You, me, and the rest of us are all the unsuspecting hosts to trillions of bacteria in our gut, as many as a thousand different strains. This is not bad news. These bacteria help us out in various ways by making vitamin K, some B vitamins, and many other good things. The composition of these strains is our “bacterial fingerprint.” If something throws their balance out of whack, they can be related to the pathology of depression, anxiety, or obesity. They also affect the immune system.
Food for thought – Some gut bacteria can make you fat
Studies show that overweight beings (people and mice) have much higher levels of particular strains of bacteria than thinner subjects. We can test for this. When lean mice are inoculated with bacteria from overweight mice, they gain weight. These fat-promoting bacteria have been shown to encourage overeating, promote weight gain, prevent fat burning, and make obese people more efficient at getting calories from food than thin people.
Your “bacterial fingerprint” plays a role in how much fat you carry and how easy or difficult it is to lose weight. Of course, diet and exercise are essential, but the simple approach of “eat less and exercise more” is inadequate and outdated.
Depression and anxiety – Your gut has a mind of its own
The composition of your gut bacteria may also help determine whether or not you suffer from depression and anxiety. Many strains of “good” bacteria, Bifidobacteria, promote serotonin production. Serotonin is the “feel-good” chemical that prevents depression.
On the other hand, having too many “bad” bacterial strains can promote depression and anxiety because the vagus nerve links the gut to the brain and sends messages back and forth, affecting brain function and mood. In other words, “Your gut has a mind of its own.”
One study showed that subjects who took probiotics containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium had less anxiety, depression, and anger combined with improved problem-solving ability. Another study showed that mice given a Lactobacillus strain showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than their probiotic-deprived counterparts as they cruised through a maze that usually caused high anxiety.
Cultivating good gut bacteria
It is not yet known exactly how to banish obesity, depression, and anxiety with probiotics, but it is clear that you need to enhance your bacterial fingerprint for optimal health.
Birthing and breastfeeding affect gut bacteria, too.
The balance of good and bad bacteria starts at birth—vaginal deliveries and breastfeeding improve a child’s chances of starting with a healthy bacterial colony compared to C-sections and bottle feeding.
Chronic stress and gut bacteria
Chronic stress can shift your bacterial harmony into a minor key. Diets loaded with sweets and sugars, processed foods, and fast foods are also culprits because these foods damage and inflame the intestinal walls, promoting the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeasts. Are you exercising and eating right and not getting results? You may have harmful gut bacteria that are inhibiting normal function; you may want to consider consulting with Dr. Bennett. She can do susceptible testing under functional medicine to isolate harmful bacteria.
Cultured food and fiber promote good gut bacteria
An anti-inflammatory, whole food diet promotes bacterial harmony. Your diet should include cultured and fermented foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented vegetables. Ensure that any store-bought refined foods are the real deal and not pasteurized or made with vinegar, which kills good bacteria.
A healthy colony of good gut bacteria also relies on plenty of soluble fiber in the diet. So when you eat plenty of produce, you will have just what you need in this respect.
Probiotics for obesity, depression, and anxiety
Fortunately, powerful probiotics today can help you cultivate your inner garden. Probiotics should be stable enough to survive the hot, acidic stomach environment and contain ample amounts of beneficial strains. Ask my office for advice on a probiotic that’s right for you.
The overall goal is to accentuate the good bacteria and remove the harmful bacteria.
Bennett Acupuncture has an excellent functional medicine method. We can help you promote good bacteria and help your body naturally remove the harmful bacteria using state-of-the-art laboratory testing and supplementation. Please call Dr. Bennett for more information.