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How to Heal the Gut to Improve Mental Health + Supplements I Recommend

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Our diet, nutrition, and digestion are central to our mental health. We have over 100 trillion bacteria in our gut. Many of them benefit our brain. These bacteria are often called ‘probiotics’. They are needed to produce many different hormones and 30 different neurotransmitters, including 90% of the serotonin used by our body and brain. Our gut bacteria also perform processes that make micro and macro nutrients bioavailable, such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs, fats, etc. In other words, we must have adequate levels of certain bacteria in our gut to absorb all of the nutrients we need, including thousands that are central to good mental health.


Leaky Gut & Gut Dysbiosis

Probiotic bacteria are also our first line of defense for sealing and protecting the lining of our gut. They fight bad bacteria and fortify our gut lining. The tight junctions of our gut lining prevent pathogens and toxins from exiting our gut into our bloodstream. When we have a highly permeable gut, or a “leaky” gut, this can cause issues throughout our body and brain. When we have a low amount of good bacteria and a high amount of bad bacteria - a condition known as “gut dysbiosis” - we will experience many adverse health effects that could include mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, brain fog, poor memory recall, Alzheimers, bipolar, and schizophrenia.


According to the Human Microbiome Project, it is estimated that about 80% of us suffer with increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”, to varying degrees. Research and case studies show a clear link between leaky gut and mental illness, as well as autoimmune diseases and other serious chronic diseases.


Inflammation

When we have a leaky gut, unwanted proteins, toxins, mold, or bacteria can escape into our bloodstream and enter organs such as the lungs, thyroid, or brain. Our immune system works to defend us against these pathogens by creating inflammation to protect the body and brain against infection.


A little inflammation is necessary and okay. When our immune system is on overdrive though, this lead to chronic inflammation, which is directly linked to autoimmune disease, mental illness, and other serious diseases. Conditions of leaky gut and gut dysbiosis are often brought on by pro-inflammatory foods, environmental toxins, and stress.


A healthy gut has an 85/15 balance of good and bad bacteria - 85% good and 15% bad. Bad bacteria is technically referred to as “opportunistic” bacteria, as it takes advantage of bad situations, such as a compromised gut, seeing this as an opportunity to grow its population. When there is imbalance in the gut, opportunistic bacteria, mold, yeasts, or parasites can overwhelm our gut, breaking down our gut lining and then leaving the gut and traveling via the bloodstream to different organs in the body, including the brain.


Inflammatory Foods, Environmental Toxins, and Digestive Issues

When our gut is leaky, or the good bacteria in our gut are underpopulated, bad bacteria or fungi can cause many problems, including the release of endotoxins that enter our brain via the vagus nerve (a cluster of 200-600 million nerves that connect the gut and brain). This can cause us to experience brain fog, memory recall issues, anxiety, depression, bipolar, and even more serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.


Leaky gut and chronic inflammation are caused by inflammatory foods and environmental toxins. They are also caused by prolonged emotional stress or trauma, which is hard on the gut and can cause the gut lining to wear away.


When we suffer from gut dysbiosis and leaky gut, digestion is severely impaired. Digestion is central to our mental health. If we do not have a strong gut lining and adequate populations of diverse beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in our gut, then our digestion will not work properly and we will not absorb nutrients crucial to brain function.


There are many environmental toxins in our food, water supply, etc. that break down our gut lining and kill good bacteria. If we want to heal our brain, we need to minimize our exposure to these toxins. We will never get away from them entirely, but we can educate ourselves and seek to minimize exposure. We can heal mental illness through diet, nutrition, and lifestyle interventions that limit our exposure to these toxins and pro-inflammatories and introduce anti-inflammatory foods and ingredients that heal our gut and our brain.


Toxins that harm the gut & are correlated with mental illness:

  • Antibiotics

  • Pesticides (especially glyphosate)

  • Mold

  • BPA’s (found in plastic)

  • Chlorine

  • Fluoride

  • Flame-retardants

  • Anti-bacterials/Antiseptics

  • Medications: Especially NSAIDS, PPI’s, birth control, laxatives, diabetes medications, triptans (Migraine/headache meds)

Pro-inflammatory foods & ingredients that break down the gut lining, harm our immune system, and kill good bacteria. Among other issues, this then can cause bad bacteria, fungi, mold, yeasts, and parasites to increase:

  • Processed sugar (feeds Candida)

  • Artificial sweeteners

  • Corn syrup (especially high-fructose)

  • Conventional dairy

  • Gluten

  • Emulsifiers

  • Preservatives


Beneficial Foods & Natural Medicines for the Gut & Brain

There are many foods & ingredients that are healing for the gut and brain: these heal the gut lining, increase good bacterial populations, and decrease bad bacterial populations.


