The Gut Brain Connection

Gut microbes secrete neurotransmitters that can affect mood


Most people are surprised to hear that almost 30% of the US population will experience significant periods of anxiety or depression in their lifetime.  What’s also not commonly known is the fact one’s gut health can significantly impact symptoms of anxiety and depression!


The gut microbiome contains 10 to 100 trillion microorganisms (microbes) in the human digestive tract.  These microbes secrete a profound amount of chemical messengers in the body, some of which, called neurotransmitters, are the same chemicals that regulate your brain activity and mood.  Research even suggests that these microbes secrete more neurotransmitters than our brain, suggesting that taking steps to promote a healthy gut microbiome can have a profound impact on mood regulation.


Below are 3 ways you can help nourish your gut microbiome to support better mood and mental health.


1. Eat a variety of fermented foods.

Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kombucha, sourdough, cultured dairy, and tempeh each contain their own unique blend of microbes.  Adding a couple of tablespoons per day of at least two different sources is best.  Helpful Tip: When purchasing fermented foods, make sure that the label states that the product is ‘unpasteurized.’ Pasteurization can kill the bacteria in the food.


2. Consume a daily source of prebiotics, like raw garlic, onion, and banana.

Prebiotics, or fibrous carbohydrates that our gut bacteria digest, can decrease the amount of the stress hormone, cortisol, that our bodies create!  Helpful tip: Check out the Bastyr Nutrition Pinterest site (BCNH Nutrition) at to get some prebiotic-full recipes for pesto, guacamole, smoothies, and more!


3. Consider taking a probiotic supplement.  

Particularly after antibiotic use that can kill many of our healthy gut microbes, our gut may need help repopulating.  Probiotic supplements full of active microbes can help this process.  Helpful tip: Quality is key; look for a supplement that has several strains of bacteria and at least 15 billion CFUs.


The significance of gut health has been the topic of much research lately.  Mental health is just one more reason to nourish your gut microbes along with optimal digestion, immunity, decreased inflammation, and more!  

Alison Kouba, MS, Bastyr University, Dietetic Intern



Bastyr students and DEI Associate Vice President holding awards for Speaker Series

Bastyr 2019 Year in Review

As Bastyr University concludes its 41st year, we reflect on some of the milestones and achievements that have furthered our mission to create a more healthful world for all.
Multi-colored speech bubble with speaker series text inside

Health Equity Speaker Series to Celebrate 5 Years of CSJD

Bastyr University Celebrates 5th Year of the Center for Social Justice and Diversity with Health Equity Speaker Series.
Faculty standing in front of research posters at AIHM Conference

Students and Faculty Present Research at Integrative Health Conference

Bastyr Students and Faculty Present Research Findings at the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine Conference

Alumni Spotlight: Ali Miller, RD, CDE, BS (’09)

Ali Miller, RD, CDE, BS (’09), is a dietitian, writer, blogger and advocate for functional medicine. Hear her path from Bastyr University to her multitude of accomplishments, including “Top 50 Most Influential Women in Houston."