Mental health is something that is deeply important to me because I struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life. I now have many tools in my toolkit to address it. My mental health is not perfect by any means but it has improved out of this world with the things I've learned. Read on to learn about the connection between your gut and mental health, how to improve your mental health, the power of milk kefir, why circadian rhythm is important, the benefits of deuterium depleted water, and more!
Ten years ago my life really collapsed. I was successful in terms of my career, education, my family life, and lifestyle. But as I think back to childhood, I had gone on a trip overseas to India and I got really sick. I picked up Shigella Dysenteriae. And when I came back to Australia, I was going to the toilet 7 times a day. I lost a lot of weight and the doctor put me on a strict regimen of antibiotics that decimated my gut and my microbiome. I went from a happy go lucky character to being someone that was dark, gloomy, and depressed. I carried this struggle with being anxious and developing depression throughout my life.
And once my career started to progress the level of stress drastically accelerated. I found myself in an apartment in the city, by myself, ready to end my life. Fortunately the thing that saved my life was that I had 3 beautiful young boys and I didn't want to leave that legacy for them. I built up my strength and started to research mental health and I found many tools. The most important thing was the connection between the gut and the brain.
The Connection Between Your Gut Microbiome and Mental Health
The microbiome in itself is a recent discovery. It was around 2014 when a lot of the mainstream media started to report on the findings from 2004-2007. We are still very early days. The microbiome is this collection of microbiomes whether its:
It's a 2 kilogram organ (that is mainly in the gut) but there are also different axes throughout the body like the gut brain axis. Science now shows the connection between the gut and the brain.
The microbiomes have the ability to create neurotransmitters which can communicate through the vagus nerve to the brain. So a huge part of how you feel > is what is going on in the gut. Your gut microbiome affects your clarity, thought, wellbeing, mental health, and affects the way you function in all aspects of cognition.
How Did You Improve Your Mental Health?
Having a background in science, it was seamless for me to jump into the research. I started to look at the evidence/papers in the space of the gut brain axis. But the piece of work that really started it for me was a book called the “GAPs Book'' by Natasha Campbell-McBride. In that book, she talks about her child and how she uses different dietary strategies to impact how the child functions, from a neurological perspective. Which demonstrates that there is a connection between the gut and brain. And by modulating and shifting your diet, you can impact your psychological functions and how you feel. With this knowledge, I went into a strict GAPs diet for 2-4 months. I incorporated things like bone broth and I cut out grains, an excessive amount of carbs, processed foods, and artificial foods. And I started to introduce fermented foods later on.
The absolute game changer for mental health was milk kefir. But you have to be mindful because there are a lot of fake products coming onto the supermarket shelves. To get the real thing you need to make it yourself with kefir grains. It’s very easy to make, it takes 24 hours, and once you get the grains you can make it for life (check out this kit here!) It's the most powerful probiotic, the most economical, and the most scientifically backed fermented food on the planet.
And it works in a few different ways:
- It helps with the production of tryptophan. There are 2 trillion probiotic organisms per serving of milk kefir. Tryptophan is important because it is a precursor molecule for serotonin (the feel good neurotransmitter). To start the process you need morning sunlight and then serotonin gets converted into melatonin (which is your sleep hormone). It is a cascade of hormones that start from milk kefir.
- There are other neurotransmitters like gaba. Which are calming neurotransmitters that are abundant in milk kefir.
- It’s loaded with prebiotics (which are substances that feed other bacteria)
After I started to consume milk kefir, I started to explore other things aside from diet like:
-Going to a psychologist
-Learning how to meditate
-Acting training (which helped me conquer my fears). One of the most liberating things I ever did for my mental health was learning how to act. Learning how to act isn’t learning how to pretend, it’s learning more about yourself and about all of these different parts of you and your trauma. Going through a year of acting training helped me break through psychological blocks and fears like public speaking. And at the end of the course I was on stage in a theater production in front of 300 people.But the thing that started it all was gut health, diet, and lifestyle changes. You always start with the lowest hanging fruit. The additional strategies are really percentage improvements. But to get from a 1%-80% improvement is really simple > Just eat real food. Stop going to the super market and buying all the boxed food. Get fresh vegetables and fresh fruits, cleanest water you can afford and this will take you towards the biggest improvement.
The Impact of Circadian Rhythm on The Microbiome
The latest science, in terms of the microbiome, is the impact of circadian rhythmicity on the microbiome composition. Circadian rhythmicity is when your body is in tune with the day and night cycle. What disrupts this most significantly is EMF radiation including: artificial lighting, bluetooth, and wifi signals. What happens is it’s shifting the environment and creating stressors in the body. This non-native field is interrupting your hormones (melatonin, cortisol, etc) so that's the first thing that you need to adjust. When you go to sleep, turn off your wifi router and put your phone on airplane mode.
