Highlights from Jonathan Otto's interview with Dr. Todd Watts, for the Depression & Anxiety Series. Dr. Watts talks about how the gut works, and how that relates to the brain - this is called the gut-brain connection. He talks about neurotransmitters, why we need them, and how they are created in the body.
Science of Neurotransmitters
[00:05:30] Positive gut science. What is that? What does it mean to have a good microbiome? So the good gut bacteria that you have helps to create many nutrients your body needs and your brain needs to be able to make the neurotransmitters and the healthy enzymes to be able to function and to be happy. So what we want to look at is relation to serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. These are all essential neurotransmitters, and there's many other ones, but these are the most common ones that people know in the world today. Why is that? Because anxiety and depression goes right back to these. Our brain needs food, and the food comes from the nutrients that are made in the gut to help support the production of the neurotransmitters and the good things that we need in our brain. There's also a thing called the BH4 cycle.
[00:06:00] [00:06:30] [00:07:00] [00:07:30] The BH4 stands for tetrahydrobiopterin. That's a product or nutrient that's needed to be able to convert tryptophan to serotonin, to convert phenylalanine and tyrosine over to dopamine, which are essential neurotransmitters for health and happiness. So what can happen in that process is it involves a methylation. Methylation is what many of us have as a buzzword in the world today in natural remedies. What's going on with methylation? Well, if you're not methylating properly, that's required to help us recycle the BH4, which then converts the good neurotransmitters. Another part of what it does is it takes another amino acid called arginine and converts it to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps with getting good blood flow to the brain. How essential is that? Oxygen and nutrients to the brain are vital on that process. So we see the tie-in of some science here with this cycle of understanding getting nutrients made, so getting these things to the brain really provides that balance that's needed for happiness and health. And so there's a huge connection between a good health and a good brain or happy person, and anytime I see somebody clinically, it can be like, oh, I have depression, what do I always go to first? We always have to look at the gut. What are you eating, right? What may be disrupting it? How are your hormones being produced? How are your new transmitters being produced?
[00:08:00] [00:08:30] So what can create the problem with anxiety and depression? One of those things is parasites. That's right. Parasites. Can you believe that? I didn't believe that before, but as I personally went through this journey, I have found many times with not only myself, but plenty of other people, gut health is related to brain health and happiness. So let's discuss a few things about parasites. One of the things is ammonia. Ammonia is a byproduct of parasites, which can cause brain fog, can cause depression and anxiety even affect your sleep at night. Another issue, what we can see is that these secrete enzymes which can inhibit GABA production. GABA is what helps bring this down from anxiety. So there's a couple of them. One called hookworms schistosomiasis, [inaudible 00:08:27] Toxoplasma Gondii, toxoplasmosis, both of which inhibit the GAD enzyme, which means we can't convert glutamate to GABA, which then we are running at a high anxiety area, and we don't want to be there because anxiety is a way that causes so many problems with people.
[00:09:00] [00:09:30] And in today's world it's rampant. It does exist. Another thing is in our gut health. A lot of the bacteria can be affected by the byproduct—by so much of this ammonia. Why is that? Because it suppresses or kills the bacteria, creates a bad environment for it to exist, so then we don't have the right bacteria making the right nutrients that are making the neurotransmitters and are happy or we call happy hormones or happy proteins. So these parasites can sometimes overtake people. I've seen it over and over that create chronic fatigue, create chronic pain. It creates just chronic feeling, horrible chronic illness. A lot of the chronic illness leads to depression and anxiety, and as we get energy back, as we clear these things out of people, man, it's amazing the transformation that happens.
[00:10:00] [00:10:30] Let me give you an example. I had a gentleman that was really depressed. He had his four kids. Actually, there's five or six kids now, but at the time that it started there at that point, and we went through and evaluate what was going on, what was happening, why wasn't he enjoying life? Why wasn't he engaging with his children? Well, in our treatments, he passed four, yes, four six foot tapeworms that affected him. He had lived in Brazil for a couple years and probably was highly infected with tape worms at that point in time, but those things exist here. Yes, in the United States, we get exposure to these things, so that's one example. I've had many other examples of having that depression or the anxiety, not feeling well, not moving forward in life and as we were able to get the proper nutrients and because now absorption is allowed. Parasites, I'm taking all your food. They're up taking all your nutrients.
