) there could be a number factors that would be beneficial to address – leaky gut, food intolerances/allergies, gut microbiome imbalances such as SIBO, and nutrient deficiencies due to poor absorption.

You may wish to consider seeking support from a health professional. Getting your gut health assessed is best done by a Naturopath doctor who can complete the appropriate testing. Blood lab work, stool analysis, and breath tests for SIBO are just some of the functional tests that can be completed to help get to the root cause of a potential physiological issue that is influencing your mood.

References

  1. https://www.webmd.com/depression/understanding-depression-basics#:~:text=Researchers%20found%20that%20among%20over%202%2C100%20adults%2C%20those,other%20gut%20bugs%20generally%20reported%20better%20mental%20well-being.
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-018-0337-x
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27288567/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27591027/
  6. https://gut.bmj.com/content/69/8/1510
  7. https://www.jnmjournal.org/journal/view.html?doi=10.5056/jnm16220
  8. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-018-0237-8
  9. Redzo Mujcic et al. Does eating fruit and vegetables also reduce the longitudinal risk of depression and anxiety? A commentary on ‘Lettuce be happy,’ Social Science & Medicine (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.01.004
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29662448/ 
  11. Journal information: Social Science & Medicine
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29695122/ 
  13. Keservani RK, Sharma AK, Kesharwani RK. Medicinal Effect of Nutraceutical Fruits for the Cognition and Brain Health. Scientifica (Cairo). 2016;2016:3109254. doi:10.1155/2016/3109254
  14. https://works.bepress.com/jim-banta/41/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24583088/ 

 

Bone Broth

Bone Broth

Two Glasses with Detox Green Smoothie

Bone broth is a popular superfood – and rightfully so!

Among other advantages, bone broth boasts the ability to improve immunity, support gut health, and build strong bones, joints, hair, skin, and nails. We’ve written more on the benefits of bone broth here.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect first-food for your little one, recovering from an illness or injury, working on improving your gut health, or just looking for a healthy addition to your diet – bone broth is an excellent choice!

For this recipe in particular, we’ve used a turkey carcass, which is a great option around the holidays to get all the nutrition out of your holiday bird. That said, you can also make this recipe using chicken carcasses and giblets, marrow bones from beef or lamb, or with fish heads and seaweed. Bone broth is a fabulous way to ensure you’re using all parts of the animals you’re consuming so nothing goes to waste.

Also of note, we’ve included instructions below to create this recipe on the stovetop, but it can be done in a crockpot as well! For those of you who have an Instapot, that is also an option, but you would need to adjust the cooking time considerably.

Bone broth can be enjoyed in many ways. Use it as a base for soups or stews, to cook veggies or rice in, or simply in a mug by itself as a warm and soothing drink.

No matter why you’re consuming it, whatever combination of bones you choose, or however you prepare it – we hope you enjoy your own homemade bone broth!

 

References

1. Efficacy of glutamine-enriched enteral nutrition in an experimental model of mucosal ulcerative colitis

2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/bone-broth-101

Turkey Bone Broth

Among other advantages, bone broth boasts the ability to improve immunity, support gut health, and build strong bones, joints, hair, skin, and nails.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 hrs
Total Time 10 hrs 10 mins
Servings 24 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Turkey Carcass From a Roasted Bird it’s okay to have some meat and skin attached to the bones
  • Turkey Giblets
  • 1 Large Onion coarsely chopped
  • 6 cloves Garlic smashed
  • 1 cup Parsley 1 small bunch
  • 1 Manderine Orange Peel orange peel or lemon peel works too
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 7 quarts Filtered Water

Instructions
 

  • Place the turkey carcass and giblets in a large stockpot. Add the onion, garlic, parsley, orange peel, and bay leaves, and cover with cold water.
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 8-10 hours.
  • Discard the solids and strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a large container. From there, ladle the broth into mason jars (be sure to leave a couple inches of space at the top if you plan to freeze).
  • Once the broth is cool, you’ll be able to skim the fat off the surface easily with a spoon.
  • Enjoy, and refrigerate or freeze the leftovers for later.

