Is Your Gut Making You Sad? A Closer Look at Mental and Gut Health in the U.S.

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The Pure TheraPro Team

The Pure TheraPro Education Team is comprised of researchers from diverse backgrounds including nutrition, functional medicine, fitness, supplement formulation & food science. All articles have been reviewed for content, accuracy, and compliance by a holistic integrative nutritionist certified by an accredited institution.
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Feeling anxious or depressed can often seem like a strictly mental battle, but what if the root cause is somewhere unexpected—like your gut? If you've been trapped in a cycle of depression or experiencing persistent irritability, you are far from being alone. Mental health struggles are increasingly common in the United States, where a significant portion of the population grapples with these issues.

Mental health conditions affect about 20% of American adults, translating to over 40 million individuals. Furthermore, the prevalence of depression among children and teens is on the rise at an alarming rate. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the country, affecting millions, with women being disproportionately impacted.

Antidepressants rank as the second most prescribed drugs, with around 254 million prescriptions annually. Notably, depression is the leading cause of medical disability in both the United States and Canada. In a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 38% of participants reported experiencing adverse effects from SSRIs, the most common type of antidepressants, which included significant issues like sexual dysfunction and weight gain.

The Gut-Brain Connection

Emerging research suggests a strong link between gut health and mental well-being. The microbiome, or the colony of organisms living in your gut, plays a crucial role not only in your physical health but also significantly affects your mood and mental state. Early life traumas and dietary choices influence the composition of your gut flora, which in turn impacts everything from your emotional health to your susceptibility to various diseases.

Studies have shown that 64% of individuals with obesity have experienced at least one form of childhood trauma, with 40% suffering multiple traumas. These traumatic experiences can lead to a heightened stress response, which may adversely affect the gut barrier function, making it more permeable and hence susceptible to inflammation—a state often referred to as "leaky gut." This condition can contribute to or exacerbate conditions such as fibromyalgia, various cancers, autoimmune diseases, and a range of mental health disorders.

Biochemical Pathways and Neurotransmitters

The gut-brain axis represents the bidirectional communication network between the central and enteric nervous systems, linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions. Nearly 90% of serotonin, a key neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation, is produced in the gut. Disruptions in the microbiome can lead to altered serotonin production, affecting mood, and leading to conditions like depression and anxiety. Other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), are also influenced by gut bacteria, which can further impact mood regulation and susceptibility to mental health disorders.

Associated Diseases:

The gut-brain connection is a complex interaction between the gastrointestinal system and the central nervous system, mediated by various biochemical signaling pathways. Research has shown that this connection is crucial for overall health and is linked to several diseases.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS):

IBS affects an estimated 10-15% of the global population. The symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, are often exacerbated by stress or emotional distress, indicating a strong gut-brain link.

Anxiety and Depression:

As previously mentioned, nearly 90% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation, is produced in the gut. Dysregulation of the gut microbiota has been shown to affect this serotonin production, which can lead to or exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):

ASD affects about 1 in 54 children in the United States (with some estimates as high as 1 in 22). Several studies have noted higher rates of gastrointestinal problems in individuals with ASD compared to the general population. Emerging research suggests that changes in the gut microbiota could influence neurodevelopment and behavior.

Parkinson’s Disease:

Research suggests that Parkinson's may actually begin in the gut and that changes in the gut microbiome could be an early indicator of the disease. The misfolding of alpha-synuclein proteins, thought to be a key factor in the development of Parkinson's, has been observed in the gut neurons before appearing in the brain.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS):

CFS affects between 836,000 and 2.5 million Americans. Often accompanying CFS are gastrointestinal disturbances linked to dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) of the gut. Studies suggest that managing gut health may help alleviate some of the symptoms of CFS, such as fatigue and impaired cognitive function.

Protecting and Enhancing Gut Health

Stress, trauma, and poor dietary choices can negatively impact the diversity of your microbiome, leading to health issues in adulthood. Environmental toxins and processed foods can contribute to the death of beneficial gut bacteria, potentially triggering diseases that manifest starting with conditions like Leaky Gut Syndrome. This condition involves inflammation and small fissures in the intestinal lining that allow unwanted substances into the bloodstream, triggering immune responses that can result in symptoms like joint pain, fatigue, digestive issues, and mood disturbances.

