Are you bummed at the final score of the Super Bowl? Maybe you should reach for a bowl of yogurt.
We’re kidding…but only a little bit.
Research shows the type of bacteria in our gut can actually impact our mood, meaning having more of the good or beneficial bacteria in our gut can actually calm us down and made us less anxious. Our gut, often referred to as our ‘second brain’ is a multi-tasker for our health, including regulating digestion and metabolism, extracting and making vitamins from food, boosting our immune system, and protecting our body from harmful bacteria and other pathogens. The gut also produces 95 percent of our serotonin, the ‘feel good’ hormone that helps to regulate our mood and keep us feeling sunny.
Scientists are working on discovering how gut bacteria actually influences our mood. One theory is that when the gut bacteria produces or detects mood-regulating hormones and neurotransmitters—like serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and melatonin—they send a message to the brain through the vagus nerve, the communication channel between the gut and brain. When the brain knows our gut environment is happy and playing well, that signals the brain to tell us to feel good.
Obviously, that’s simplifying the science a bit. But the bottom-line is that scientists are discovering that a healthy gut can help make us more calm, optimistic and less anxious.
To increase the good bacteria in your gut, eat fermented foods rich in probiotics, like plain cultured yogurt, miso, fermented soy sauce, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and tempeh. You can also take a probiotic supplement. We did a review of probiotic shots, here.
One last thing, research shows the good bacteria thrive in our gut when we eat a diet high in fiber, including whole grains, beans and legumes, and fruits and vegetables. The bad bacteria thrive on added sugars and processed foods. Again, I’m simplifying it a bit. But it’s just one more reason to put down the candy bar and reach for the yogurt and fruit.