Reduce Inflammation with These Key Foods

Inflammation is a hot topic among scientists and it’s not just for health headlines.


It’s a fact.

Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health; this is especially true when it’s chronic (i.e. is ongoing / lasts a long time).

Inflammation responses have been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, just to name a few.

In the last 20 years, we learned about how the inflammasome is activated through our innate immune response. Now, there are over 800 studies linking inflammasomes to cancer, and over 400 studies linking it to autoimmune disease, as well as heart disease and Parkinson’s disease.


But, instead of writing all about what it is, how it’s measured, and where it comes from (info); why don’t I focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it (action)?


Here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:


Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries


Why save the best for last? These delicious items make a major difference to our overall antioxidant levels and are perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods. Are they a sweet favourite of yours?

Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).

Oh, and did I forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many antioxidants such as “anthocyanins” and “resveratrol”  are found in these small and delicious fruits.

In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.

(*Bonus – when you eat a lot of dark cherries, your melatonin levels go UP, which can result in better/deeper sleep!!)



Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers


Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane.” This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, and helps our body to deal with toxins.

Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin, which helps with allergic type symptoms.

Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours.  Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won’t have the same anti-inflammatory effect.

I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in the recipe below.



Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)


Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: “trans” fats and damaged fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: “omega-3s”), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.

The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, especially omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Oh and don’t forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax. When choosing oils, go for quality, minimal processing, and glass bottles.


Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea


Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.

EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.

Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It’s thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.



Anti-inflammatory Food #5 – Turmeric


Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?

Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin.


This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.

I’ve added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.



Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate


Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.

Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely “flavonols”). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy.

They’ve even been shown to prevent “neuro-inflammation” (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.


Make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!




There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.

You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of “anti-inflammation.”



Recipe : Anti-inflammatory Quinoa

(Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric)


Serves 2

¾ -1 cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 dash salt

½ tbsp turmeric

1 dash black pepper

2 cups broccoli, chopped

Prepare quinoa according to directions, or, in a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer on low until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).

Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.

Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.

Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.


Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick. If you have flax oil or another omega oil at home, now is the time to pull it out – drizzle some on your finished dish!





Lowering Cortisol, the Stress Hormone

How to Naturally Lower Stress Hormone (Cortisol)



Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?


And sometimes, even cute, inspirational quote squares don’t make it go away 😛


Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society – it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.


You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.”  It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.


Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?


Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!


Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol


Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar.

Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).


High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels.

If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.



Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol.

Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.


Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.


Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.


Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics!

There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber.


Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.


Reduce your stress with mindfulness.

Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol. Try putting things in perspective, or asking, what might this be opening the door to?


Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it).

While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels. Just don’t be both intense AND lengthy. One, or the other is best for stress hormone management.


Get enough sleep!

Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Well, not by me, I have written a ton about it, lol. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways. Sleep!


Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music – actually any music YOU like – all reduce cortisol.


Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.




Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.


In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.


Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.


In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!


Recipe – high-fiber, prebiotic, de-stressing Chocolate Pudding

Serves 6

3 ripe avocados

¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)

¼ cup maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 dash salt



Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve & enjoy!


Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon or vanilla pod in place of extract for a deeper flavour.



Brazilian Chocolate Chia Pudding

Brazilian Chocolate Chia Pudding

Serves 4

½ cup Brazil nuts

2 cups water

nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth (totally optional)

½ cup chia seeds, any colour (not ground chia)

¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup


Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk.  If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth. (I don’t strain, I keep it all!)

Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined.  Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.


Serve & Enjoy!

Tips:  Makes a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries. Also, buy your Brazil Nuts in a place with high turnover, getting them fresh is a MUST! They should taste creamy, mild and delicious.

Why you ruin your diet every.single.night. and 10 things to do instead


If you eat everything at night…it is likely due to what you are doing during the day.

NO …you argue! I eat well, I eat light. I behave all day.

Because I love you I am going to help you see this a little clearer: It’s probably due to your blood sugar! Even a person who eats “healthy” food can have unbalanced blood sugar.


