While certain genes and stressful life-events might predispose some people to depression, the latest research has indicated that the microbiome plays a critical part in the pathophysiology of depression
We’ve all had those times when we’ve felt down, battled with anxiety, or suffered from depression. However, it’s when those feelings become a part of one’s everyday life that people find themselves walking out of the doctor’s office with prescriptions for anti-depressants. The western model of treating mental illness (and just illness in general) is an approach that focuses on suppressing symptoms rather than addressing the root cause of the illness. How does this relate to depression? Well, did it ever occur to you that perhaps there might be something physically wrong with your body (e.g. a leaky gut) that might be causing your depression or mood disorders? Most people, when diagnosed with depression, succumb to the doctor’s prognosis — believing that they will suffer from this condition for the rest of their lives, that there is something inherently wrong with their brain, or that they were bound to develop depression given that it runs in their family.
Well, I’m here to inform you that this is not always the case. If you find yourself battling with depression, I strongly encourage you to take the following steps before reverting to medications:
It sounds silly and simple, but I challenge you to take a step back and observe your life. Look at your relationships, your career, your self-esteem, and most importantly- your joy. Understand which areas bring you the most joy and which drain you of the most energy. Look at who you spend your time with — you’re a combination of the 5 people you surround yourself most with, so choose wisely. Attempt to remove anything that doesn’t help to promote your confidence, self-growth, and joy, by putting (and sometimes selfishly) yourself first. Also, don’t let fear be the factor that inhibits your growth. If you’ve you’ve come to realize that your true passions are leading you in a different direction than your current career path, don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. Oftentimes, it’s the suppression of your passions that can lead to depression because you feel unfulfilled and lack purpose.
2. Change your thoughts
One of my favorite bible verses can be found in Proverbs 4:23 – “Be careful how you think, your life is shaped by your thoughts.” This statement holds a lot more truth than we initially think, and in fact recent studies have revealed that repetitive, negative thinking has been associated with increased rates of depression. Furthermore, this negative thinking has also been proven to result in bodily symptoms. The power of your thoughts not only possess the power to create positive or negative emotional responses in your body, but they help to shape and cultivate your self-beliefs. These self-beliefs are the foundation of your life, and you need to make sure they are solidly rooted. This is why it’s so important to practice the concept of neuroplasticity and mindfulness techniques to help shape your thoughts, and to create new habits that eliminate negative thinking.
3. Heal your gut, heal your mind
We know that the gut microbiota is essential to human health, however did you know that studies have shown the gut to be associated with metabolic disorders that include anxiety and depression? This is because ~90% of the body’s serotonin (a brain neurotransmitter) is made in the digestive tract. So if you’re suffering from compromised gut health, your brain isn’t getting the proper amounts of serotonin it needs. In fact, studies have shown that people who are depressed often have compromised gut health and increased levels of inflammation in the body. Leaky gut causes inflammation, which helps to promote pro-inflammatory cytokines that serve to “increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier,” subsequently resulting in depression. Studies such as these have led to the new belief that depression is often a symptom of chronic inflammation. Most ironically, however, is the observation by researchers that revealed that patients with higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers (CRP) were less likely to respond to antidepressants. Another study showed that when depressed patients were given probiotics, their depressive symptoms improved. So, rather than opting for an anti-depressant, why not first replace it with a probiotic?
If you have depression, it’s ok to accept your doctor’s diagnosis, but I challenge you to fight the prognosis. Believe in the power of your mind and your body to self-heal, and look to address the hidden sources of your depression that your doctor might not otherwise recognize.