What Causes Depression: Link Between Depression and the Gut

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What Causes Depression: Link Between Depression and the Gut

What Causes Depression? Last week in Part 1 of Depression and the Gut, we defined depression and outlined the potential causes of depression; genetics, a chemical imbalance in the brain, hormones, stress or trauma, blood sugar dysregulation, poor diet, medications, inflammation and gut health.

This week we provide specific ways to address depression through functional medicine.

In functional medicine, we look for the root causes and will always look at gut health and the underlying reasons for any potential inflammation.


  • Balance Blood Sugar
  • Understand the Cause of your Inflammation and Reduce it
  • Improve Gut Health

These three key objectives can be achieved through:

Adopting an organic, whole foods-based, anti-inflammatory diet is the best diet to balance blood sugar, decrease inflammation and promote gut health. Our food choices, alongside factors like stress, toxins, sleep and other lifestyle factors, determine the make-up of our gut bacteria and overall gut health. Diet is important for good gut health and for conditions like depression.

As a first step, we want to avoid the foods that are most damaging to gut health (Mu C, 2016):

  • Sugar & excess refined carbohydrates
  • GMOs
  • Highly processed foods
  • Lack of fiber
  • Excess caffeine
  • Excess alcohol
  • Vegetable oils high in omega 6 fatty acids

We recommend following the diet which is rich in omega 3 foods, fermented foods, prebiotics, polyphenols and tryptophan. See here for the full details

Prebiotics are foods that promote the growth of beneficial, health-supporting bacteria in the gut. They have been reported to improve inflammation and to alleviate psychological distress (Kim YK, 2018). 

These foods contain non-digestible fibers that promote the growth of beneficial gut microbiota such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, benefiting the microbiome-gut-brain axis (Kim YK, 2018). Prebiotic foods include lentils, apple cider vinegar, dandelion greens, raw garlic, raw or very lightly cooked onion, leeks, raw asparagus, green bananas, green plantains, potatoes that have been cooked then cooled 24 hours (served cold or at room temperature, as is common in potato salad), apples and others.

Additionally, certain foods can be helpful when dealing with depression. One study looked at and identified twelve nutrients most effective for the prevention and treatment of depression (LaChance LR, 2018):

  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA)
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Thiamine
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • The study also came up with a list of anti-depressant foods. The highest scoring foods are: (LaChance LR, 2018)
  • Oysters, mussels, various types of seafood and organ meats
  • Leafy greens, lettuces, peppers and cruciferous vegetables
  • The categories of food that are most to least effective in reducing depression are: (LaChance LR, 2018)
  • Vegetables
  • Organ meats
  • Fruits
  • Seafood
  • Legumes
  • Meats
  • With grains, nuts, seeds and dairy being the least effective in fighting depression

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