Gut Bacteria and Mood
Gut Bacteria and Mood
“A yogurt a day keeps the doctor away?”
It turns out that the food you eat might affect your mental well-being more than you think. Research is starting to reveal a relationship between gut bacteria and your ability to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression.
At any given time, the average human gut is a vessel for a hundred trillion bacteria. That is equal to five pounds of living microbes or the equivalent weight of ten apples! Most of these gut inhabitants help to aid digestion and immune functions, but be aware, not all of these bacteria are your friends. For example, processed foods containing high fat and sugar content attract a family of bacteria from the Clostridium family. They produce toxins that are eventually delivered to your brain through blood circulation. On the other hand, foods high in probiotics, like yogurt, attract bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus that produce GABA – a happy signal for your brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps to manage stress, anxiety and depression. According to Psychology Today, “GABA is a nice glass of wine in front of the fire. GABA is restful sleep. GABA is tranquillity and yoga.”
A recent study from UCLA tested the difference in brain function between people who consumed yogurt containing probiotics and people who consumed sham yogurt without probiotics over a period of 4 weeks. Participants who consumed probiotics showed a decrease in brain activity in areas that process emotion compared to their sham yogurt-eating counterparts. Similar studies continue to find that the state of your mental health and gut health are closely interconnected.
While we’re not suggesting that a yogurt a day is the magical cure for anxiety and depression, the probiotics it contains can be a great step in maintaining healthy gut bacteria and a happy mood. In fact, if dairy products aren’t your thing, probiotics can be found in many other sources of food such as fermented teas like kombucha, fermented vegetables like pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut, miso soup, water or coconut kefir, and even ginger beer!
Psychology today on probiotics and anxiety:
UCLA study on diet and brain function:
Getting probiotics without the dairy: