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Your Microbiome Matters for Mental Wellness

This entry was posted in Mental Health and tagged on by .
Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on March 15, 2023 by Diane Ridaeus

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

The gut microbiome and its effects on mental health have been the subject of rigorous clinical studies in modern times. Today we can draw on the richness of human history with whole, unprocessed food choices, and food preservation techniques that have enhanced human health and survival even through tough times when food resources became scarce.

How important is a healthy gut? It seems that both physical and mental wellness depends on it. Find out how you can improve gut health and reap the benefits that are available through proper diet and supplementation.

microbiome mental wellness connection

Is there a connection between
the gut microbiome & mental wellness?
Alternative to Meds Center has been helping thousands of clients for nearly 2 decades to apply some basic principles of orthomolecular medicine, applying fundamentals of nutrition and other holistic means to improve mental wellness. We are pleased to share our independently documented success with you. We welcome your call to find out more about our programs and services. Read on for more interesting information about the important and sometimes incompletely understood role that the intestinal microbiome performs in the journey to natural mental health.
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The Microbiome & Mental Wellness Connection

The human body could be compared to a complex machine — so many intricate systems and parts, that are each designed to work perfectly in tandem for optimum efficiency. A super sports car is nowhere near as complex, but if that car is not maintained, the battery could go, or the buildup of particulates in the oil could begin to damage the engine, or the tires might go flat, and that car is not going to run efficiently anymore.

We have a potential treasure trove of protection in our gut. Like a super sports car, it needs good maintenance too. One of the main functions of the gut is to convert raw materials into energy and to create the vital hormones and neurotransmitters and uncountable other working pieces needed throughout the body, for excellent physical and mental health. It also contains our super defense mechanisms for fighting those things that can impair good health.

importance of microbiomeBut unlike a machine, the body is a living organism. So perhaps a better comparison would be to liken the microbiome to a factory, inhabited by a community of billions of industrious workers. These are good bacteria. Guards at the gates (the protective mucosal barrier cells) keep intruders out but allow for free travel, and transport of exchangeable, valuable goods. If the community’s population is well-paid and well-fed, and the roads to and from the area are open and protected, gardens are able to flourish, and the rivers are clear and free-flowing. As a result, the population is happy to live and work there, and their products are able to be transported to the wider world around them. The products of that community and its factory are naturally going to be excellent, usable, functional, and proliferous. But if the environment becomes threatening and dangerous to them, is littered to the brim with junk, and the roads and rivers are choking with poison, and the guards have all disappeared, nothing but chaos and malfunction can come from such an arrangement. The natural order of things, the overarching hierarchy of nature itself would have been decimated.1 The population will dramatically shift. Good workers will leave or become immobilized from exhaustion, or die. Thieves, parasites, and other undesirables will flow in freely and overtake the operation. This is a pretty good description of an impaired microbiome.1,2

But we are optimists and very practical at Alternative to Meds Center. We have witnessed the worst scenarios overcome, and we know that such a situation can be remedied.

Mental Health Symptoms of a Dysfunctional Microbiome

Research has established the influence of the gut on the brain, mood, and behavior. Robust, peer-reviewed studies have concluded a direct relationship between specific health conditions, such as infections, as well as psychiatric disorders (listed below), and the presence or absence of certain strains of bacteria present in the gut. Other areas of research are investigating the relationship between gut function and autism, eating disorders, and others, but further study is needed to understand the complex mechanisms involved.3-7,9

Mental health symptoms associated with dysfunction of the microbiome can include:gut-brain connection
    • MDD (major depressive disorder)
    • Depression disorders of mild/moderate severity
    • Anxiety
    • Stress
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Psychiatric symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
    • Psychosis
    • Schizophrenia
    • Symptoms in patients taking psychotropic medication, regardless of their diagnosis
    • Alzheimer’s disease

Maintaining Healthy Gut Flora with Prebiotics & Probiotics

A gut-friendly diet is also mental-health-friendly. The diet supplies the necessary prebiotics (food for good bacteria to eat) and probiotics (living beneficial bacteria) which are also available in supplement form. These are excellent tools for maintaining healthy flora in the gut.8-10

Recommended Foods

Recommended foods for microbiome support include fermented foods such as yogurt, vinegar, kimchi, sauerkraut, cheese, and a wide variety of pickled foods such as fish, vegetables, meat, seeds, legumes, and tubers. Other recommended food choices include whole grains, (avoid refined or processed grains and boxed cereals), whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, and legumes, along with fish, poultry, and some dairy products. Feta cheese and yogurt are excellent options. Omega-3 oils and fats are included in the diet guidelines and can be provided by supplementing or from foods such as salmon and other fatty fish and avocados. Wine in moderation and red meat on occasion are also options.

