Do you feel angry, anxious, depressed, and irritable? If you find yourself yelling at everyone on the road or snapping at your loved ones, you may have thought about just taking a prescription. Before you fill it, however, I advise you to take a look at your more natural options. Oftentimes, mental health problems are a result of low gut bacteria, not a severe psychiatric illness.

What is good bacteria?

The microorganisms (bugs) in your gut are absolutely essential to your health. They help you digest your food and keep your immune system strong. These bugs are also critical to your neurological function. Unfortunately, a large majority of people are extremely deficient in these critical bacteria, which has lead to a growing epidemic of autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal malfunction, and mental health disorders.

Why your gut bacteria is so low

One hundred years ago, our soil was richer, our food was organic, and our milk was raw and probiotic-rich. Now we eat food our great-grandparents would barely recognize as edible. Processed sugar, refined flour, food dyes, and artificial sweeteners are a staple in our diet and it’s destroying our natural gut bacteria by the truckload.

Excessive use of antibiotics, NSAID pain relievers, and birth control pills also deplete these beneficial gut bacteria, leaving you vulnerable for the development of chronic disease.

How probiotics treat anger and anxiety

You know you have a brain in your head but did you know there’s also one in your gut? This “second brain” is called your enteric nervous system and it’s not only responsible for digesting your food, it also regulates your moods and emotions.

This second brain contains 100 million neurons, which is more than the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system. According to a clinical study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology, it was revealed that high levels of beneficial gut bacteria have a positive effect on memory, impulse control, and emotion.

That feeling of “butterflies in your stomach” is not just an old saying; it actually explains how your gut and brain communicate with one another! The primary visceral nerve, the vagus, communicates 90% of sensory information from your gut to your brain, not the other way around. This means that if you’re under any amount of stress, your gut knows and immediately informs your brain.

Since 95% of the feel-good chemical, serotonin, is located in your gut, keeping it filled with beneficial bacteria may be your key to treating the symptoms of mental illness naturally.

Food sources of beneficial bacteria

Eating more of these fermented foods can help improve your mental health:

  • Organic yogurt

Since many store-bought yogurts contain unnecessary additives and preservatives, it’s important to select an organic brand. Organic yogurt contains a good amount of gut-healing probiotics and, if you choose Greek yogurt, quite a bit of protein!

  • Organic soy sauce

80% of soy is genetically modified, meaning it contains gut-destroying pesticides in every bite. When choosing a soy sauce, always opt for organic to reap real health benefits.

  • Organic apple cider vinegar

Already use apple cider vinegar in your salads? Switch to organic apple cider vinegar “with the mother” and you’re giving your gut and immune system an amazing boost. Not only is it better for your health than conventional apple cider vinegar; it’s got a richer, more satisfying flavor.

  • Kimchi

This traditional fermented Korean dish, kimchi is rich in friendly bugs. This sour dish isn’t for everybody as it’s made from gone-bad cabbage but if you like a rich, tart taste, you’re in for a belly-healing treat.

  • Sauerkraut

For the best benefits, choose organically-fermented sauerkraut in a glass jar instead of the canned stuff you use on hot dogs. Organically-fermented sauerkraut retains millions of beneficial bugs, whereas the canned variety usually has all of its good bacteria cooked out.

  • Miso

Miso is a Japanese fermented product commonly used for sauces, spreads, and pickling. It is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. Miso has an ‘umami’ flavor that makes food taste hearty and filling.

  • Tempeh

This Indonesian soy product is often used in place of meat in many vegetarian dishes. This versatile food can be eaten fried, in soups, and in place of meat in tacos.

Not all store-bought probiotic supplements are healthy

If you’re thinking of taking one of the advertised commercial probiotics you’ve been seeing on television, I advise against it. Many of those name-brand probiotics contain little to no viable cultures and contain a bunch of additives and preservatives you’re better avoiding.

The best way to choose a probiotic supplement

The best way to choose a probiotic supplement is to look at the following characteristics:

  • Number of strains

The probiotic you choose should contain a number of strains as each strain is responsible for a different function. A probiotic containing a combination of bifidobacterium bifidum and lactobacillus acidophilus will work in harmony to boost your immune system and improve your digestive function.

  • Delivery system

No matter how high-quality your probiotic supplement; it will be useless unless it can survive the acid in your stomach. Be sure the probiotic supplement you select is encased in an enteric-coated capsule.

  • Inactive ingredients

As mentioned above, many probiotic supplements contain harmful additives. Avoid magnesium stearate (unless it’s from a vegetable source) and anything ending in the word ‘glycol’ as these are phthalates and quite dangerous for your health.

If you’re currently dealing with a mental health condition, consider adding a probiotic supplement to your diet. For best results, take probiotics half an hour before your first meal of the day. It’s important to note that if you are taking psychiatric medication to never stop it suddenly as this could cause severe side effects.

Within a few months of using a high-quality probiotic supplement, you should notice your mood start to improve along with your digestion. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to get through your commute again without laying on your horn or telling anyone off.

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