Spoiler Alert – here are the answers:

They are:

• Stop eating and drinking things that are mostly sugar;
• Don’t eat too many carbohydrates;
• Choose “low glycemic” starches;
• Eat more fibre;
• Eat your protein and fibrous vegetables, first;
• Fruit is ok, especially dark berries;
• Try these blood-sugar balancing flavourings (vinegar & cinnamon);
• Get enough good quality sleep;
• Exercise;
• Reduce your stress;


So now where I talk a lot…

1 – Stop eating and drinking things that are mostly sugar

advent bake blur break
mmm sugar cookies.

First things first. If a food or drink is mostly sugar, please try to reduce, or even cut it out of your diet. Clearly.

I’m talking sweetened beverages (e.g. pop, juice, energy drinks, candy, etc.), most desserts. Of course.

However, many breakfasts, and even seemingly-healthy choices like some granola bars often have a lot of sugar.

ALERT:: The green smoothies at Starbucks can have up to 25 GRAMS of sugar.

Significantly reducing these will give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to better blood sugar levels. That’s why it’s my number one recommendation.


2 – Don’t eat too many carbohydrates

Hear me out. I’m not anti-carb. But everyone has a different tolerance, and even good carbs can be overdone.

Your body digests starches by breaking them down into sugar. By reducing the amount of sugars and starches (carbohydrates) you eat, you can reduce that blood sugar spike that happens right after you eat. This has been shown in many studies.

It’s been said that one of the strongest predictors of blood sugar response is the total amount of carbohydrates in a meal.

Reducing your overall carbohydrate intake can help to reduce your blood sugar levels. If you are really hungry, try adding some healthy fats.


3 – Choose “low glycemic” starches

potatoes fun knife fork
Whole potatoes with skin don’t have to be a ‘never’ food

Look! You still get carbs. Just eat more above-ground plants, and combine them with fat.

Low glycemic foods include ones that are higher in fibre, fat and protein. Examples are meat, seafood, eggs, legumes, sweet potatoes, and most fruit and non-starchy vegetables.

If you’ve already cut out a lot of sugary foods and want to reduce your starch intake, then start by ditching the “high glycemic” (i.e. ones that raise your blood sugar too high) starches.

As you can imagine, researchers have measured how fast and how high blood sugar increases with different foods. Foods that are “high glycemic” quickly raise blood sugar quite high. “Low glycemic” foods raise blood slower and to a smaller extent.

This “glycemic effect” is the result of the components in the food itself.

Things like the amount of carbohydrate, the type of carbohydrate (i.e. sugar vs starch), and what other nutrients are in the food (i.e. protein, fibre, etc.) as well.

The fibre, fat and protein in a food slows down the digestion and absorption of the carbohydrates, so the blood sugar rise slows down too. This results in a lower “glycemic effect.” (So, buttering toast can be a GOOD idea!)

High glycemic foods (i.e. ones to avoid) include sugary foods, as well as starchy foods like white bread, many pastas, and rice.

NOTE: Eating a low glycemic food along with a high glycemic food will help to slow down the blood sugar rise from the higher glycemic food. It’s not just the single food that matters, but the rest of the meal also affects your blood sugar.

Which leads us to…


4 – Eat more fibre

Yes, this is the best carb of all! You’ve heard that “fibre makes you regular,” right? It’s so healthy. Most people don’t eat nearly enough. The recommended daily intake of fibre for adults is 21 g – 38 g per day.

This nutrient is not just for “regularity” and gut health, but also for blood sugar balance too. Those are 3 VERY good reasons to get fibre.

It works by mixing with the carbohydrates in your meal, and slowing down the absorption of the sugars from those carbohydrates.

Some of the highest fibre foods include cocoa powder, flaxseeds, & legumes.

If you react to fibre, go slow, and keep it soft. Feel free to add a spoon of cocoa powder to your smoothie, add soaked flaxseeds or cooked apples on your cereal, and/or add some legumes to your soup or salad.


