Probiotics and mental health

Probiotics are catching on in the mainstream as seen here in the Los Angeles Times. Why am I mentioning it here? What does it have to do with withdrawal and mental health. Everything.

The first thing I did when I started researching natural care for mental health was come upon anecdotal evidence again and again about how gut health effects mental health. If you don’t digest your food properly you don’t nourish your brain properly. Given I had a rotten gut and was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and had suffered from diarrhea for twenty years I figured I best take note of that piece of information. I’d gone to one gastroenterologist after another and they did nothing but give one medication after another that did nothing. I gave up and lived with a chronic bowel problem.

When I started reading that this problem could lead to malabsorption of nutrients and hence mental health problems I knew it was the first thing I wanted to attend to. There were lots of potential problems the gut could have but the first and easiest thing to do was take probiotics. I carefully researched brands and with the advice of a number of people I trusted including one of my best friends who is a naturopathic doctor and chiropractor I started taking Primal Defense by Garden of Life. (I get nothing for promoting this product—it simply worked for me and the site I link to has it for a good deal—it’s an expensive product.)

I had a severe and serious gut problem so I was told to ignore the directions on the bottle which suggest two tablets a day. Instead I worked up one tablet a week until I got to 8 tablets a day. It’s important to do this slowly because if you take too much at once you run the risk of having a die-off reaction of bad bacteria that can make you sick. The good bacteria in the probiotic will make you well if titrated up slowly. I took 4 in the morning and 4 at night. I was cured in 6 months of 20 years of chronic diarrhea. Any way you look at it that’s a good thing.

The above article talks about hyped up products catching on to a fad. A fad product like yogurt that says it has probiotics in it is probably not too helpful—especially if it has sugar in it. Plain yogurt can be beneficial but making it at home is usually much healthier. Do research for a good strong product if there is a serious gut problem. The product I used is one that helps heal serious problems.

In my withdrawal and natural care for mental health groups many people have saved their guts from all sorts of bad symptoms, from diarrhea to constipation to bad gas. It’s a first step in getting mentally healthy for many people. And if you or anyone has a gut problem probiotics are a good and safe place to start attempting to heal it.

I took digestive enzymes with each meal in conjunction with the probiotic which I take on an empty stomach. I don’t know how important they were but again many people I consult with suggest those be taken as well.

And, oh, I now take a maintenance dose of two capsules of the Primal Defense a day.

14 thoughts on “Probiotics and mental health

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  1. I am so glad you are all adding your experiences to the ‘gut/etc’ aspect of mental health.

    People really do have a big variety of issues around talking and even typing about elimination + all it entails.
    How easily you can think/talk about this subject definitely has alot to do with your comfort level about your own body and it can be a helplessness issue too. Important to talk about and analyze {on your own, here, or with a dr} and therefore important to have a vocabulary to do so with comfortably.

    I know that being around total health foodie hippie types when I was a sorta-uptight teen helped demystify that all for me.

    One of the things I LOVE about this site tho, is it’s acceptance of how many of tend to use humor in dealing with our many physical and life issues. It makes me feel more at ease when a dr or a dentist or a therapist or a health advisor can cave to some dry humor about this subject, as opposed to being just very serious, which I just cannot manage to be sometimes!!!
    I think it’s important to recognize your own level of discomfort or even just , um, childishness? about these things, while realizing other people have differing levels of being able to discuss ‘gut’ issues easily.

    I recall going to a very serious tiny upscale healthfood store with an older friend. we were in a sober search for info on [and were both quite new to] the whole self-applied candida/cleanse/bowel cleanse industry. We were directed by the staff to the most prominently displayed book. We flipped through it expecting only text and a diagram or two, and were suddenly faced with color photos of various people proudly and seriously standing next to their two and three + foot long bowel movements arrayed upon paper towels on the floor.
    One guy was holding one up like a ropy prize fish.

    It was impossible to remain composed, and we shrieked, dissolved into tearful giggles and both ran out of the store.
    It was fun and funny and I always remember that day and those hilarious pictures when discussions about elimination become too high brow. It is part of the life+death stuff we are uncovering, but there are always gonna be silly moments in this path…

    I adore that I could even consider sending you this comment, whether you choose to post it or not.
    I loooooooooooove that you allow your writings to show those edges of comedy, irony, and bittersweet weirdness as you forge on through your recovery and cheer the rest of us on.

