By Penny Hill

You, Your Mood and Your Gut

Say what?

While you would rightly expect that the bacteria in your gut to influence your digestion, and related things like gassiness and food intolerance, there is more evidence piling up about how they do so much more. The microbiota, which is the collection of all the various bacteria in your gut, has many functions: it helps make vitamins, combats bad bugs, and plays an important role in immune functions. The presence or absence of these bacteria has been linked to obesity, and inflammatory bowel disease. They also may help alleviate the toxic side effects of prescription drugs. But they may be doing way more than that.

Work in Mark Lyte‘s lab on the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has… “found that the guys (sic) here in the gut make neurochemicals.” The two million unique bacterial genes found in each human microbiome can make the 23,000 genes in our cells seem paltry. We are, at least from the standpoint of DNA, more microbial than human. Also, of the two kg of bacteria in our gut, 2/3 of it is unique to us, making it as identifiably ours as a fingerprint.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety affects millions of people. While there may be no or few outward symptoms, people may be suffering nonetheless. One way to help may be to pay attention to the health of your gut. A recent study found that people who tend to be socially anxious report less social anxiety if their diet contained fermented foods (which contain probiotics). As explained by researcher Matthew Hillmire: “It is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence social anxiety.” Also, “as a side note, the research also found that exercise was related to reduced social anxiety.” (reference website Exercise is good for everything, apparently!

Taking Care Of Your Gut

Fermented foods are a good source of probiotics. Other than smoking and drying, fermenting was the only way for earlier peoples to preserve foods, and as such we may have evolved along with the good bacteria fermenting encourages, and they with us. You’ll be familiar with many of the traditional products: miso, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and tempeh. Our modern diet and exposure to drugs and other chemicals may be having an effect on our internal fauna, putting both our physical and mental health at risk.

In the meantime, it may be wise to do as our ancestors have done: ferment. There is a wonderful (if overwhelming in it’s comprehensiveness) book called Nourishing Traditions, by author Sally Fallon. It is a great source of information about fermenting foods, making bone broths, and so much more. Home fermenting is a bit time consuming but not difficult. A jar, cut up veggies, and some sea salt will get you going, and a place to store it at the proper temperature. Some more tips can be found HERE. 

Food, may once again, prove to be one of our greatest medicines.