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Many mental illnesses are inflammation based: More and more science backs up a link between gut health and mental health

You may have heard before that your stomach is home to trillions of bacteria. These microorganisms help break down the food you eat and have a lot to do with the quality of your overall health.

But did you know that the state of your gut can impact the state of your mind, and in turn may affect your mood? In other words, the countless microorganisms living inside your body can directly affect your mental health.

Dr. Leslie Korn, an integrative medicine and mental health expert, told Good Health that “the brain is not always the cause of mental illness.”

According to studies, depression – a common mental illness – can be induced through inflammatory agents, such as high levels of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which is an inflammatory toxin produced by bacteria in the gut. Depression is said to be a collection of inflammation, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction, which drives its symptoms.

Based on animal and human studies, it appears that gut ecology is a key driver in depression symptoms, which put the human microbiome in the forefront of psychiatric research.

There have been many cases of “probiotic cure” working on patients with mental symptoms, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, wherein dietary change and probiotic supplementation helped reverse the symptoms. This indicates that intestinal inflammation may be associated with mental illness.

Probiotics are live organisms that offer a variety of health benefits when ingested in adequate amounts. Fermented foods are the most common source of probiotics. In foods such as lactofermented sauerkraut, and other traditional vegetables, microbes are acting on the food, and the food is then acting on our microbes.

The best place to begin then, when we consider how to modify inflammatory states in the body, is the gut, which houses more than 70 percent of our immune system.

Exposure to medication, gluten, herbicides, stress, and infection can disrupt the balance of bacterial communities within your gut, and in turn trigger the inflammatory response of your immune system as it prepares to attack the invading pathogens.

Your enteric nervous system (ENS), according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. […] The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset.”

Boost your tummy to boost your mood

If gut health is integral to keeping your mental and emotional state healthy, it makes sense to prioritize giving your gut all the nutrition it needs. Below are some of the best sources of probiotics that your gastrointestinal tract needs.

  • B vitamins – B vitamins are essential for improving your digestion, and taking a B complex vitamin supplement can definitely improve your mood. B3 (niacin) for instance, helps break down carbs, fats, and alcohol. B6 breaks down proteins, while B1 turns carbs into energy and helps regulate your appetite. Another B vitamin called biotin helps make cholesterol and breaks down carbs, proteins, and fatty acids.
  • Fermented foods – Fermented foods are an excellent source of natural probiotics. Consuming a variety of fermented foods can provide your body with multiple strains of good bacteria. Fermentation also increases B-vitamins, magnesium, and zinc content in food, which can impact mood. Fermented foods include sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, pickles, ginger beer, miso and sourdough bread, to name a few. Just make sure you’re getting unpasteurized products since pasteurization kills all of the friendly bacteria.
  • Coriander – Coriander contains linalool, a volatile compound known to reduce stress.

Head over to to learn more about the best foods for your gut and mood.

Sources include:

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