The Mediterranean diet is a good guideline for food choices as it includes the elimination of sugars, and a heavy emphasis on whole fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and proteins, and low-carb choices. By reducing or eliminating sugars, the “bad bacteria” are starved of their favorite fuel source. And focusing on prebiotic foods that “feed” good bacteria promotes a non-inflammatory gut.

What to Avoid

Avoid sugar, processed food, including processed cheese, processed meat, like bacon and processed “spreads”, sugary commercially produced cakes and other desserts, hydrogenated oils, junk food, refined flour products, soda pop, high fructose corn syrup, and any foods with added chemicals and preservatives. Fast food may be tempting when one is in a rush, or simply because it is processed for maximum appeal, but has been shown to quickly degrade the composition of healthy gut flora and should be avoided altogether, according to studies published in the 2020 Journal of Nutritional Research.14-16

Your Intestinal Bodyguards are Your Personal Dept of Defense

The intestine uses a sort of two-way system of transport, allowing for the transport of good nutrients into nearby blood vessels where they are sent to where they are needed for various purposes. In contrast, harmful molecules are typically blocked from entering the bloodstream. The lining’s “selective permeability” allows for the absorption of nutrients such as amino acids, and sugars. But the barrier cells have receptors — like radar — that can detect and bar harmful substances from traveling into the nearby blood vessels. The immune system has a capable intelligence system of detection and response, and several methods to block and dispose of the “bad guys.”

the microbiome matters for mental healthMucosal barrier cells line the intestine to monitor the presence of such pathogens and toxins. Many pathogens and toxins are simply too large to enter the bloodstream through the protective barrier cells. In this case, a healthy, intact intestinal wall forces their elimination through the bowel. Some other types of unfriendly molecules are tiny enough to escape through the barrier wall and into the bloodstream. But there is a second line of defense — killer cells are waiting to tackle and neutralize dangerous pathogens.

Some harmful molecules are extremely large in size. In some cases, such as cholera bacteria, the barrier cells react by increasing the permeability of the intestinal wall to allow these unfriendlies to travel into the bloodstream where the T-cells are poised to capture and neutralize them. However, if the immune system itself is compromised and not able to neutralize these molecules, the entire body can have an inflammatory response. This demonstrates immune response failure. If the condition is unable to be corrected by the immune system, then disease and chronic conditions including psychiatric symptoms can occur. A healthy and functioning microbiome and mental wellness go hand-in-hand.

The mucosal protective cells act as your body’s powerful bodyguards. Researchers are still trying to determine the exact way these cells perform and how they interact with and respond to the billions of cells with unique and variable mechanics of protection. However, there is much evidence that certain strategies can be implemented which can greatly assist the barrier cells, and support the membrane and the immune system. This is especially important if the agents in your personal department of defense have been compromised. exhausted, or disabled. Using orthomolecular and environmental medicine, these effects can be reversed.11,12

Toxins & Psychiatric Symptoms

Published evidence has confirmed that exposure to toxic elements can result in symptoms that are sometimes misdiagnosed as psychiatric illnesses. Some common toxic exposures result from drugs, pesticides, and industrial and workplace exposures to toxic chemicals. Neuropsychiatric symptoms after such exposures include increased anxiety, depression, impulsiveness, mood changes, irritability, and even episodes of psychosis.13

The Importance of Cleansing Toxins

Alternative to Meds Center recognized a long time ago that cleansing toxins from the body is fundamental for a healthy microbiome and mental wellness. You can find out more about the methods used at the center to accomplish neurotoxin removal.

Microbiome & Mental Wellness Treatments at Alternative to Meds Center

healthy diet essential for mental healthThe center uses a wide variety of protocols to improve mental health naturally. Diet is one of the primary protocols in treatment, simply because it works, and the results are reliable and sustainable.

The center seeks to find the root causes of psychiatric symptoms and uses lab testing to investigate what exact areas need to be addressed for the elimination of troubling and persisting problems.

Neurotransmitter rehabilitation is another key principle put into practice, flanked by a wide variety of other treatments including prescription drug tapering, holistic detox, counseling, physical therapies, equine therapy, nebulized glutathione treatments, and many more.

You can learn much more about the services offered at Alternative to Meds on our services overview pages. Please call us for more information about how the programs may provide the answers to your situation, even after prescription drugs failed to do so. Call us today!

