The power of food to heal through the gut-brain connection

It’s common knowledge that our thoughts and emotions directly affect the health of our gut. Negative feelings like stress and anxiety can lead to an upset stomach, heartburn, nausea, loose stools, etc. This is called the gut-brain connection  But did you know that this relationship between our brains and our gut also works in reverse? 

Researchers have found that the health of the microbiota in our gut (the community of microorganisms) can impact our behavior and emotions.

By altering bacteria in the gut through specially designed diets with probiotics/prebiotics, researchers have discovered that the health of your gut microbiota can be used as a tool to support psychiatric therapies by easing anxiety and depression.  Although the current studies are small, their findings are promising.

Probiotics are the live bacteria found in fermented foods and prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that feed the good gut bacteria. Although supplements can provide an easy way to get your probiotics, consuming probiotics and prebiotics through whole foods offers a greater source of overall nutrition than taking them as supplements. If you choose to add probiotics to your diet, be aware that not all fermented foods contain live bacteria due to the type of processing they have gone through and the way they are stored. For example, pasteurizing kills bacteria and some pickled foods are not actually fermented. 

Vegan probiotic foods that support gut health:

  • Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
  • Kimchi (spicy fermented red cabbage)
  • Fermented vegetables (not all pickled vegetables are fermented)
  • Kombucha (fermented tea)
  • Tempeh (fermented soy)
  • Miso (fermented soy in the form of a broth)

Common prebiotic foods:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Barley
  • Oats 
  • Apples
  • Cocoa
  • Flaxseed
  • Seaweed