5 – Do eat enough, especially your protein and fibrous vegetables, and eat them first

appetizer close up cucumber cuisine
Photo by Buenosia Carol on

Since blood sugar is affected by the amount of carbohydrates you eat, studies have also looked at the order in which you eat different foods.

A few small studies looked at adults with type 2 diabetes. They all had the same meal, but some were asked to eat their protein and fibrous (i.e. non-starchy) vegetables first; while others ate their carbohydrates first.

They found that people who ate the protein and vegetables first had better blood sugar control. One of the studies also showed lower levels of post-meal insulin when the carbohydrates were eaten last.

Another study found these blood sugar benefits to be true even in people without type 2 diabetes.

It’s thought that when we eat carbohydrates first, we start digesting them right away. But, if we eat them after our protein and fibrous vegetables, they have a chance to mix in with the rest of the food in your stomach. This can slow down their absorption, which slows down how fast and high our blood sugar gets after we eat.

The effects of changing food order hasn’t been tested in many big studies, but it is supported by metabolic researchers and seems to be a simple and safe habit to get into to help our bodies better regulate blood sugar levels.

Try to eat your protein and fibrous vegetables first, and starches last.


6 – Fruit is ok, especially dark berries

Unless your doctor or health practitioner has said otherwise, or you have an intolerance to them, fruit and the fruit sugar “fructose” are generally ok. Fructose has a low glycemic index.

Having fructose instead of glucose (regular sugar) can reduce a measure of the average levels of blood sugar over the past two to three months (e.g. HbA1c – a blood test for blood sugar control).

A diet high in fruits and vegetables is great for your health. They contain phytochemicals (phyto=plant), vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Eating whole (not processed or juiced) fruits can help with blood sugar balance. Berries are particularly good, as they contain a lot of fibre and not a lot of sugar. Not to mention that they’re delicious!

Berries, especially dark berries, contain pigments known as “anthocyanins.” These dark-coloured pigments have lots of health benefits including helping sugar metabolism in people with insulin resistance. They can also improve ability to think, and their antioxidant effects are linked to reduced DNA damage.

You can get enough anthocyanins from a regular serving of dark berries, so give them a try.


7 – Try these blood-sugar balancing flavourings (vinegar & cinnamon)

Try having two tablespoons of vinegar shortly before or with a meal that contains sugars or starches.

Why? Because a recent analysis of several studies (a meta-analysis) showed that the vinegar can lower the blood sugar by up to 60% and the insulin by up to 130% compared to the same meal without vinegar. This worked for insulin-resistant people. Even healthy people had a significant benefit.

Cinnamon can help to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. This effect can happen with even less than one teaspoon per day.

It’s thought that cinnamon works by slowing the emptying of the stomach. Slower emptying means slower absorption and slower blood sugar rise after a meal. Cinnamon also contains antioxidant polyphenols (plant chemicals) that may improve insulin sensitivity. If you like it, eat it.


8 – Get enough good quality sleep

Our bodies are wired to work along the sun’s schedule. The objective is to wake up when the sun comes up, and get tired when it goes down. Not enough sleep can affect many of our body’s systems, including negatively affecting our blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. It can also increase appetite and promote weight gain.

Even one or two nights of poor sleep can affect our blood sugar levels.

Regularly getting enough good quality sleep is a great step toward helping our bodies manage blood sugar.


9 – Pump iron / exercise

bodybuilding close up dumbbells equipment
Resistance exercise can burn fat without making you famished the way cardio does.

Remember how insulin tells your muscle cells to pull some sugar out of your blood to store for later? Guess what it’s storing it for?


By exercising and burning that stored sugar, you not only improve your blood sugar levels, and your physical and mental health in many ways, but also can reduce insulin resistance. Win-win-win.

This means your muscle cells, especially when they’re moving, absorb and burn more sugar from the blood. This goes for both medium- and high-intensity exercise.


10 – Reduce your stress

Ok, so basically, functional practitioners go to school for 4 years to learn that every ailment is due to stress! LOL. Let’s talk about the blood sugar effect of stress hormones like cortisol.

