"You’ve got a pacer in your office," my medical assistant told me. I took a deep breath and entered the room to feel a palpable tension where I found my 29-year-old patient Thom pacing restlessly as he gulped from a giant coffee cup.
I get patients like Thom more often these days. They’re overworked, underslept, sometimes feeling spiritually empty, and oftentimes wanting to discuss tapering off pharmaceutical drugs (like Xanax or Prozac) their conventional doctors prescribed, preferring a more holistic, natural regimen to alleviate depression or anxiety (of course, never go off prescription medicine without a doctor's guidance).
As a medical doctor who specializes in gut health, I regularly see how the gut microbiome affects these and other mental conditions. Among its roles, optimized gut health improves depression by reducing inflammation and boosting hormones like serotonin. About 95 percent of this feel-good neurotransmitter, in fact, gets manufactured by your gut.
Newer studies show your microbiome can also influence other emotions like anxiety, which I see far more often among patients like Thom these days.
"Anxiety has become our everyday argot, our thrumming lifeblood," writes Alex Williams in a recent New York Times article titled "Prozac Nation Is Now the United States of Xanax."
The most striking statistics mentioned by Williams include: