Did you ever wonder if anxiety and/or depression was caused purely by psychological reasons or possibly from other causes? It absolutely can be caused from many different things such as systemic inflammation, leaky gut, hormonal changes, and your gut, specifically SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), which is what we’ll focus on today. Surprising I know! Let’s dive into the gut-brain connection, the bacteria and neurotransmitters in your gut, as well as what you can do to improve that neurotransmitter function in your gut and brain to really help you improve your mood, feel better, and move through your life with ease.
Other causes for anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression can come from many other physical causes. It can come from systemic inflammation or leaky gut. Leaky gut is where we have endotoxins released into the bloodstream coming through the epithelial lining of the small intestine and that creates an immune reaction. This can also lead to leaky brain. This is where those endotoxins cross the blood brain barrier and can contribute to things like mood changes and brain fog, etc. We can also have anxiety/depression related to hormonal changes. Last but definitely not least, we can have it from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). In essence, the altered microbiome can be one of the biggest contributors to anxiety and/or depression.
Typical course of action in America
The typical course of action in America is that when you present with anxiety and/or depression, you are prescribed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRRI). This can be something like Prozac, Paxil, or Lexapro. The reason these are prescribed is for low serotonin, our feel good neurotransmitter. Serotonin is one of our key chemical messenger that signals to the brain. This is formed by the bacteria in the gut, and guess what, 90 percent of our serotonin is in our gut! So, now we want to ask ourselves, why is our serotonin low? We may want to dive into what may be happening in the gut that could be contributing to this.
SIBO, once again small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, can be one of the huge underlying factors in anxiety and/or depression. This is something that is definitely not looked at as frequently, and if you are experiencing something like bloating and other digestive symptoms, then this would be something to look into as one of the potential causes of your anxiety and/or depression. This happens when we have an overgrowth of the normal bacteria in the gut, and it creates a dysbiosis which means just an imbalance in the bacteria of the gut. This in turn will lead to things like nutrient deficiencies, malabsorption, and imbalances in the neurotransmitters. The gut-brain connection is a bidirectional communication between our gut and our brain. Our gut is our second nervous system. The bacteria in the gut is essentially what’s forming these neurotransmitters, our chemical messengers and communicators to the brain.
Testing for SIBO
Why is it so important to look at possible bacterial overgrowth in the gut and test it appropriately? When you are having any digestive issues like bloating, abdominal pain, any type of diarrhea, constipation, etc and it’s coupled with anxiety and/or depression, then you should absolutely be tested for SIBO. SIBO is tested using a breath test which is going to assess either hydrogen or methane gas. You ingest something called lactulose, and because it cannot be absorbed, it will be present in the small intestine. If it ferments with the bacteria in your gut, then you will exhale either a methane or hydrogen gas. If you’d like to order a test, click HERE.
Irritable bowel syndrome has been used as a diagnosis for many years, and now what we’re finding out is that IBS diagnosis is really SIBO in most cases. When you have this diagnosis, and you are experiencing anxiety and/or depression, it is going to be imperative that you address this as one of the potential root causes of your anxiety or depression because there’s no way that you can have the appropriate amount of serotonin, and even elements of dopamine if you are experiencing SIBO.
So what do you do about it?
1) The first thing is to make sure you get properly tested and evaluated.
2) Include a low FODMAP diet.
It is important to remove any type of inflammatory foods or triggers that could be aggravating this condition. FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols. Low fodmap foods are easily digested carbohydrates which is a really important aspect of a SIBO protocol. Also eliminate things like gluten which is found in wheat, a high FODMAP food, a big driver in leaky gut, a common complaint or comorbidity along with SIBO.
Typically, supplementation is going to be required because you will likely have malabsorption issues. It doesn’t mean that you definitely will, but there is a strong possibility, especially is this has been going on for quite some time. You may have to take specific highly bioavailable nutrient supplements until your body can absorb a more effectively and be able to repair the gut lining in cases of leaky gut. Glutamine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body for immune health and intestinal health. This will be one of the very important nutrients that you will want to ingest if you are diagnosed with SIBO. The recommendation is 15 to 21 grams a day.
4) You want to reinoculate with probiotics.
It is important to recognize that not all probiotics will work for every SIBO patient. Most commonly, spore-based probiotics seem to be best as some other probiotics could make you worse.
Antibiotics are typically used to treat the SIBO. There are different protocols and philosophies on when the appropriate time is to give the antibiotic. However, it is going to be necessary in most cases, whether it’s an herbal antibiotic or a conventional antibiotic to kill the bacteria.
In summary, hopefully you can appreciate that there’s way more to anxiety and depression, then simply only psychological reasons. We’ve only scratched the surface of just one part aspect of this, but I wanted share with you about neurotransmitters, introduce the gut-brain connection, and hopefully just have you think a little bit deeper about how can you begin to address some of the root causes of why this could be happening to you or someone you love.
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Disclaimer: This is not intended to treat or diagnose. Please check with your physican or functional medicine practitioner to determine a specific plan.