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3 Probiotics That Can Ease Depression

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3 Probiotics That Can Ease Depression

Increase Your Happy Hormones With These Tips From Donna Schwenk
Donna  Schwenk
Donna Schwenk More by this author
Nov 03, 2015 at 11:00 AM

There is a lot of research linking an unhealthy gut to depression. The gut, sometimes called the “second brain,” contains a hundred million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system. A combination of nerves, hormones, bacteria, blood, and the organs of the digestive system handle the complex task of breaking down our food, absorbing nutrients, and expelling wastes—all the while keeping our immune system strong. Since digestion requires a considerate amount of the body’s energy, when it starts to struggle we can feel it in our emotions.

Michael Gershon, chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and an expert in neurogastroenterology, says, “Everyday emotional well-being may rely on messages from the brain below to the brain above.”

The reason the gut and mood are so intimately intertwined is that the bacteria of the gut produce hundreds of hormones that help regulate the body. While many people think that serotonin—the hormone that produces happy feelings—comes from the brain, the reality is that 95 percent of it is manufactured in the gut. But if your gut isn’t balanced, it can’t produce this hormone as efficiently. So the kind of microflora you have will in great part determine what kind of moods you have.

But this is great because you can alter the makeup of your microbiome by adding cultured foods. One three-part, placebo-controlled human study showed that adding probiotics can, in fact, decrease anxiety, diminish perceptions of stress, and improve overall mental outlook.

Experimental studies have also shown that supplementing with probiotic bacteria can increase peripheral tryptophan levels. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin and dopamine (the other happy hormone), so increased tryptophan means increased serotonin and dopamine.

More and more studies are surfacing each day that show that as our diets have changed to include more chemical preservatives, the number of depression cases has also risen. We no longer eat the foods that help keep our guts in balance, so it’s no surprise that our bodies have rebelled. I found myself experiencing depression without even realizing what was happening. Slowly over time I lost my joy for life, and as I went through my day-to-day routine I started to think that this was normal. 

But I was wrong! We are supposed to be happy; it’s how our bodies are designed. We have all the machinery inside of us to create a feeling of well-being, optimism, and happiness, but it doesn’t work correctly if we feed our bodies garbage.


Kefir: Try about ¼ cup the first day and see how you feel. You can try one of my recipes, drink it straight, or sweeten it with a little fruit, honey, or stevia for a sugar-free version.
See how you feel, and if you’re doing great, you can have some more. If not, let your body adjust. Wait a day or two and try again.

Kombucha: Try about ¼ cup the first day and see how you feel. If you’re feeling great, you can have some more. If not, give your body time to adjust. Wait a day or two and try again.

Cultured vegetables: Go slowly and eat only a spoonful per day for the first few days. Pay attention to how you feel. If you’re doing great, you can have some more. If not, let your body adjust. Wait a day or two and try again.

Basic Kombucha


• Kombucha starter kit: To make kombucha, you need a kombucha SCOBY and 1 cup of already-made kombucha tea. 
• Container: You will need a 1-gallon jar or lead-free crock.
• Linen or cloth napkin: This needs to be big enough to fit completely over the top of the jar or crock you’ve selected.
• Rubber band: Make sure this is big enough to go around the neck of the jug or crock you’ve selected. This will hold the napkin in place.
• Six 16-ounce glass bottles: Make sure these are good, sturdy bottles with clamp-down lids. You can repurpose beer bottles such as those from Grolsch, or you can buy new thick-glass bottles that are specifically designed for brewing. Bottles bought at craft stores aren’t as sturdy and may explode.
• Brew belt: This gadget is optional but highly recommended. It is basically a plug-in heater for your jar or crock. You wrap it around the container you’re using to brew your kombucha, and it keeps the tea at a consistent temperature between 75°F and 80°F
• 1 cup sugar (Sucanat, white sugar, or coconut sugar)
• 4 or 5 tea bags; you can use black or green tea, and organic is best
• 3 quarts filtered water (not distilled)

Makes 3 quarts


3 quarts filtered water (not distilled)
1 cup Sucanat, white sugar, or coconut sugar
4 or 5 tea bags (organic green tea is preferred, but black tea is good, too)
1 cup fermented kombucha tea

Step 1: Wash all utensils with hot, soapy water and rinse well.

Step 2: Bring the filtered water to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
When the water has reached a rolling boil, add the sugar and continue to boil for 5 minutes.

Step 3: Turn off the heat and add the tea bags. Steep for 10 to 15 minutes; then remove the tea bags and let the tea cool to room temperature.

Step 4: Pour the cool tea into a 1-gallon container.

Step 5: Add the SCOBY, placing it so that the smooth, shiny surface faces up.

Step 6: Add the fermented kombucha tea.

Step 7: Place the cloth over the opening of the container and secure it with the rubber band. This keeps dust, mold, spores, and vinegar flies out of the fermenting tea.

Step 8: Let the covered container sit undisturbed in a well-ventilated and dark place at a temperature between 65° and 90°F for 6 to 15 days. To keep the temperature stable, a heating belt (brew belt) is highly recommended. 

Step 9: To determine whether the tea is ready, do a taste test every couple of days, starting on the fourth day. 

The tea should be tart, not sweet. However, it should not be overly sour or vinegary. If the tea is sweet, the sugar hasn’t been fully converted. If it tastes like sparkling apple cider, it is ready to drink, unless you want it more tart. If the vinegar taste is too prominent, it’s probably fermented a bit too long. 

Step 10: When the tea is brewed to your taste, pour it into good, sturdy glass bottles with clamp-down lids. Once the bottles are filled, clamp the lids down and place the bottles in the refrigerator. The tea can be stored there for one year or longer. 

Donna Schwenk shares more of her personal story, the science behind fermented foods, over 100 delicious recipes, and a 21-day Trilogy Program for incorporating fermented foods into your diet in Cultured Food for Health.

About Author
Donna  Schwenk
Donna Schwenk is the Kansas City Chapter leader for Weston Price Foundation, a worldwide organization comprised of people dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense food to the human diet through education, research, and activism. She teaches classes i Continue reading