In honor of World Mental Health Day on October 10, we sat down with Raphael Kellman, MD to discuss the gut-brain connection and how the microbiome affects our overall well being. Dr. Kellman is the author of several books, including The Whole Brain Diet and The Microbiome Diet. He is a graduate of Albert Einstein College of Medicine and has pioneered a groundbreaking new approach to medicine and healing.
What is microbiome medicine, and how does it apply to mental health?
Microbiome medicine is a novel field of medicine that focuses on probiotics and bacteria and the philosophy of using the microbiome within us to improve overall wellbeing. There are trillions of bacteria in our gut that play into our health. Microbiome medicine can be used for prevention and treatment of a wide variety of diseases.
There is a very sophisticated and complex relationship between the brain and the microbiome. It’s constantly sending messages back and forth through neurotransmitters. It also transmits messages via our immune system and also through the endocrine system. Endocrine glands in the gut wall also communicate with the brain. The microbiome speaks to our immune system and the endocrine system, which also communicates back to the brain. This complex pathway is connected and can be harnessed and utilized to improve cognitive function, anxiety, and overall brain health. There is no greater helper than the microbiome.
What mental disorders can you improve with a microbiome medicine approach?
Anxiety, depression, memory decline, cognitive decline, autoimmune diseases of the brain, and brain inflammation from trauma and injury.
What is the one piece of advice you most commonly give your patients struggling with depression and anxiety?
Using the microbiome approach, you have to go about it on multiple levels, but diet plays a vital role. That includes the use of appropriate pre- and probiotics. Prebiotics are the nutrients that the microbiome uses to nourish, flourish, grow, and become a greener garden. There are different types of prebiotics… and you want to use targeted probiotics as well.
Are their specific probiotic strains that you recommend to prevent depression and anxiety?
Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus. These three can mitigate depression and anxiety and optimize brain function.
What foods do you recommend to add to a daily diet to improve overall mood?
Foods like leeks, jicama, jerusalem artichokes, and resistant starches are prebiotic foods. Plus fermented foods for probiotics.
Can you share a resource or book for someone who wants to naturally improve their mental health with microbiome medicine?
My book The Microbiome Diet addresses how you improve the microbiome – which foods to eat, discusses those communication pathways, and also the role probiotics and prebiotics. My other book The Whole Brain Diet talks specifically about how you can improve function.
Anything else you want to add that we haven’t covered, especially given what’s going on in our world?
We need to focus on the appreciation of food and bacteria and what the microbiome does for us. It supports life. We’re focusing on the negative aspects of the natural world, and it seems to be only one side. In a balanced state, nature is all about life and moving in a positive direction to improve and flourish.
There are positive things we can focus on. Nature is an incredible manifestation of the power and healing aspect of nature. Certainly, people could focus on the incredible healing powers of nature. Bacteria and viruses are here to help us. It’s only when there are imbalances in nature (usually by us) that nature turns in a negative way – this is an anomaly that leads to the suffering that we’re seeing. It doesn’t have to stay like that. This is an anomaly. We should focus on the good. We should appreciate our health and how bacteria are orchestrating on a daily basis [to support life].
To learn more about Dr. Kellman and his Wellness Center, visit his website.