After this, then you can start to manage your light. Wake up in the morning and get the sunlight in your eyes. This helps set your body's clock for the day and helps signal when it should secrete different hormones. For example: if you’re sitting in the dark with a cellphone shining in your eyes with the blue light, instead of your body thinking it’s time for sleep, it’s thinking it's in the middle of the day. And the gut microbiome has its own circadian rhythm as well. Different organisms are active at different parts of the day.
And from a genetic point of view, you are basically 90% microbe. There are much more microbial genes in your body than actual genes. So this means that most of the genes in your body aren’t yours, they are from the outside. It’s the only organ in the body that is 100% adaptive to stimuli. Whether it's circadian rhythmicity or your food sources, it can shift and adapt. This is one of the reasons why humans are so resilient and can adapt to any environment because the microbiome can fill in any gaps that you need. They produce hormones, vitamins, minerals, and house 80% of your immune system.
Overall, being tuned into the sun is important. Then when it comes to the nighttime, wear blue light blocking glasses and limit screen time. The precursor molecules for melatonin production start when the sunlight hits your eyes. And melatonin is a master antioxidant. High quality sleep makes a difference because your brain is detoxifying during that sleeping process and your gut is repairing as well. You have a new gut every few days since its tissues are continuously regenerating. Our gut is the biggest defense to the outside world, NOT the skin. Here are more articles all about blue light and circadian rhythm with other professionals Jack Kruse & Andy Mant.
Milk Kefir and Water Kefir
Milk kefir is the gold standard in terms of probiotics benefits and peptides (they have the ability to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, have neurotransmitter components, and are antimicrobials). And the functional peptides themselves are post biotics. Post biotics are what the bacteria or yeasts produce themselves. So the probiotics are the live organisms but the post biotics are the ones that are doing most of the work. If I had to recommend any type of milk kefir I would recommend the dairy based version with a high quality milk. Something with A2 milk proteins (non-inflammatory) chemical free, organic, small herd, NOT a mass produced product with a lot of chemicals. If you are lactose intolerant, milk kefir will be fine. This is because lactose is converted into lactic acid so the bacteria reduce the lactose to such a small amount. But if you are vegan, have an intolerance to casein, or don’t tolerate dairy products you can use water kefir grains.
Water kefir is a very different organism. Milk kefir is thousands of years old and there are mentions of it in the bible; it's been passed down for generations and generations. Water kefir is most likely coming from central america when someone opened a fruit and they found these grains inside of them. It's a bacterial biofilm with bits of sugars that the bacteria secrete. Water kefir is a great option for someone who is dairy free. You can ferment it in sugar, water (or coconut water) and most of the sugar is converted to organic acids. You can use kefir grains with nut milks as well.
Do You Also Need to Take Probiotics?
With probiotics, it’s a very personalized approach. Having a dietary source of fermented foods in every meal is recommended for good wellness and health. After you go through a metagenomic analysis of your stool and you get a stool profile, you'll look at the deficiencies in the different species of bacteria then you can use therapeutic interventions with pre and probiotics. You can use specific strains like VSL 3, Seed, or Megasporebiotic. There are also specific strains for mental health issues. Overall this is very tailored to the individual person. But broadly speaking, fermented foods are cost effective, easy, and I recommend to have some at every meal.
Here are some recipe ideas:
Breakfast: Berry Chia Pudding
If you do buy a probiotic, make sure to buy one that has studies behind it, not one from the supermarket shelf!
Kombucha and Prebiotics
Kombucha is not well studied but here is some evidence to suggest that it can be helpful (from an organic acid perspective). The organic acids that are produced, act as prebiotics in the gut. It is not like kefir which is very full of probiotics. But it's so much better than artificial products and soft drinks. It's fermented tea and it takes about 7 days to make at home. It's really cost effective and you can use this starter and recipe book! Commercial kombucha isn’t good to consume because it’s difficult to sell true kombucha because of the alcohol percentage.
The Importance of Deuterium Depleted Water
First let me explain what deuterium is: deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen. It has more molecular weight and can substitute into hydrogen in chemical reactions. From a weight perspective, it has twice the mass and an extra neutron. So instead of having h2o you can end up with various configurations but the obvious is d2o which can be dangerous in the long term.
Which is why deuterium depleted water is very important because deuterium can interfere with various reactions in the body. And the most obvious, is within the mitochondria. Dr Laszlo Boros (read more through this blog post) suggests that excess levels of environmental deuterium coming through our food or water,damages these nanomotors in the mitochondria. The most dense tissues in our bodies have 10 thousand mitochondria and the dense places are affected first. So if the mitochondria are being whacked out in your brain cells do you think the brain is going to function with its full capacity if it's not getting the energy? No, which is what could be happening with neurological diseases.
This is what happens in the gut as well and your first line of defense of the immune system are the gut cells. So think about having excessive levels of deuterium through diet, water, and eventually damaging the mitochondria within the gut cells. This may contribute to leaky gut. And in nature, a lot of the way things function is through shape. Shape is involved in the way reactions occur, the ways cells function, and ways the barrier systems work. Anything that is going to impact the shape of a molecule could cause dysfunction. And since deuterium is twice as heavy as hydrogen, it's going to be causing some potential problems.
