"Most days are just full-blown blah," 34-year-old Michael told his doctor during an initial consultation. "Even life’s simple pleasures no longer make me happy. The other day I watched an amazing impersonator at Washington Square Park and… Usually, that sort of thing makes me smile. But…nothing. That’s how I knew I was unhappy."
While Michael’s former physician wanted to put him on an antidepressant, he insisted he wasn’t actually depressed but rather in a miserable, seemingly never-ending funk.
Whether you feel anxiety, depression, or just that all-too-common blah feeling, mood disorders often start in the gut. In this case, the gut-brain connection becomes more important than you might think.
Whereas doctors may brush off Michael’s symptoms as something to medicate away, there’s another way to look at this if you think of the gut. Even a slightly off-kilter mood can affect work performance, relationships, and just about everything else in life.
Instead of starting with brain health, the evolving new paradigm of functional medicine says start with your gut.
Let’s back up here. Michael’s former doctor had him on antibiotics for a minor infection. Along with a high-sugar processed diet, he owned a house in upstate New York that happened to be near an apple orchard. He was on two medications for high blood pressure. And his labs showed incredibly high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation.
Those factors did a serious whammy to his gut health, triggering dysbiosis. That’s a fancy word for describing a gut flora imbalance, whereby unfriendly bacteria and/or yeast that produce neurotoxins take hold of your gut. As a result, they slow your ability to think, trigger depression, and affect your memory retention.