If you suffer from anxiety, you’re one the 40 million adults in the U.S. afflicted with the disorder. Prescription medication along with cognitive behavior therapy may help, but what about changing up your diet? Many studies are linking the intake of fermented foods and probiotics with successfully relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Gut and Brain Linkage

As GetThrive.com has shared in previous articles, our digestive system absolutely has an impact on our brain. Over 100 trillion microorganisms live in our intestinal tract and affects brain elements such as memory and mood, to name just a couple. Improving balance in the gut microbiome has shown to “change how people experience emotions”—for the better!

How to Get “Better”

Anxiety and depression do not come on suddenly, nor do they disappear overnight. However, making alterations such as adding probiotics (as supplements) have demonstrated reduced feelings of angst and stress. Probiotics are live bacteria. They provide digestive aid and gut health. It’s also no secret that probiotics assist in taking care of the immune system as well as neurological function. Probiotics rock.
One study focused on the combination of two specific probiotics: Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum. The cocktail of the duo was developed purposefully with improving mental health as a goal.  Results from various studies utilizing these probiotics revealed an approximate 50% decrease in depression amongst its participants. Additionally, there proved to be a large reduction in anxiety-promoting hormones and overall stress.
A very recent study explored using fermented foods as a tool to re-establish proper gut flora—the concept meant to address the link between digestive balance and social anxiety. The author, Dr. Matthew Hilmire and his associates were interested in the effects of probiotics (derived from fermented foods) on personal behavior, feelings, and levels of stress.
Professors and psychologists involved in the study at the College of William & Mary were intrigued by how the gut can influence the mind. Participants who ate sauerkraut, for example, experienced fewer bouts of fear and worry than before they began eating fermented foods. Moods pervasively elevated in participants involved in the fermented food study.
If we examine the correlation of serotonin and other feel-good hormones in our gut to how we feel, it makes sense that re-balancing gut flora would make us “feel” better.

How to Shop and What To Take or Eat

Probiotic supplements can be purchased at health food stores and online. A few things to check out before buying are: the bacteria strains; expiration dates; how they will make it all the way down into your intestines; and, do they offer a refund?
Experts will have their favorite/most-essential strains list, but from what we’ve researched, here are 3 of the most common: L. Acidphilus, B. Bifidum, and B. Longhum. It’s still unclear how many billion CF units are most beneficial. Just make sure to get a pure product, preferentially manufactured in the U.S.
Make sure your product has not expired, especially since probiotic bacteria is live. That being said, read the label to see how your pill, capsule, or caplet will be delivered to your intestines. Stomach acids are strong and could kill your probiotic before it even makes it way to your lower digestive tract.
A company that offers a refund is telling you that they stand by their product.
Natural sources of probiotics are fermented foods. Some of these include:

  • Kombucha- a sparkling fermented tea that comes in several flavors. Beware of sugar content. A ginger version is especially nice on the tummy. You can buy kombucha at many markets or you can even make it at home.
  • Kefir – a dairy drink that tastes a little like yogurt. It’s made from rubbery pieces of kefir grain that’s fermented.
  • Kimchi – Korean in origin. It’s fermented cucumbers, cabbage, or other veggies mixed with a variety of seasonings.
  • Sauerkraut – a sour tasting fermented cabbage side-dish. The veggie is pickled, salted, and becomes fermented by airborne bacteria.
  • Pickles – A cucumber that has been soaked in a brine or vinegar and left to ferment for some time.

Regardless if you experience anxiety, depression, or mood swings, your body and mind can always benefit from a probiotic boost. Choose your supplement and/or your fermented food, and get happy!