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If you suffer from the blues or feel caught in a downward spiral that seems to want to drag you under, you’re not alone.
More than 37 million Americans now take medications for depression, some questionable and risky.
While for most of us, the problem is fleeting, brought on by the darker days of winter, grief or particular circumstances, for others, depression is a chronic issue.
Sadly, it’s an issue that can become compounded, putting us at higher risk of chronic disease and shortening our lives.
For far too long experts have focused on chemical imbalances in the brain their drugs treat. But another imbalance is proving just as powerful at affecting your mood. And the medicine is much easier to swallow…
The proline connection to depression and the gut-brain axis
To see how diet may impact depression, researchers from the Girona Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBGI) and Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) in Barcelona, Spain performed metabolic profiling on 100 human study participants and were able to strongly associate proline — an amino acid — with depression scores.
Proline is an amino acid the human body can make adequate amounts of on its own. The only times the body may run short is during times of stress, healing or growth.
Proline is also found in a wide variety of foods — especially collagen-rich foods like bone broth and gelatin, fish, meat and dairy foods — all plentiful in a standard meat- and protein-heavy diet.
But the discovery had a twist. While a proline-rich diet was linked to a higher risk of depression, the researchers discovered that not all of the participants who had a high intake of proline were depressed.
So to solve that puzzle, the scientists turned to mice — transplanting the human subjects’ gut bacteria into the mice. The mice who received the transplants highest in proline exhibited depressive symptoms.
Then to further corroborate their findings, they turned to fruit flies. Again, the proline was highly linked to depression, but in examining the gut bacteria they made another starling finding…
In all the subjects, those who had high levels of proline but did not exhibit depression had gut bacteria that metabolized the proline and afforded protection against high proline in plasma.
“The microbiota of patients with high proline consumption but low plasma levels of proline was similar to the microbiota associated with low levels of depression and was enriched in bacterial genes involved in the transport and metabolism of proline,” said Dr. Mayneris-Perxachs, one of the authors of the study.
And that gut bacteria is one you may well know — the beneficial Lactobacillus. Conversely, guts that had high proline levels leading to depression exhibited an unhealthy bacteria known as Enterobacter, which has previously been associated with depression in humans.
Replenish your gut for a happier you
Put simply, these results demonstrate an undeniable connection between the health of your microbiome and a healthy mood.
So how can you keep your microbiome at its best to feel your best?
Because let’s face it, proline is inescapable. And you want it that way. Proline helps wounds heal, prevents joint pain and helps fight inflammation. It’s one of the good guys — as long as your microbiome can process it adequately.
So, first, if your diet is heavy in proline foods, like meat and dairy, round it out with fruits and vegetables.
Then, eat foods rich in probiotics, like:
To make things simple, you can also take a high-quality probiotic supplement, rich in healthy bacteria, like that lactobacillus that helped in the study to overcome depression.
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More than 37 million Americans take antidepressants, authors say – Winston-Salem Journal