Beneficial bacteria may serve the same role as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. In one study, people who took a multi-strain probiotic for at least four weeks reported a lessening of rumination—recurring, persistent thoughts about something distressing that has or may happen, which tends to create anxiety.
Ninety percent of the neurotransmitter serotonin, (which is thought to play an important role in mood control and depression), is also manufactured in your gut. Insufficient amounts of gut bacteria has been linked to high-risk behavior.
Nourishing your gut flora is extremely important to support a positive mood and stable mental health. To do so, Joseph Mercola, MD, recommends the following strategies for gut mental health:
- Avoid sugar and processed, refined foods in your diet.Remember eating real food is one of the most powerful and simple strategies you can implement to take control of your health. If you need help doing this, read through his nutrition plan for a simple, whole-food based diet. There is simply no question that eliminating refined sugars is the most powerful intervention the average person can make to improve their gut flora.
- Eat traditionally fermented, unpasteurized foods. Fermented foods are the best route to optimal digestive health, as long as you eat the traditionally made, unpasteurized versions. Ideally, you want to eat a variety of fermented foods to maximize the variety of bacteria you’re consuming. Healthy choices include fermented vegetables, lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner), fermented milk like kefir, kimchee, and natto (fermented soy).
- Take a high-quality probiotic supplement. If you don’t eat fermented foods on a regular basis, do consider taking a broad-spectrum probiotic. Research has shown that certain probiotics may help alleviate anxiety by modulating the vagal pathways within the gut-brain, affecting GABA levels, and lowering the stress-induced hormone corticosterone.
In summary, foods have an immense impact on both your body and your brain, and eating whole foods as described in Mercola’s nutrition plan is the best way to support your mental and physical health. Whether you need a quick pick-me-up or you’ve been struggling with poor mood for a while, the best remedy is likely not found in your medicine cabinet but right in your pantry or refrigerator.