Over the last 10 years of so there has been a lot of research conducted around the world into the role between the link of the health of your gut, and your mental health.
With the number of people in the western world taking anti-depressive medicine, many questions are being asked about the role diet plays in mental health, the possibility of alternative ways to combat the issue is at the forefront of research.
Below are the figures of people taking anti depressive drugs per country (Source: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/countries-largest-antidepressant-drug-users-2016-11?r=US&IR=T)
The United States shows that a staggering 11% of Americans over the age of 12 are taking antidepressants.
This is a sobering statistic. Iceland is 2nd on the list with 106 out of every 1000 people taking anti-depressants, and 3rd, to our surprise, is Australia, with 89 out of 1000 people taking antidepressants.
- 1 The Link Between Antidepressant Usage & Obesity Levels
The Link Between Antidepressant Usage & Obesity Levels
The image below show the OECD obesity levels per country. (Source: https://obesity.procon.org/global-obesity-levels/)
So what do these statistics tell us?
Not much on the surface, but with 2 minutes of research, you quickly realise that when you align these statistics with the obesity levels per country there is some correlation between obesity and anti-depressant usage.
When you factor in the known problem with overly processed foods, fast food, carbohydrate intake and other dietary related problems, it doesn’t take a rocket science to form the opinion that there may be a link between mental health and diet, even before you delve deeper into the scientific literature on why this is the case.
The Scientific Studies On The Gut / Mental Health Link
There have been many studies on this topic. Research scientist John Cryan of the APC Microbiome Institute at the University College Cork in Ireland is an expert in this area.
He commented in an article in The Scientist:
“It may seem odd that my research focuses on the gut if I’m interested in the brain. But when we think of how we express emotion in language, through sayings like ‘butterflies in your tummy’ and ‘gut feeling,’ it isn’t surprising that they’re connected.”
Further to this, there have been many studies that show a link between probiotics and mental health, however many of these studies have been on rodents only.
UCLA biologist Emeran Mayer was one of the first researchers to test the hypothesis in humans.
The outcome of the research showed that when probiotic yogurt was administered to a group of young woman of twice a day for 4 weeks, they found that the women had a reduce brain response to negative image.
However many researchers are still hesitant to conclude that probiotics can cure mental illness such as anxiety.
A Diet Of Plant Rich Ami-Inflammatory Diet Can Help Depression
An article here in The Conversation in 2018, aggregated a number of studies and found a pattern where plant rich diets may reduce the risk of depression.
Further to this, avoiding overly processed foods, and foods with high levels of saturated fats, will also reduce the risk of depression. Foods high in omega 3, such as natural hemp protein powders and foods with high anti-inflammatory properties will also reduce this risk.
Referring back to the research above by Emeran Mayer, while he stopped short of indicating that probiotics can cure depression, he did endorse the use of prebiotics, such as superfoods with inulin powder, to improve the overall health of the guts, which may be linked to mental health.
Keeping The Gut Microbial In Balance
One of the keys to keeping the gut microbial in balance, seems to be ensuring your diet is moderated when it comes to saturated fats. A high fat diet will cause an imbalance in the microbes of your guts.
Larger molecules can then pass into the bloodstream via a more permeable intestine, allowing the molecules interact with brain function.
A Better Diet
While it seems scientists are not willing to completely conclude that gut health is linked to mental health, all the evidence does point in that direction.
If nothing else, there is nothing to lose in reducing the amount of fatty foods in your diet, and increasing the amount of plant based fiber and natural pre and probiotics, omega 3s, fiber, and anti-inflammatory properties into your diets.
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What Twitter Says
.@kalvina0308 review specific pathways and mechanisms by which the gut microbiome can promote the development of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. They also describe approaches for improving mental health by treating the gut microbiome https://t.co/Y6ChQmRJ5R pic.twitter.com/fhgiJmlV65
— J Neurosci Research (@Neuroscience) August 21, 2019