The easiest way to get deuterium depleted water is through your diet. This is because certain foods have higher levels of deuterium (here is a guide on deuterium depleted water!) This guide shows the deuterium content of food sources and water around the world. Fats like lard and bacon fat tend to be lower in deuterium but grains, wheat, and carbs tend to be higher. The easiest way to get deuterium depleted water is to have a ketogenic diet. Also exposing the body to the sun cycles as you read earlier.
I tested water from almost every country in the world. Australia is around 154ppm which isn’t good. But I found a source very high in the mountains of Canada and I was so excited when I did the testing. I flew to Canada to this pristine glacier source and spent a fortune to lock in this source and import this water into Australia. My brand is called Low D and it’s from this source. It’s the purest and has:
-Low deuterium (136ppm which is the lowest natural water on the planet ever tested!)
And because a lot of the deuterium studies are done on cancer and slowing the growth of the cells, we also carry another product that helps for that as well. They use a process to get the deuterium down to 25ppm and it’s called “Preventa”. It’s very expensive but it’s so effective against particular diseases.
What is The Most Important Part of Improving Your Gut Health?
Your body is 70% water so water is number 1! The research is suggesting that water is almost like a hard drive memory. So if the water that you are drinking out of your tap is going through all of these processing plants and contains things like:
Then think about the memory that the water is holding vs a source that is coming from a glacier. I take my water very seriously. I use technology to erase the memory of the water and then I structure the water before I drink it. You can put it in the sun or use a red light panel which helps make water more absorbable in the body. Every glass of water goes through that process before in my body. It's 100% pure. Exposure to the infrared spectrum is what's going to trigger the structured water(more on that here). Getting out in the sun and making an effort to spend time in nature when you can is important. Those negative ions (which are under-appreciated) have neurological effects on the mind. This is why the Japanese do forest bathing, it helps your mental health.
Number 2 is a confined eating window. Try to confine it to 6-8 hours a day to give your gut a chance to rest and digest. Eating is stressful, energy intensive, and taxing on the immune system. Give the food you've consumed a chance to digest and give your body the time to absorb the nutrients from the food. And make sure your last meal is 4 hours before bed because eating is going to interfere with melatonin function. And the last thing you want to do when your body is trying to flush all of these toxins out of your body is to worry about digesting food. These are the tiny tweaks > consuming clean food, clean water, circadian rhythmicity, having a small confined eating window, and intermittent fasting, that help you to see amazing benefits!
Kriben’s Morning Routine
Normally I wake up around 7:30. My house is free of dirty electricity and after a certain time at night, my room has 0 EMF. Everything is hardwired in my house and my room is blacked out. But I wake up and the first thing I do is go for a walk in the sun. I walk to my local cafe as the sun is rising and this light is hitting my eyes. I get some exercise and then I talk with my barista because I need some form of human interaction to get my day started. I come back and do 20 minutes of transcendental meditation with a sound generator at 432 hz. I have my aromatherapy diffuser with lemongrass or lavender oil and my red light panel with some natural light coming in as well.
Then I start my day with a nice breakfast at 9 (normally milk kefir with almonds, blueberries, brazil nuts and bee pollen), a cup of coffee, medicinal mushrooms or CBD oil, and a zeolite supplement. It helps to clear heavy metals, modulates the gut microbiome, and removes toxins. I have my last meal at 3pm and I eat seafood as much as I can. I eat a diverse amount of vegetables which include spices and fermented foods! The worst thing you can do is to eat the same thing everyday.
How to Sustain Transformation
One of the bits of research that I've found says that the reason why people gain weight back after a diet is because the microbiome tries to go back to a steady state. It wants homestatisus whether that state is diseased or not. So you have to fight against this homeostatic effect for the body wanting to go back to a diseased state. And the bacteria and yeast have a direct line of communication to the brain via the vagus nerve. Which means they can signal more sugar etc.
For consistent change, I recommend shaping and modulating the microbiome. You can't change other organs but we are lucky that we can shift the microbiome by dietary interventions! This is why diets that exclude certain things are so powerful. We can shift our microbiome so much that we start to crave the good things. Then the beneficial bacteria will be dominating vs the negative types of bacteria or yeasts. But everyone has to go through the elimination struggle through the cravings.
But out of everything, diet is number 3. The easier ways to sustain your transformation are to > get rid of EMF's, start to be mindful of your light exposure, and then eat good food in a shortened window. Just by making these changes, you will push the microbiome to a new state. And once you get to the new steady state, then you can maintain it. Another amazing product is bioactive hemp oil for mental health. All of the compounds work together in a nice balanced profile. This can help you sustain transformation as well.
There are many things that you can do to help improve your mental health and it starts with your gut! Remember to consume fermented foods at every meal, get morning sunlight in your eyes, be mindful of blue light, drink the best water you possibly can, and know that you can reshape the microbiome in time! Share this with a friend that would benefit from this information!