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Happy Gut Happy Gal?

by Beth Heller, MS

Back in the day, the country physician (we’ll call him Doc Baker) often attributed depression and other mood disorders to his patients’ digestion.  The old adage that  ”regularity in the bowels promotes regularity in emotions,” was at the core of much medical intervention.  Depressed?  Tell me about your bowel movements.

Oddly enough, new research into the relationship between gut health and emotion suggests that old Doc Baker was on to something and that nutrition and gut health may play a much greater role in major depressive disorder (MDD) than modern medicine has recognized to date.  The hypothesis goes like this.  Stress, a significant factor in major depressive disorder is known to alter the profile of our gut bacteria, lowering levels of lactobacilli and bifidobacterium.  When levels of beneficial bacteria are lowered in our digestive tract it becomes less efficient at absorbing nutrients and more permeable to toxic substances and microbes.  This in turn leads to chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, conditions which can negatively impact other health parameters, including fertility.

It has been clinically demonstrated that people with depression have higher levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals in their bodies.  They also have increased oxidative stress, altered gastro-intestinal function and lower levels of the omega-3 fatty acids important for normal mood states. In response to this new line of thinking, researchers are now looking at gut flora as a novel treatment for depression and anxiety.   Recent studies have shown that rats who receive a probiotic formulation including bifidobacterium and lactobacillus organisms show a reduction in anxiety behavior.  In a double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial, humans who received the same probiotic formulation experienced reduction in psychological distress.   Both humans and rats who took probiotics had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and an attenuated (less intense) stress response.

At the Moon, both our ART Recovery/Prep Nutrition Program and our First Line Therapy for Fertility weight loss program start with gut health.  We focus on weeding out sugary, processed foods and introducing foods rich in the fiber that beneficial gut bacteria need to thrive.  In support of this goal, our Pulling Down the Moon Nutritional Program includes a Powder Probiotic and a 100% organic PhytoNutrient Powder that can be mixed together to make a low-calorie “probiotic power drink” that supports beneficial gut bacteria and combats oxidative stress.

While it is still too early to say for sure whether probiotics improve fertility or measurably combat stress and depression, there is strong evidence these supplements can work together to provide support for good digestion.  And that, as Doc Baker would attest “can only help your head.”