Food, Mood, Gut Bacteria

After a long Thanksgiving weekend full of wonderful meals I thought I would explore the topic of gut bacteria and how it can alter mood & behavior in children and adults impacting the wellness of your family.

Gut Bacteria Linked to Toddler Temperament

Scientists from Ohio State University studied the bacterial microbes in stool samples from 77 girls and boys between the ages of 18 months and 27 months, while mothers filled out a questionnaire describing their children’s level of emotional reactivity.

The study found that positive behavioral traits (mood, curiosity, sociability and impulsivity) occurred more frequently in children with the most diverse types of gut bacteria.

Christian explains, “There is substantial evidence that intestinal bacteria interact with stress hormones; the same hormones that have been implicated in chronic illnesses like obesity and asthma…A toddler’s temperament gives us a good idea of how they react to stress. This information, combined with an analysis of their gut microbiome, could ultimately help us to detect and prevent chronic health issues [from developing] earlier.”

This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Can the bacteria in your gut alter you mood? Yes.

Cause anxiety and depression? Yes.

In a normal digestive tract, trillions of bacteria are constantly at work to keep your body healthy. They protect against infection, provide nutrition to cells and convert food to energy.

However, when the bacteria’s normal functions are disrupted, it can also disrupt your mood and behavior, both of which can lead to anxiety. In the study, when the bacteria’s healthy functions were restored, mood and behavior leveled out, reducing or eliminating anxious feelings.

If you are suffering from anxiety or depression you need to consider your gut bacteria and how to restore healthy gut flora (microorganisms in the digestive tract). Standford University scientists, Justin and Erica Sonnenburg write, “Since there is much we can do to shape the environment within our guts, we have control over our microbiota and can compensate for the lack of control we have over our human genome. Our microbiome contains one hundred times more genes than our human genome, so in fact there is about 99 percent of associated genetic material that we have the potential to mold in ways that are beneficial to us.”

How to cultivate good gut health:

  • Cut out sugar and processed foods: Sugar is processed too easily and starves microbes, making our gut bacteria hungry (hangry)! They begin to nibble on the mucus lining of our intestines allowing food to enter the bloodstream, alerting our immune system to tell the brain and other organs to attack, causing inflammation in various parts of the body. Sugar feeds organisms like Candida, a kind of fungus that grows in the gut and attacks the intestine wall multiplying quickly the more sugar you eat, causing bloating, constipation and irritability. Diets high in sugar cause changes in the gut bacteria and negatively affect mental and physical functions of the brain.
  • Eat more plants and dietary fiber: Diet is everything when discussing gut bacteria. Green leafy vegetables allow you to achieve and maintain microbiota diversity which will help keep our intestinal lining intact and also help keep a more sustainable collection of bacteria
  • Limit antibiotics: Antibiotics don’t discern between beneficial and non-beneficial bacteria. Some of the bacteria the antibiotic takes away is needed to fight other infections…Regular use kills the diverse community of microbiota affecting long-term health.
  • Limit exposure to sanitization: Most household cleaners are like antibiotics, obliterating everything, which includes helpful bacteria. Limit exposure to chlorine, avoid antibacterial soaps and alcohol-based sanitizers. Less toxic alternatives: vinegar, castile soap, and lemon juice.
  • Take a probiotic: Seek probiotics that contain the following species: Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus brevis, Bifidobacterium lactis (B. animalis), and Bifidobacterium longum.
  • Introduce fermented foods into your diet: Yogurt (unsweetened!), kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut, pickles, and kombucha tea are some prime examples. People were fermenting food more than 8,000 years ago!
  • Lower stress: Stress in the body discharges natural steroids and adrenaline and tells our immune system to release inflammatory cytokines. Stressed all the time? Then your immune system will never stop sending inflammation messages to al parts of our body, gut bacteria included. Intestinal bacteria and immune system work closely together so chronic stress weakens the health of our guts.
  • Consistent Sleep: Cytokines are inflammatory messengers and they have circadian cycles that are dictated by our gut bacteria! Disruption of the gut bacteria can have negative effects on sleep and circadian rhythms.
  • Sweat: Exercise induces changes in the gut microbiota
  • Limit red meat and animal products: Diets rich in meat products create a microbe, Bilophila, which is linked to intestinal disease and inflammation. “The microbiota of omnivores, compared to that of vegetarians and vegans, produces more of a chemical that is associated with heart disease…That compound, trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), is a product of the microbiota metabolizing a chemical abundant in red meat” explain the Sonnenburgs (Standford University).

Source from

If you’d like more info: Check out this short audio session of NPR, What you eat influences your thoughts:“>NPR Gut Bacteria Might Guide The Workings Of Our Minds



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s