Prebiotic Foods

These are foods filled with different fiber and other micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, that feed good bacteria. They include:

  • Beans (Bonus: High in B vitamins)

  • Cocoa (High in polyphenols)

  • Garlic (Highly anti-inflammatory)

  • Turmeric (Highly anti-inflammatory)

  • Flaxseed (Bonus: Filled with Omega-3’s, which are excellent for brain health)

  • Raw, Local Honey (Bonus: Studies show consuming 1 tablespoon of raw, local honey every day for a few months prior to allergy season is a highly effective treatment for reducing seasonal allergies)

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Especially vegetables that are “cruciferous” or fruits and veggies that contain an abundance of polyphenols. Some examples are:

  • Artichokes

  • Arugula

  • Bok Choy

  • Broccoli

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Cabbage

  • Cauliflower

  • Collard greens

  • Kale

  • Onions

  • Radishes

  • Spinach

Probiotic Foods

These contain good bacteria that help repopulate the gut and heal the gut lining. They include:

  • Raw sauerkraut

  • Kimchi

  • Kvass

  • Raw apple cider vinegar (with “the mother”)

  • Coconut kefir (milk or water)

  • Sourdough bread made with sprouted grains

  • Tapache

SBO Probiotics (Soil-Based Organisms)

Though it may sound strange to most of us, there are extremely beneficial bacteria found in soil.


Yes...it’s true.


SBO’s have been studied and used as medications for GI tract infections since the 1950’s. Besides that, we have been consuming them and using them as medicine pretty much since the beginning of man. According to research, SBO’s are the most beneficial probiotics in existence.


But this doesn’t mean you should go head down to your local park, grab yourself a handful of dirt from the playground, and shove it in your mouth. Rather, SBO’s are meant to be consumed in micro-exposures; in other words, in extremely low amounts. They must come from organic, healthy, probiotic-rich soil. They are best when consumed on the surface of organic fruits and vegetables. Conventional fruits and vegetables from the grocery store do not typically have SBO’s on their surface. They have either been sprayed with herbicides/pesticides (which kill these bacteria), or have been washed with chlorinated water to remove all dirt. Note: Chlorine kills bacteria.


All of this makes it hard to get micro-exposures to SBO’s. Fortunately, there are some quality supplements that contain healthy SBO’s. I will recommend one that I like later on.


Medicinal Herbs and Fungi

While mainstream U.S. medical culture may scoff at the use of herbs or fungi (mushrooms) for the treatment of mental illness, these natural medicines have been used successfully for thousands of years, are currently in use in countries throughout the world, and have been researched and shown to be highly effective for many people.


Here are some of the adaptogenic herbs and fungi that have been researched at length and shown to benefit the body and improve anxiety, depression, and overall mental health when taken in therapeutic doses. If you are interested in taking one of these supplements, consult a professional to check for potential interactions with any other medications you might be taking, as well as to determine your proper therapeutic dose.

  • Ashwagandha

  • Bacopa Monnieri

  • Cordyceps Mushroom

  • Eleuthero Root

  • Lion’s Mane Mushroom

  • N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (Amino Acid)

  • Phosphatidylserine

  • Reishi Mushroom

  • Rhodiola Rosea

  • St. John’s Wort

  • Turkey Tail Mushroom



Natural Mental Health Supplements I Recommend

Here are several supplements that I have either researched very extensively or that me or my family have personally used and had great results. I only use and recommend supplements that come from natural sources and do not contain toxins or synthetics (as far as I can ensure through careful research). Perhaps one of them will be of benefit to you.

  • Mood+ Probiotic by Garden of Life: Highly effective for anxiety and depression.

  • Previlli: A high-quality, widely acclaimed prebiotic - great for increasing good gut bacteria and repairing the gut lining.

  • Megaspore by Microbiome Labs: An excellent SBO Probiotic.

  • Mind Lab Pro: The best nootropic stack out there as far as I am concerned. Highly effective for anxiety and depression.

  • Beef Liver by Ancestral Supplements: An incredible company with an excellent reputation. Beef liver is a powerful supplement for healing the liver, improving gut health and detoxification, and boosting methylation (energy-production). I’d also recommend the rest of their product line, depending on your needs.Beef Organs” is a well-rounded supplement that can be highly beneficial for physical and mental health.

As is the case with all supplements, I recommend doing extensive research before buying any supplement. There are a lot of ‘snake oils’ out there and people just looking to make a buck. I can’t guarantee that any of the supplements above will be the ticket for you, but many have seen great success with them, including my own family.


I wish you the best on your health journey! May God be with you and guide you on your way towards a long life and excellent physical and mental health!


Heal the Gut : Heal the Brain


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