1. Grizzi, F., & Chiriva-Internati, M. (2005). The complexity of anatomical systems. Theoretical biology & medical modelling2, 26. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

2. Mondot S, de Wouters T, Doré J, Lepage P. The human gut microbiome and its dysfunctions. Dig Dis. 2013;31(3-4):278-85. doi: 10.1159/000354678. Epub 2013 Nov 14. PMID: 24246975. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

3. Bremner JD, Moazzami K, Wittbrodt MT, Nye JA, Lima BB, Gillespie CF, Rapaport MH, Pearce BD, Shah AJ, Vaccarino V. Diet, Stress and Mental Health. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 13;12(8):2428. doi: 10.3390/nu12082428. PMID: 32823562; PMCID: PMC7468813. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

4. Taylor AM, Holscher HD. A review of dietary and microbial connections to depression, anxiety, and stress. Nutr Neurosci. 2020 Mar;23(3):237-250. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2018.1493808. Epub 2018 Jul 9. PMID: 29985786. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

5. Smith KS, Greene MW, Babu JR, Frugé AD. Psychobiotics as treatment for anxiety, depression, and related symptoms: a systematic review. Nutr Neurosci. 2021 Dec;24(12):963-977. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2019.1701220. Epub 2019 Dec 20. PMID: 31858898. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

6. Jones JD, Dominguez B, Bunch J, Uribe C, Valenzuela Y, Jacobs JP. A bidirectional relationship between anxiety, depression and gastrointestinal symptoms in Parkinson’s disease. Clin Park Relat Disord. 2021 Aug 10;5:100104. doi: 10.1016/j.prdoa.2021.100104. PMID: 34430845; PMCID: PMC8368023. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

7. Nikolova VL, Smith MRB, Hall LJ, Cleare AJ, Stone JM, Young AH. Perturbations in Gut Microbiota Composition in Psychiatric Disorders: A Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry. 2021;78(12):1343–1354. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.2573 [cited 2023 Mar 14]

8. Mills S, Stanton C, Lane JA, Smith GJ, Ross RP. Precision Nutrition and the Microbiome, Part I: Current State of the Science. Nutrients. 2019 Apr 24;11(4):923. doi: 10.3390/nu11040923. PMID: 31022973; PMCID: PMC6520976. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

9. Yang H, Liu Y, Cai R, Li Y, Gu B. A narrative review of relationship between gut microbiota and neuropsychiatric disorders: mechanisms and clinical application of probiotics and prebiotics. Ann Palliat Med. 2021 Feb;10(2):2304-2313. doi: 10.21037/apm-20-1365. Epub 2021 Jan 28. PMID: 33549028. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

10. Leeuwendaal, N. K., Stanton, C., O’Toole, P. W., & Beresford, T. P. (2022). Fermented Foods, Health and the Gut MicrobiomeNutrients14(7), 1527. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

11. Di Tommaso N, Gasbarrini A, Ponziani FR. Intestinal Barrier in Human Health and Disease. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Dec 6;18(23):12836. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182312836. PMID: 34886561; PMCID: PMC8657205. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

12. Fasano A. All disease begins in the (leaky) gut: role of zonulin-mediated gut permeability in the pathogenesis of some chronic inflammatory diseases. F1000Res. 2020 Jan 31;9:F1000 Faculty Rev-69. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.20510.1. PMID: 32051759; PMCID: PMC6996528. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

13. Mason LH, Mathews MJ, Han DY. Neuropsychiatric symptom assessments in toxic exposure. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2013 Jun;36(2):201-8. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2013.02.001. Epub 2013 Apr 15. PMID: 23688687. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

14. Illescas O, Rodríguez-Sosa M, Gariboldi M. Mediterranean Diet to Prevent the Development of Colon Diseases: A Meta-Analysis of Gut Microbiota Studies. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 29;13(7):2234. doi: 10.3390/nu13072234. PMID: 34209683; PMCID: PMC8308215. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

15. Rishor-Olney CR, Hinson MR. Mediterranean Diet. [Updated 2022 Mar 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2023 Mar 14]

16. Zhu C, Sawrey-Kubicek L, Beals E, Rhodes CH, Houts HE, Sacchi R, Zivkovic AM. Human gut microbiome composition and tryptophan metabolites were changed differently by fast food and Mediterranean diet in 4 days: a pilot study. Nutr Res. 2020 May;77:62-72. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2020.03.005. Epub 2020 Mar 26. PMID: 32330749. [cited 2023 Mar 14]

Originally Published March 14, 2023 by Diane Ridaeus

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Your Microbiome Matters for Mental Wellness
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Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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