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Is Depression A Brain or Gut Issue?

By TJ Williams, DC, PhD

Antidepressants are the #2 selling class of medication behind statin (cholesterol lowering) medications. Approximately 25 million people over the age of 12 are taking antidepressants. To put this into perspective, about 26 million people have been diagnosed with heart disease and 21 million have diabetes.

Antidepressants are based on the theory of chemical imbalance, specifically neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, or GABA. Basically, this theory says that if you are depressed or have anxiety, then you must have a chemical imbalance. The antidepressants are prescribed to alter chemical function in the brain. But what if I told you that neurotransmitters work throughout the entire body and not just in the brain? What if I told you that neurotransmitters were involved in things like digestion, bone health, organ repair, immune function, sleep, and muscle tone just to name a few.

While digging into mechanisms and side effects of antidepressants years ago, I found out that in 1930 John Stokes and Donald Pillsbury, both dermatologists, were the first to suggest a gastrointestinal mechanism for the overlap between depression, anxiety and skin conditions such as acne. Even today, a simple WebMD search of “irritable bowel syndrome and depression” will reveal that 50 – 90% of people who seek treatment for irritable bowel syndrome also have some psychiatric disorder that may include panic disorder, anxiety, or major depression. This is a powerful statistic, yet it is seemingly ignored.

This may not be true of all clinics, but as of the writing of this article, not one client of our clinic has ever reported that their intestinal health was ever even considered before being prescribed an antidepressant medication. This seems strange considering the above statistic from WebMD.

We do things differently in our clinic for our clients complaining of depression/anxiety. Often the first thing we address for these individuals is gut health. And when we address gut health in our clients we do so systematically. We test for bacterial imbalances and we test for food sensitivities. Next, we remove foods that create problems for them, and finally we help them heal and seal their gut. Our clients subsequently report improvements not only in their sense of well-being and mood, but also improvements in sleep, decreases in sicknesses like colds and sinus infections, and increased energy.

Basically, I am suggesting that by improving gut health you may be able to improve neurotransmitter function which will improve many of the things that neurotransmitters are involved in such as mood, digestion, immune function and sleep. Who wouldn’t want improvements in those areas?

If you would like to take control of your health call us at 314-293-8123. You can also visit our website at www.theinstituteofnaturalhealth.com.

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