[00:11:00] [00:11:30] They're not causing your chronic constipation now, that a lot of these people have, which they love to do so that they can take those nutrients from you. So that's one of the big titans of parasites at this deeper level that we would never think of. They affect neurotransmitter function. They can cause seizures. They can cause depression, anxiety through their byproduct as well as through dampering down the production of your neurotransmitters.
Another gut problem that can arise is from mold toxicity, exposure to mold. That process of getting those mycotoxins can cause severe anxiety, depression, and feeling completely overwhelmed with the whole world is on top of your shoulders. An example of mold, toxicity is when I had one of my clients come in and say, "Hey look, I'm just not getting over this insomnia. I'm not getting over this anxiety. I feel so overwhelmed at work and barely function. Any little bit of stress just triggers me off." And I thought, wow, we've done a lot of good gut health stuff, we just haven't quite got there. We're missing something.
[00:12:00] [00:12:30] So we started discussing about her husband and how he needed to come and see me because he was having these same issues, and he felt the whole world is crashing down in on them. They both had been going through these problems for five years, and when I heard that I thought, bam, mold toxicity. You guys need to go up in your attic and look. And it's not very common because our climate is very arid, very dry, warm, dry climate. He went up there, sure enough, black mold everywhere. They had bought a house. The house wasn't ventilated properly when the previous owner had done an addition to the house, so black mold proliferated throughout the attic and then down the walls and everywhere in the house. Well, the story ends here as well. We treated them for mold toxicity. Mold toxins that were causing these feelings of being overwhelmed in a world crashing in on him and they moved out of their house.
[00:13:00] [00:13:30] They tore it down and completely built a brand new house. Their whole lives have changed within just a few short months. The ability to function again, ability to have energy and the ability to get over this whole looming major depression, completely cleared out. Miraculous. What helped with that was the fact that they got out of the environment first and foremost.
So some conditions that relate to anxiety and depression are the following. One is called pyrolle disorder. That's right, P-Y-R-O-L-L-E. What happens is in this disorder within the body, which is partially genetic or epigenetic expressed or due to inflammation, is that it depletes zinc and B6. Both of those nutrients are needed to make your neurotransmitters and hormones. Also, they’re needed to do detoxification in your liver, they’re needed to make hemoglobin or heme, which is essential for providing or carry in nutrition and oxygen to your brain and through your whole body.
[00:14:00] [00:14:30] The other thing it does is essential for making energy, so your cells and in that part in your cell that has an energy factory called the mitochondria. The mitochondria make this awesome molecule called ATP. ATP is what fuels everything, makes everything happen. Without it, it's very difficult to make your neurotransmitters, to make your hormones, to make the things that we need to have optimal brain health and repair. So if we don't have zinc and B6, it makes it difficult for all of these systems, including the antioxidant system to work.
Another condition that can happen is the BH4 cycle. The BH4 cycle that helps to convert tyrosine to serotonin and phenylalanine into tyrosine and over to dopamine. That process requires a recycling of BH4 by methylation. What inhibits it? What causes that problems? Well, ammonia is one of those which is a byproduct of parasites, heavy metals, toxins, chronic infections and viruses, Lyme disease, and more toxicity.
All effect that cycle. It can create a major problem. So what do we need to do? One of the things is that we need to correct that and downplay inflammation. So that's our next thing is the inflammatory cycle. When we can't clear ammonia out of the body or we have too much of, it converts to Arginine. Arginine is converted to nitric oxide. That's how we get really good blood flow. Well, if we don't have enough BH4, then it converts it to super oxide and it converts it to peroxynitrite. Both of those are major inflammatory free radicals that are in the brain that creates severe depression, anxiety and neurological problems. So what do we need to do? We need to support the BH4 cycle. The BH4 is called tetrahydrobiopterin. That's the official name. We do that by making sure methylation’s occurring.
