Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the country. With antidepressants not always being effective or making symptoms worse, people have turned to more natural options for treating depression.
While there are dietary changes, supplemental additions, and lifestyle changes you can make to naturally treat depression, there is a secret option many do not know about. Hidden in the depths of your gut are trillions of bacteria that can promote good mental health.
The Gut-Brain Axis: Your Road to Good Mental Health
It should come as no surprise that the common trends in the Western diet and lifestyle coincide with increased occurrences of depression. As poor dietary choices and an over-reliance on antibiotics wipe out our friendly gut bacteria, both physical and mental illness increases.
Research has long shown that there exists a direct communication link between your gut and your brain. The gut-brain axis is thought to explain why depression and anxiety symptoms are closely linked to gastrointestinal disorders. Most of the research has focused on how the brain can impact gut health, but what about the gut’s impact on brain health?
Pharmaceutical companies caught on to this after discovering that over 50 percent of patients with irritable bowel syndrome also had symptoms of depression. Treatment with antidepressants cleared up depression symptoms as well as the digestive disorder, confirming the link.
3 Methods to Help Reduce Depression
Depression can come in many forms, and can be exacerbated in many ways. When your worries spiral out of control, you are left feeling helpless, sad, and depressed. The negative cycle begins and you end up withdrawing from life in an attempt to get away from all that is worrying you. As you get deeper into depression, your body starts to physically and mentally change, increasing your risk for serious disease and illness.
To control depressive thinking and prevent serious illness, here are three methods that might be able to help the flow of negative emotions:
- Meditation: The ancient Buddhist practice of meditation allows you to focus your brain on resent time. The worries of the past and future are removed, allowing your mind to feel calm and free. Numerous studies have proved the beneficial impact of meditation on mood disorders. The best part about meditation is that it can be done at any time. Whenever a depressed feeling comes over you, simply find a quiet place and re-focus your thoughts to a positive image or mantra. Increase the benefits of meditation further by combining it with the ancient Japanese art of forest bathing and watch your anxiety wash away.
- Write thoughts down: Writing down thoughts that are troubling you has been proven to be a successful way of coping with depression. Negative thoughts can become damaging as they continually run through your brain. Writing them down provides relief because they no longer have to occupy space in your head. Plus, once they are written down, they become real, and your brain can attempt to solve the problem.
- Exercise: Regular exercise triggers the release of endorphins in your body. These hormones are the feel-good chemicals responsible for giving athletes a “runner’s high.” In the same way, endorphins can alter the brain chemistry of a depressed individual. Research supports the theory that regular exercise can ease symptoms of depression and help to elevate your mood daily.
The Best Probiotic Foods for Depression
Antidepressants are not always a favorite treatment option because of the potentially harmful side effects that accompany them. In some cases, drugs can make depressive symptoms worse or cause all-new ones. Because of these dangers, it has become necessary to seek out alternatives, and the most surprising option lives in your gut.
Because of the gut-brain axis, your gut health is directly related to the health of your brain. This means a depressed mind can trigger physical changes in your gut, which is why gastrointestinal disorders are almost always found in individuals with depression. In the same way, an unhappy gut can trigger changes in your brain and depressive symptoms result.
To break the cycle, you can add probiotic foods or probiotic supplements to your diet. Probiotic support allows you to boost the bacterial presence in your gut, and this ultimately improved gut health and delivers beneficial support and protection to your brain. The best probiotic foods to incorporate in your diet are:
- Yogurt: When buying yogurt, stick to natural varieties with minimal pasteurization, as those processes kill off essential nutrients and beneficial cultures. Try making your own homemade coconut yogurt using this easy recipe.
- Miso: This fermented soybean paste can be made into a soup and will provide beneficial fungi and nutrients that support gut health, cardiovascular health, and ultimately brain health.
- Kefir: A probiotic milk drink that contains lactic acid bacteria, known to boost intestinal health, this milk is ideal for those who are lactose intolerant and is a better source of probiotics than traditional yogurt. The diverse bacterial and yeast content of kefir makes it a very potent probiotic and ideal for boosting gut health and mood.
- Tempeh: Another fermented soybean product that contains bacteria beneficial for gut health.
- Pickles: The fermentation process is what makes these cucumbers beneficial to gut and brain health. Pickles are full of lactic acid bacteria that are known to improve digestive health. Avoid pickles that are in vinegar as these will not contain the active cultures you need.
Depression can dramatically reduce your quality of life and can even be life-threatening if not treated. Where therapy and medications can help in most cases, natural options can offer additional support. Writing a journal, exercising, meditating, and adding probiotics to your diet can all reduce symptoms of depression and improve quality of life. By taking care of your gut, your friendly microbes will keep those gray skies away.