Ongoing scientific evidence links the vitamins and minerals found in healthy foods with impressive brain benefits. In fact, as I recently reported in my Daily Dispatch and Insiders’ Cures newsletter, eating the right foods benefits mental health better than taking any psychiatric drugs.
On the flip side, a new study found a disturbing link between antibiotic use and the development of depression and anxiety. For this new analysis, researchers followed more than 200,000 participants, ranging in age from 15 to 65 years, over nearly 20 years from 1995 to 2013. They matched the participants against more than 800,000 healthy controls for comparison.
They took special note of antibiotic exposure more than one year prior to any psychiatric diagnosis. And they controlled for alcohol, smoking, obesity, socioeconomic status, and number of infections before diagnosis to rule out other factors that might affect the data.
Their findings were incredible…
A single course of antibiotics leads to some serious, long-term risks
Evidence linked just a single treatment — with any antibiotic — to a significantly higher risk of developing depression. To break it down by drug, men and women who took penicillin ran a 23 percent increased risk of developing depression. And men and women who took quinolones had a 25 percent increased risk of developing depression.
Furthermore, men and women who received two to five antibiotic treatments in the years prior to diagnosis increased their risk of suffering depression by 40 percent. And those who received five or more antibiotic treatments were 56 percent more likely to develop depression.
The researchers observed a similar pattern for the risk of developing anxiety. A single dose of one of the penicillin or sulfonamide drugs increased risk of developing anxiety by 17 percent. And five treatments of these drugs increased risk by 44 percent.
The researchers also observed a small but significant increase in the risks of anxiety and depression with a single treatment of oral antifungal drugs.
Regarding oral antifungals, I never understood the purpose of these drugs. If you have a serious fungal infection in the blood, brain, or organs, you need intensive care in the hospital with intravenous antifungal drugs. But the vast majority of fungal infections just involve the skin, nails, or hair. These infections are superficial. And doctors can easily treat them with topical applications of safe and effective anti-fungal products. Why in the world would anyone put a dangerous drug into their body just to treat a superficial, topical infection of the skin?
Like antifungals, antibiotics can act as lifesaving drugs. But, we already know mainstream doctors overuse them for routine, self-limiting infections. This overuse led directly to the development of dangerous, antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” such as MRSA and flesh-eating bacteria.
Plus, antibiotics cause changes in your microbiome.
A healthy gut starts in the kitchen
Your “microbiome” is the normal, healthy bacteria that inhabit your GI tract. In fact, scientists now know the human GI tract contains roughly 100 trillion healthy microbes. These microbes help protect you from deadly infections and diseases. Plus, they may help define you as an individual, like tiny colonizers on your bodily “planet.” Keeping your microbiome healthy is critically important to your overall health.
However, antibiotics disrupt your microbiome. And according to this new research, antibiotics can clearly disrupt your mental health as well — a discovery that makes sense considering the body and mind are connected.
To maintain a normal, healthy microbiome, eat healthy foods that support the healthy bacteria in your gut — such as sauerkraut and Korean kimchi, as well as dairy products like cheese and (low-sugar) natural yogurts. Some nutrients you just can’t (or shouldn’t) obtain from supplements, including calcium, vitamin K, and probiotics. Fortunately, these same healthy foods are high in all three.
For more details about foods that naturally contain healthy bacteria, see the January 2013 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. If you’re a newsletter subscriber, you can access this archived issue on my website, www.drmicozzi.com, with your username and password. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.
To learn more about the mind-body connection, read my book with Mike Jawer, Your Emotional Type.
“Antibiotic exposure and the risk for depression, anxiety, or psychosis: a nested case-control study,” J Clin Psychiatry. 2015;76 (11):1522–1528