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Are Chronic Digestion Problems and Depression Connected?

If you’ve been living with chronic digestion problems and depression for many years, you know how miserable this feels. Suffering from digestive upset like gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation can be very irritating to deal with. Add in depression symptoms, and it can often feel like too much. The good news is that there are many ways to help heal your gut and lessen all of the symptoms you’re dealing with. 

When we think of the gastrointestinal tract, we think of the complex system that takes food in, digests it, and assimilates the nutrients for proper absorption, and then eliminates it. Not only does this system help provide your body with adequate nutrition, but it also directly influences your immune system. Approximately 70-80 percent of your immune system is housed in your gut, so keeping your GI tract in order can also help keep your immune system in tip-top shape.

Digestive Problems and Depression

Nearly 2500 years ago, Hippocrates proclaimed that all disease begins in the gut. Every time we eat or drink, we are either feeding disease or promoting it with our food choices. Hidden in the walls of your gut is a system built of more than 100 million nerve cells called the Enteric Nervous System. While this is often referred to as a “little brain”, it may trigger big emotional shifts, especially in people that live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and stomach upset. 

The gut-brain connection is very real, and people that deal with anxiety and depression can often receive a large benefit from working on their gut health. Many people find that by cutting out certain food groups, working on lowering stress levels, taking a good quality probiotic, and staying hydrated can have a huge positive impact on not only their gut health but mental health as well. 

Many people can develop what’s called a “leaky gut”, where the conjunctions of the gut are compromised, allowing toxins, bacteria, and food particles to travel into the bloodstream, negatively affecting many different functions of the body.

How Leaky Gut Affects The Whole Body

how leaky gut affects the whole body

Improve Your Gut Health and Mental Health

When you work with a qualified practitioner, they can dig deep to help you uncover the root cause of digestive upset as well as mental health issues. Developing a specific treatment plan catered to your specific issues can drastically improve your quality of life. Most patients find an improvement in their health issues by following some of these tips:

  • Check for food intolerances. Food intolerances can cause inflammation in the GI tract, which directly affects so many areas of the body. When you eliminate certain foods or food groups that are irritating your gut, you can help quell inflammation in the body, which will help improve your overall health. 
  • Repair Leaky gut. Too much stress on the body, poor diet, and other factors can irritate a leaky gut. A more plant based diet and stress management can help repair a leaky gut.
  • Take a good quality prebiotic/probiotic. If you’ve taken antibiotics in your life (which most of us have), chances are you’ve changed your microbiome. When you kill off bad bacteria, you also kill off good bacteria that help keep your body healthy. Replenishing it with a good quality probiotic is very important. Certain strains can be very beneficial to aid in specific health issues.
  • Lower stress levels. People who are dealing with high levels of stress can suffer from autonomic nervous system dysregulation. When the nervous system gets out of whack, it can affect every function of the body. By returning the body to a state of rest and digest from fight or flight, the body can clear out toxins and deal with stress more effectively. 
  • Stay hydrated. When you have the proper intake of water, not only does it help flush out toxins out of your body, but it can also help your body eliminate more effectively, and also can help with the delicate bacteria balance in your gut. 

These are simple tips that can help improve your gut health and therefore improve your mental health as well. Of course, there are more complex root causes that working with a qualified medical professional can help you uncover and treat.

Hormones and The GI Tract

A woman laying in bed with her stomach on the pillow

It’s believed that the majority of serotonin and half of the body’s production of dopamine is produced in the GI tract. These hormones are the “happy hormones” of the body, and when the gut is compromised from toxins, infections, leaky gut, or other disturbances, these hormones can be affected. This can lead to anxiety, depression, or other mood issues. Coincidentally, antidepressants can wreak havoc on the gut’s microbiota, which can cause more long-term issues when it’s supposed to be helping. Pre and probiotics can be especially helpful for helping with proper hormone production, and certain strains can work better for targeting specific health issues.

Sympathetic and Parasympathetic State and Healing

When your body is in sympathetic (fight or flight mode) constantly, much of your body’s energy is going to be focused on fighting this imaginary threat. Humans weren’t designed to live in a constant state of stress, and the stress hormones that flow through the body can throw the body out of homeostasis. 

When the body is in a parasympathetic state (rest and digest), the body can focus its energy on healing. Both chronic digestion problems and depression can be improved significantly when the body is in a parasympathetic state. There are many things you can do to help get your body into a parasympathetic state: discovering and treating root causes of illness, meditation, exercise, mindfulness, and deep breathing are just a few of them.

How can Functional Medicine Help You?

When you’re dealing with digestive issues and depression, everyday life can feel overwhelming. Working with a qualified functional medicine doctor can dramatically improve your quality of life. When working alongside me, you’ll have the knowledge and expertise to help heal your body. Give us a call today to schedule your first appointment. We look forward to helping you on your health journey!