Dr. Rhonda Patrick on Depression | Joe Rogan Experience


(Episode 459) 51:17 – Probiotics. Discussing the gut microbiome. A well known biomarker for depression is spotting high levels of a certain protein which results from the gut microbiome (C-Reactive protein) [I don’t believe she spoke on the relation between C-reactive protein and the gut microbiome]

Kynurenine; Inflammation

(Episode 568) 2:55:03 – More on kynurenine. A study has shown that mice injected with kynurenine became depressed (and experienced a host of neurotoxic effects). Inflammation is one effect present when kynurenine is introduced, this depletes the brain’s ability to release serotonin, which leads to depression. When the mice exercised, the depressive symptoms went away. 

Tryptophan Triage

(Episode 672) 2:43:54 – When you are exhausted or inflamed due to stress, tryptophan gets converted mostly into compounds that regulate the immune system (instead of being converted into serotonin). So there is a diversion towards a pathway, depriving the brain of serotonin. Not getting enough sleep can lead to impulsive behavior [there isn’t any technical information provided because it’s been a while since she read the study]. Dr. Patrick theorizes that people with serotonin problems (impulsivity and depression) need to supplement with vitamin D and omega-3s.


(Episode 901) 32:34 – Sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables. Plant tissue must be broken in order for sulforaphane to form; it is stored as a precursor first and as the tissue is broken sulforaphane is formed. It is one of the plant’s insecticide mechanisms. When we ingest it, it is “really really really” good for us. Sulforaphane is very high in broccoli sprouts; it is probably the best source of sulforaphane out there. Dr. Patrick has become convinced that sulforaphane has significant anti-aging properties and nootropic benefits. If you freeze the broccoli sprouts, you can up to double the amount of sulforaphane; this will make the broccoli sprouts very pungent. It has been shown that if you give a small amount (7-30mg) of sulforaphane a day to young adults with autism, it improved their autism scores by 34%. The brain functions better when introduced to sulforaphane. It has been shown to help with depression and neurodegenerative diseases.

Mental Health and Nutrition

(Episode 901) 58:00 – Correlation between mental health diseases and a lack of proper nutrition. Inflammation is now understood to play a causal role in depression. CDC estimates that around 11% of Americans are on some antidepressant. The DSM-II (diagnostics and statistics manual) changed their diagnosis markers and symptoms for depression; they expanded the definition and therefore encompassing many more people who did not have to be hospitalized for their depressive symptoms (great opportunity for pharmaceutical companies). Prior to this change, an antidepressant was 70% effective in helping patients who were hospitalized for their depressive symptoms (compared to placebo which was 30% effective). Prior to the change, because more people fall under this new definition of depression, the drugs are only 40% effective and the placebos remain 30% effective. Now drugs are performing only a little bit better than placebo and at what cost?

Exercise and Depression

(Episode 901) 1:16:00 – Exercise shown to help depression. When inflammation occurs, the body diverts tryptophan from conversion into serotonin to the inflammatory response. Tryptophan becomes converted into kynuramine; immune cells need it to make different kinds of immune cells. Kynuramine gets converted into quinolinic acid, which is a neurotoxin that crosses the blood brain barrier; has been shown to cause depression. Where does exercise fit in? Exercise allows the muscles to absorb the kynuramine and limit the quinolinic acid production. Exercise also diverts the tryptophan towards the serotonin conversion pathway rather than the inflammatory pathways; this occurs due to the fact that exercise calls upon other branched chain amino acids to go to the body rather than the brain, which alleviates tryptophan’s competition. BDNF also plays a role in preventing depression; exercise produces this as well.

Postpartum Depression

(Episode 1045) 28:57 – Postpartum depression. During pregnancy, the estrogen levels go through the roof; about a 100 fold increase. Estrogen has been shown to increase the activity of a gene called tryptophan hydroxylase-2 which produces serotonin in the brain from tryptophan. So there is a constant serotonin production. After childbirth, these estrogen levels go down and the serotonin production goes down with it. This is the theory proposed by Dr. Patrick. Another theory is circadian rhythm disruption. Exercise can help get tryptophan into the brain as competing branched chain amino acids go elsewhere in the body. Exercise also increases the amount of BDNF in the brain, creating new neurons and preventing depression.

Probiotics; Stress

(Episode 1045) 2:20:36 – Probiotics and stress. Gut issues from stress can be fixed with taking a probiotic. Dr. Patrick took VSL3 [discussed in a prior summary] and now takes probiotics from a company called Visbiome. There have been a few studies that show that taking a probiotic can improve anxiety, cognition and depression scores. The whole field of gut-brain mechanics is interesting and new; overall it is novel territory and we are still trying to figure it out.


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