Clearing Infections & Toxins
[00:16:00] [00:16:30] [00:17:00] We also do that by clearing infections, parasites, Lyme , mold, chronic viruses. Also, the other thing is that if there's an influence of heavy metal toxicity, it can damage. We have to be sure that we're clear of heavy metals and toxins that are in both environmental and toxins that come from our food and nutrition, so they have optimal brain health. We have to be sure that all the systems within the body are working properly to make the nutrition in and to make those neurotransmitters and hormones that our body needs to be happy. Yes, hormones, women. That includes thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone. All those hormones are necessary including cortisol, which all can be affected by infections and the toxins. So now there's hope for everyone. I have a belief that there is. I know for myself. I've gone through a 10-year journey of getting my health, energy, and mindset back into where I needed to be.
[00:17:30] [00:18:00] How did I do that? A big part of how I did that was taking herbal products that supported my gut health and cleansed out parasites and other infections that were affecting me. And another way I did that also is by detoxing heavy metal toxins. So the process that I've used with many of my clients is taking them through what we call the funnel. The funnel is … at the bottom of the funnel is a colon. This is the drainage funnel. If you're not going to the bathroom, yes, if you're not pooping, you're not going to be healthy and your brain's not going to work, and you're not going to be happy. So you gotta make sure your colon is moving. Constipation has to be addressed first and foremost. From there, we need to be sure that the kidneys and the liver are draining those toxins and clearing them out of the body. From there is going to be the lymphatic system draining everything out from the whole body, and then the tissues, and then from there the cells. So getting to optimal brain health, we have to have the drainage process. Then you have to clear out what's creating the problem so that you're not going to constantly be feeding in the toxins that are affecting the neurotransmitters, and why you're feeling depressed, unhappy, and being anxious, and you can't sleep.
[00:18:30] [00:19:00] The other thing you have to address is your emotional health. Mindset is so important. Let me tell you a story that I went through. In my journey of getting me to where I needed to be. I remember coming home one day from work. That day I saw my five-year-old son and my nine-year-old daughter out playing baseball with my next door neighbor. Baseball had always been just a major part of my life growing up. My Dad was always there for that process. I thought, “I'm going to be a dad just like my dad, right? I'm going to be actively involved in my kids' lives, doing sports, being their coach, being part of that life.” You know what? I wasn't. I was going through the grind. I was coming home, crashing, getting up for dinner, put the kids to bed, and then going to bed myself again.
[00:19:30] When I came home and saw that experience with my kids playing with somebody else … it wasn't me. I wasn't the first one to play baseball with my kids. I wasn't the first one to throw that pitch, and it was devastating to me. That was devastating. That was the day my mindset completely switched. I knew I had to do everything, anything, everything to be able to get back to where I had energy and I had focus and my brain can be able to function the way it needed to be. I need to get out of this funk that I was in.
[00:20:00] One of the greatest things as I overcame this was, we went camping one weekend. We were camping and that's the desert. My kid … we were playing, running down the dunes, playing in the sand and the sand castles. The next day when we got home, my wife asked my son like, what was your favorite part of camping? I thought, oh, it was like cruising down the dunes, but now it's like, you know what he said? He said, “Spending time with my dad.” And that was just like, wow! The impact that you have with your family, right? Your kids, what you're doing in life, it is so important because I wasn't there before, and now I'm there again. So the message I have for you guys is find what drives you. Find what's your new reason to get back. How you think every day. What's your mindset?
[00:20:30] My life changed because I listened to these things. Every morning I woke up and spent my first hour every day thinking I have abundance and energy of abundance in health. I really didn't, but I was telling my body that it did. That it had the energy. It had the mindset. It had the vitality that it needed. And then listening to great things that help me see if I can overcome this. I'm a warrior. You're a warrior. You're going to overcome this. I know you can. And there's a lot of great tools that will help you be able to accomplish that.