  2. After six major abdominal surgeries – with a lot of scar tissue in my intenstinal tract, I can attest to the gut being a key player in mental health.

    Thanks for the link.


  3. the fecal transplant is quite fascinating…

    it seems like there would be a way to empty the gut and administer healthy bacteria in some other way???

    in any case, I was not grossed out…I think gut talk in extremely important.

  4. I would like to mention here, there are documented bowel problems in the seriously mentally ill.

    When the problems start is unclear. The high dose of psychiatric drugs that the seriously mentally receive while in an institution typically makes them constipated. It is common knowledge we have helpful bacteria in our stomach and intestine and lower intestine that help us break down and absorb the food we eat. “They make up three to five pounds of your total body weight,”

    The drugs or/and the enviroment or/and the mental illness destroys good bowel functioning. A good digestion IMO is critical factor to mental health as one feels terrible with a painful, or constand dull low pain of a bad stomach and bowel.

    If you feel terrible (from the stomach) how does one react? If the mental patient is coheriently verbal, it might be discussed, the seriously mentally ill typically are not verbal. I think a large percentage have aspergers/autism and are cognitive in their own world.
    When mental patients get angry from the constant discomfort, and misbehave its just another way psychiatry scapegoats mental illness behaviour to the mentally ill.

    If you want a gross out…
    In the severe illness of C. difficile , sometimes there is no time to regrow the start colony of helpful bacteria, and a Fecal transplant is neccessary to save the life of the person.

  5. I started feeling so much better in the last year, since taking acidophilus supps and eating lots of plain yogurt; fruit smoothies are great too. (*glad to be back!…love the pic!)

  6. Hey Gianna – great photo! IBS can be caused by… [broken record]… Lyme and its co-infections… I know you said that you cleared the symptoms with Primal Defense [which I also use and find to be excellent… I take 8 capsules as well]… but… I’d still love for you to rule out Lyme [slime/slyme]… Forgive me for bringing this up again but I’m learning so much about this bacteria [a bioweapon which is why it’s so hard to get rid of]… and how it wreaks havoc in whichever area is the most vulnerable… Yes, gut issues = mental health issues… malabsorption… yes yes yes… and mercury doesn’t help either.

    I send big hugs…

  7. SSRI’s always increased my diarrhea.

    As far as feeling awkward about talking about the gut — I understand—but it’s so essential to good health I unapologetically dove in.

    And yes….the serotonin link…you know there is a book on the gut called “the second brain.” I haven’t read it but saw it somewhere…I think it was on The Colbert Report—you can imagine how funny it was! But the book is serious of course.

    You know Primal Defense Ultra come in capsules. I imagine it would be fine to open them. And I assume crushing the digestive enzyme I take would be an option too.

  8. Hi Denise,

    Thanks for that link…I will make use of that…this is also something I’ve thought about a lot…the brain in your gut. There’s more seratonin receptors in the gut than the brain, and once I heard that, I realized what a brain/gut connection there is…

    My, um toilet habits, have improved greatly over the last few months…I too used to have chronic diarreah…for so many years that it was just “normal” for me…it felt connected to my antidepressants…now that I’m on less medication, things have firmed up quite a bit…and to me that is a sign that my mental health is getting better too…I definitely think there’s a link.

    I wish it weren’t so awkward to talk about the toilet stuff. But it’s very weird, really, that we have so much shame around that. I actually think that area could hold a lot of clues about our health, and it needs be discussed…yes, in detail.

    I don’t really like swallowing pills, and I’ve found a digestive enzyme I like that are these tiny little pearls that dissolve in your mouth…but darnit I through away the outer packaging months ago, so I can’t remember what they are called…I got them at Whole Foods.

    I also think eating lots of vegetables helps with gut health, for me anyway…berries too.

  9. Hey Denise,
    welcome back!

    Leave it to you to find just the right site to point readers to. I think I posted the video on the treatments page a long time ago…it’s a great video about the gut and kids with autism healing once it’s healed.

    Also I noticed this website uses the same products I used. Two of them anyway. I didn’t go as far with treatment as they do.

    Anyway, thanks, great resource.

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