Healing the gut for good mental health — probiotics

proProbiotics 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.

I’ve found, in spending lots of time with people coming off meds as well as those who take them that IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is rampant in the psychiatrically diagnosed populations. I don’t believe this is just a coincidence. We need to heal our guts. Taking most pharmaceuticals that gastro docs hand out is nothing but a band-aid. Much like psych drugs, they simply don’t heal the underlying 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 know that many people have used other products that have worked for them as well.

I had a severe and serious gut problem so I was told to ignore the directions on the bottle which suggest two capsules 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.

I also discovered I was allergic to wheat (a very common food sensitivity) that made my issues worse as well as some other foods. It serves one well to discover it they have food sensitivities too as some people may not improve until they stop eating offending foods.

First published 5/08

IMPORTANT NOTE I recently discovered that while I did indeed get all the reported improvement mentioned below it was mostly superficial (meaning the diarrhea may have been healed and other symptoms improved, but it’s likely that my long-term chronic illness associated with the drug withdrawal required a much deeper gut healing.

It’s taken years of study and experimentation to get to the point where this next step was the obvious one to take. Everyone’s needs are different. Yours may be very different from mine. Learn about your body.

I’m now doing a process that allows for that deeper healing.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters