Gut Health

How Mental Health Starts in Your Gut

Surprising Mental Health Support That Starts in Your Gut

If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, even getting out of bed every day can seem overwhelming.

Depression can drain all of your mental and physical energy, making even the smallest tasks feel like climbing Mt. Everest. Anxiety takes a different toll, filling your mind with worrisome what-ifs that spiral out of control, leaving it almost impossible to make plans and decisions.

When depression and anxiety team up (as they often do), they can be even harder to overcome – despite the many pharmaceutical “solutions” for these increasingly common health issues. 

The problem: These solutions try to take on depression and anxiety in your brain… but they should be starting with the probiotic population in your gut.


The Gut-Brain Connection Controls Your Mood

Your brain and your gut are even more closely connected than most people think. (see what Harvard has to say about it

But consider this: Have you ever had a “gut feeling” or gotten nauseous and anxious at the same time? And while scientists used to believe that this connection was a one-way trip, with your brain sending messages to your gut, it turns out that your gut has an enormous impact on your brain… and your mental health.

Your brain and gut are linked by something (not surprisingly) called the gut-brain axis (GBA), a two-way communication system that’s part of your central nervous system. 

The GBA is heavily influenced by your gut microbiome, the trillions of bacteria that inhabit your digestive tract. When your microbiome is in good balance, meaning many different types of beneficial bacteria – probiotics – outnumber bad bacteria, the lines of communication flow smoothly.

But when your microbiome is out of balance or doesn’t have enough diversity, the situation gets dicey, and your gut starts causing body-wide problems, such as:

  • Systemic inflammation
  • Toxic streaming (could link to toxic streaming post here)
  • Immune system overreaction
  • Reduced production of “feel-good” brain chemicals
  • Unhealthy stress response

All of those negatively affect your brain, leading to conditions like depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. (listen to this podcast from microbiologist Kiran Krishnan on probiotics and depression)

And when healthy gut balance and function is restored – such as with the introduction of a high quality spore probiotic supplement – improved mental health follows.


Healthy guts produce crucial healthy brain compounds

It’s no wonder scientists call the gut the “second brain.” Your gut is home to the enteric nervous system (ENS), home to more than 500 million nerve cells (neurons), including more than 100 million that line your gastrointestinal tract.

The ENS communicates with your CNS (central nervous system), letting your gut “talk” to your brain. The two send signals back and forth through the vagus nerve – but that conversation can get interrupted in times of stress. 

Your gut and brain are also connected by the production of valuable healthy compounds. Beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in your gut produce a wide variety of nutrients and chemicals that your brain needs to thrive. Those include:

Butyrate, a short chain fatty acid (SCFA) that helps strengthen the blood-brain barrier to keep LPS toxins out

Propionate, another SCFA that’s associated with appetite and the brain’s reward system

Serotonin (also called 5-HT), a neurotransmitter that naturally reduces symptoms of depression and helps keep your body clock on the right cycle

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a calming brain chemical that quiets anxiety and fear

A well-balanced, diverse, healthy microbiome also regulates stress hormones (like cortisol) and keeps inflammation under control.

But a microbiome that’s overrun by bad bacteria doesn't produce those healthy compounds – and can even cause distressing mental health problems.

In fact, patients with major depressive disorder have lower levels of the beneficial bacteria that produce SCFA and GABA. 


Toxic Streaming Causes Depression and Anxiety

You may not have heard of toxic streaming, but it’s probably making your life miserable, causing a strange variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms, including feelings of worry and despair. Those symptoms are set off by toxins called lipopolysaccharides, or LPS Toxins, produced the bad bacteria in your microbiome.

Bad bacteria can gain strength and numbers for a lot of reasons, including:

  • Poor diet
  • Chemicals (like glyphosate) (could link to one of a glyphosate piece here)
  • Antibiotic treatment
  • Certain prescription and OTC medications
  • Stress
  • Artificial sweeteners 

And when those bad bacteria populations go wild, they cause leaky gut – a condition where the lining of the intestines weakens, allowing food particles, pathogens, and LPS toxins to enter your bloodstream.

As LPS toxins escape – toxic streaming – they wreak havoc throughout your body and brain. Their main attack mode involves triggering inflammation everywhere they can, including your brain (that’s called neuroinflammation). Once toxic streaming begins, that inflammation trigger becomes constant, so your body never gets a “calm-down” signal to turn it off. And high levels of circulating LPS toxins have been directly linked to mental health issues, including severe depression and dementia. 

In a ground-breaking study, scientists learned that putting these LPS toxins into healthy people with no history of mental health issues brought on symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

The researchers realized that the LPS toxins increased levels of specific inflammatory compounds (TNF-alpha and Interleukin-6) and cortisol, the “stress hormone.” That combination led to a significant increase in anxiety and depression along with a decrease in memory performance. 

And that was after a single injection of LPS toxins – so just imagine what the effects on your mood could be if they’ve been circulating for a while! 

Unfortunately, pharmaceutical treatments for depression and anxiety don’t tackle inflammation or LPS toxins. In fact, they may even lead to increased toxic streaming.


Antidepressants can bring on toxic streaming

Many pharmaceutical medications have a negative impact on the microbiome, and brand new research tells us that the most commonly prescribed antidepressants causes dysbiosis… an unbalanced microbiome.

Fluoxetine is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) widely prescribed to combat depression. And a groundbreaking animal study found that a 29-day course of this drug results in significant changes to the microbiome. The scientists reported that fluoxetine depleted beneficial gut bacteria and increased bacteria types that lead to dysbioisis.

Though the researchers didn’t go one step further, we already know that dysbiosis can lead to toxic streaming… which can lead to increased depression and anxiety symptoms.


Spore probiotics rebalance your gut

The only way to stop toxic streaming and the damage it can cause is with high-quality spore probiotics. They work by directly rebalancing your microbiome, ending dysbiosis in three key ways:

  1. Spore probiotics produce defensive compounds that reduce the population of harmful LPS toxin-creating bacteria
  2. They produce powerful antioxidants that prevent toxic by-products from causing damage to healthy cells
  3. Spore probiotics help a wide variety of beneficial bacteria grow and multiply, adding to microbiome diversity

What's more, spore probiotics have been found to specifically combat toxic streaming. 

In a recent clinical trial, researchers recruited healthy, symptom-free people whose LPS toxin levels jumped 500% after they ate. Then they gave half of the subjects a special blend of spore probiotics while the other half got a placebo… and the results were shocking. The people in the spore probiotic group enjoyed a 42% reduction in LPS toxins after eating, but the other group suffered a 36% increase, leading the researchers to conclude that the specific spore probiotic blend could reduce toxic streaming.

And since the combination of dysbiosis and toxic streaming has been linked to mental health issues, rebalancing the microbiome with spore probiotics could help turn things around.


Rebalance your microbiome with Just Thrive

It takes a reliable, high-quality spore probiotic to counteract dysbiosis and toxic streaming… and that’s exactly what Just Thrive delivers.

In fact, Just Thrive contains the same special combination of spore probiotics that reduced LPS toxins by 42%, an important step along the road to a healthy, diverse microbiome. 

Simply taking one capsule of Just Thrive every day can restore your microbiome to prime condition, allowing the beneficial bacteria that produce healthy compounds to flourish.