Stressed? Anxious? Feeding your probiotic bacteria could help …
When you’re nervous, does it ever result in a dodgy tummy? Many studies have proven the link between the gut and the brain – there is a strong link between irritable bowel disease and depression. And scientists have proven that the gut talks to the brain and vice versa. Stress is thought to play a role in disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, coliti[i] and more.
Recently, scientists from the UK’s Oxford University showed the strong link between peoples’ gut bacteria and mental health[ii]. They found that feeding gut bacteria with prebiotics (compounds from wholegrains and legumes and more that feed good bacteria) designed to boost healthy gastrointestinal tract bacteria had an unexpected anti-anxiety effect.
The study also found that people who took the prebiotics had lower levels of cortisol in their saliva when they woke up in the morning, compared with people who took a placebo. High cortisol levels have been linked with stress, anxiety and depression,
Prebiotics are types of dietary fibre – your body can’t digest and make use of them and they function to help speed waste out of your body. But probiotic bacteria use them as food to flourish. Taking prebiotics encourages the growth of all beneficial bacteria.
Enjoying a wide range of plant-based foods helps to provide the prebiotics that your probiotics need to live well and grow in number. And enjoying probiotics via fermented foods and drinks (like miso, sauerkraut and kimchi) helps to boost your probiotic profile.
And, while prebiotics and probiotics won’t be replacing antianxiety medicines any time soon, they might be used as an additional boost to conventional treatments.
Sources of prebiotics
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Bitter leaves such as radicchio, chicory and endives
Delicious asparagus is more nutritious when cooked in olive oil – it allows your body to use the nutrient more effectively. Plus, it contains resistant starch so it enters the gut where it provides food for probiotic bacteria.
- Cultured foods
- Sour pickles
- Sourdough bread
- Kombucha tea
- Soy milk
- Dark chocolate
- Cow’s milk yoghurt/kefir
Meals and snacks
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich
- Dahl with brown rice and pickled mango
- Veggie sausage with sauerkraut
- High fibre breakfast cereal with soy milk or cow’s milk yoghurt (if you eat it)
- Leek and potato soup
- Tempe stir fry
- Wholemeal artichoke pizza
Peanut butter with wholegrain toast – a great source of protein and fibre and it feeds your probiotic bacteria, too.