Notes

Nutritional information per serving:
Calories - 44
Sugar - 0g
Carbs - 3g
Fat - 1g
Protein - 7.5g
Fibre - 0g

Is Bone Broth Good For You?

Is Bone Broth Good For You?

Is bone broth good for you koru nutrition

These days everyone seems to be jumping on the bone broth bandwagon!

Fans of bone broth claim it to be a nutrient gold mine and with an abundance of minerals, collagen, gelatin, and amino acids such as glutamine and glycine… it may very well be.

Bone broth is simply animal bones that are simmered, often with vegetables, for many hours to allow the nutrients from the bones to infuse into the water to become a nutrient dense broth.

Top 7 Benefits Of Bone Broth

Supports Immunity

Amino acids present in bone broth, like arginine, glutamine, and cysteine, have been shown to boost immunity. Studies have shown that bone broth can help to improve upper respiratory tract infections by mitigating inflammation, clearing mucus, and opening respiratory pathways.

Reduces Inflammation

Studies show that many of the amino acids in bone broth, such as cystine, histidine, and glycine, reduce inflammation. Additionally, L-glutamine specifically reduces gut inflammation.

Healthy Hair, Skin and Nails

Collagen and chondroitin sulfate in bone broth supports skin, nail, and hair health. Collagen is a compound that our body’s create to keep our skin healthy and young looking, to make our nails strong but flexible, and to build lustrous hair. By consuming animal-based collagen, it ensures your body is provided all the building-blocks necessary for collagen production in hair, skin and nails.

Strong Bones and Joints

The rich mineral and glucosamine content in bone broth has been shown to strengthen bones and teeth, and support connective tissue, joint and bone health.

Hydration

Bone broth adds electrolytes (minerals) and to the diet. Studies have shown that drinking broth can rehydrate better than water alone due to the electrolytes. This may be especially useful if you’re recovering from an illness.

Build & Maintain Muscle Mass

The amino acids in bone broth can help stimulate muscle protein synthesis, otherwise described as building muscle. Muscle protein synthesis is essential for the ongoing growth, repair, and maintenance of skeletal muscle groups. The maintenance of muscle mass is a major factor in overall health following an injury and as we age.

Gut Health

Perhaps bone broth’s biggest claim to fame in today’s diet is the role it plays in supporting gut health. Bone broth is easily digested and soothing to the digestive system and therefore is a staple of many therapeutic, gut-healing diets.

In a healthy gut, the intestinal lining consists of tight junctions (a special pathway where two intestinal cells meet) which control what passes through into the bloodstream. For an individual with “leaky gut”, these junctions don’t work properly resulting in undigested particles of food “leaking” through the intestinal lining and entering the bloodstream. The body then recognizes these undigested food particles in the blood as foreign substances resulting in an autoimmune-like response, as the body attacks healthy tissue. Studies have shown bone broth to be beneficial in restoring the gut lining and supporting intestinal health.

How To Consume Bone Broth

The best and least expensive way to consume bone broth is to make it yourself using bones (ideally from grass fed, organic animals). Check out our Turkey Bone Broth recipe here.

If you cannot, or do not want to, make bone broth, there are now several companies that make it that can be found in natural health food stores. Look for companies that use only organic bones and do not add any MSG, stabilizers, flavours, or preservatives. Often they can be found in the frozen section.

Whether you make it yourself or purchase it, bone broth can be enjoyed in many ways! It can be used as a base for soups or stews, to cook veggies or rice in, or simply in a mug by itself as a warm and soothing drink.

References:

i. Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro

ii.Efficacy of glutamine-enriched enteral nutrition in an experimental model of mucosal ulcerative colitis

iii. Broth is beautiful