CLEVELAND — If you have ever had butterflies in your stomach or a "gut feeling" you have experienced the connection between your gut and your brain.
Cleveland Clinic Psychologist Dr. Susan Albers said gut health has a major impact on your immune system, digestive health and your mood.
"Psychologists used to believe that our feelings were the result of chemical reactions in our brain. Fast forward to today and what we know is that our gut plays a profound impact on our mood," she said.
This is because of what's known as the gut-brain axis. It acts as a highway sending chemical signals back and forth.
“Ninety percent of our serotonin production is located within our gut and 10% is in our brain," Albers said.
She said we have good bacteria and bad bacteria in our gut. By increasing the healthy bacteria, we can improve our mood, but harmful bacterias can cause anxiety and depression.
“The lining in the gut becomes inflamed with things like sugar, processed food antibiotics, alcohol and this disruption causes a flourish in those harmful bacteria. That disrupts your serotonin production that sends the chemical signals to your brain to feel good,” Albers said.
She said when it comes to probiotics, there are particular strains that studies show are better for your mood.
“Recent studies have shown that there are two strains that are particularly helpful in boosting mental health. The first is lactobacillis and the second is bifidobacterium. These two particular strains have been shown repeatedly in clinical studies to help decrease depression and anxiety," she said.
Albers said the good news is you can improve your gut health within about 24 hours.
You can take a probiotic supplement or eat probiotic-rich foods like fermented pickles or sauerkraut, yogurt, kombucha or dark chocolate.
As always, Albers said be sure to talk with your doctor before adding probiotics to your diet.