Strategies to combat these issues include:

1. Dietary Adjustments:
Incorporating a diet rich in diverse, fiber-rich foods can help nourish and support a healthy microbiome. High-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and gluten-free whole grains encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria. Conversely, reducing the intake of processed foods, high-sugar foods, and seed oils (omega-6 oils) that can promote inflammation and decrease microbial diversity is crucial.


2. Probiotics and Prebiotics:
Probiotics are live bacteria found in certain yogurts, supplements, and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir. They can help replenish and maintain healthy gut flora. Prebiotics, found in foods like bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, and artichokes, are non-digestible fibers that feed healthy bacteria and help them flourish.

3. Managing Stress:
Chronic stress can negatively impact gut health by hindering the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes, slowing down digestion, and affecting the gut barrier function. Techniques such as mindfulness meditation, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and yoga can help manage and reduce stress.

4. Reducing Antibiotic Use:
While antibiotics are essential for treating some bacterial infections, excessive use can lead to a reduction in gut flora diversity. It's important to use antibiotics only when necessary and under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Following a course of antibiotics, it may be beneficial to take a probiotic supplement to help restore the gut microbiome.

5. Avoiding Environmental Toxins:
Pesticides, non-organic foods, and pollutants can harm gut bacteria. Opting for organic produce when possible and minimizing exposure to environmental toxins can support gut health.

6. Hydration:
Drinking plenty of water is beneficial for the mucosal lining of the intestines and can help maintain the balance of good bacteria in the gut.

Natural Remedies and Preventative Measures

Several natural remedies can support gut health and, by extension, mental well-being:

  • Bitter Herbs: Herbs like dandelion, burdock, and yellow dock enhance digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Aromatic Herbs: Herbs such as mint, rosemary, and basil not only enhance flavors but also have calming effects due to their terpenes.
  • Herbs To Support a Healthy Inflammatory Balance: Including licorice and aloe vera in your diet can help soothe the gut lining and support the growth of beneficial bacteria.
  • Nutritional Herbs: Consuming broths and teas made from herbs like moringa and seaweed can replenish essential nutrients and support a healthy microbiome.

It's also crucial to clean up your diet by eliminating processed foods and incorporating whole foods, fermented foods, and anti-inflammatory ingredients. These changes can significantly improve both your gut and mental health, empowering you to manage conditions such as Leaky Gut Syndrome and related mental health issues more effectively.

Pure Thera’s Leaky Gut Defense™ helps create an optimal gut environment for a healthy microbiome.

Leaky Gut Defense™ includes specialized ingredients for improved gastrointestinal support. Expertly formulated with concentrated extract of licorice that has been processed to remove glycyrrhizin (the component of licorice root that may have an adverse effect on normal blood pressure) as well as a soothing and potent aloe vera gel extract.

It also contains the amino acid, L-Glutamine, which serves as the key nitrogen source for the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Replenishing and defending this thin and delicate mucosal lining is essential to repair and prevent Leaky Gut Syndrome.

Arabinogalactan from the North American larch tree is a naturally occurring polysaccharide - acting as a prebiotic for important gut microflora and delivering optimal support for GI health.

Research shows that Arabinogalactan plays a crucial role in the proliferation of new gut microflora and can increase valuable short-chain fatty acid production such as gut-healing butyric acid.

Optimal Gastrointestinal Support

  • Enhanced Production of Short Chain Fatty Acids
  • Contains: L-Glutamine, Arabinogalactan, Licorice Root 10:1(deglycyrrhized) & Aloe Leaf (inner filet, standardized to 50% polysaccharides)
  • Included Aloe vera leaf extract is processed to remove bitterness and prevent any laxative effect
  • Convenient Powdered Form
  • Pharmaceutical Grade
  • Practitioner Recommended
  • No fillers
  • Zero Chinese Ingredients
  • Non-GMO
  • Gluten, Dairy, Corn & Soy Free