Things like not eating for a few hours, or being under stress releases sugar stored in the liver and muscles and delivers them back to the blood!

The reason stress hormones release stored sugar is to prepare for the “fight or flight” reaction. Your body becomes physically ready to fight or run. And to do this, you need fuel in your blood, i.e. sugar.

How can you reduce stress? Relaxation techniques like deep BELLY breathing, meditation, and yoga can help to reduce stress and lower blood sugar levels.



If you eat yourself silly at night, “against your will” your blood sugar is not steady.

Either you starved yourself from total calories, eat too many starches, or get inadequate fibre, protein and fat, in the day.

There are some nutrition and lifestyle upgrades you can make for better health, including eating more fibre, protein, fat and sleeping better and exercising, in order to balance your blood sugar.



Mood Foods – part 2

Inflammation, and mood foods

It all connects back to the gut, the brain and inflammation.

aroma aromatic assortment bottles
The spices you pick can make things better or worse.

Better nutrition for better moods

Is there something special or anti-inflammatory about the foods used in the SMILES trial (see my previous posts)  that may help with moods?

We know the brain needs enough of all essential nutrients in order to function properly. And insufficient levels are linked with the stress response and the immune response.

NOTE: Eating nutrient-dense foods is the best way to get nutrition. Foods are complex combinations of nutrients. Even though I am about to break down nutrients, supplementing with individual nutrients is not the same as eating a healthy diet.


Let’s go over a few key nutrients for better moods.


B-vitamins such as B6, B9 (folic acid), and B12

People who tend to be low in B-vitamins are more likely to have mental health issues. Higher intakes of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin) may reduce risk.

With folic acid in particular, the connection may be due to its different forms. “Folic acid” is the inactive form of vitamin B9. Our bodies naturally converted it into the active form (called L-methylfolate) by the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR).

Once folic acid has been activated, it goes to the brain and is used to make neurotransmitters like serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.

Interestingly, many people with mental health issues are unable to convert folic acid into its active form.

One study tested supplements with the active form of folic acid (L-methylfolate) on people with mental health issues. While some people had a moderate improvement, the people who also had inflammation (higher levels of CRP) had an even greater improvement.


Vitamin D

In my mom’s group I hear other moms tell each other: “feeling blue? You might be low in D.” Vitamin D is well known to help absorb calcium for strong bones, but has many other functions too. In terms of immunity, vitamin D can reduce inflammatory molecules in people with certain infections and inflammatory diseases.

Vitamin D has a number of roles within the brain. Vitamin D plays a role in circadian rhythms and sleep, and influences the growth of nerve cells in the developing brain.

There is growing evidence that people who tend to be low in vitamin D also tend to have more mental health symptoms. In fact, some (but not all) studies show that vitamin D supplementation can improve mood scores and reduce mental health symptoms.

Vitamin D is the most commonly deficient nutrient in Western countries. It’s known as the “sunshine vitamin” because our skin makes it when exposed to sunlight.  It is also found in a few foods, and as a supplement.


Minerals (Calcium & Selenium)

Low intake of calcium is associated with mental health symptoms, while high intake is associated with lower rates of mental health symptoms.

Depression has been associated with low blood levels of the essential mineral selenium. Low intake of selenium is also associated with an increased risk for depression.

[Note: I am particularly “into” selenium because it helped enormously to bring my auto-antibodies down from above 5000 to about 300.]



Omega-3 oils are healthy fats found in many foods such as seafood, nuts, legumes, and leafy greens. They have been shown to reduce inflammation.

Some (but not all) studies suggest that the omega-3 fats, specifically those found in fish and fish oil, have mental health benefits. You can also get these fatty acids from algae, a vegan source that is also more likely to be clean and free from contaminants.


Better lifestyle for better moods

Foods aren’t the only thing that can be upgraded to improve your mental health and inflammation. Your lifestyle can have a big role too!

Both exercise and sleep are important factors that can improve moods and inflammation. Exercise we know is a magic pill. Sleep, though, is HIGHLY underrated.

group of women doing work out
Move your body. Feel free to wear more clothes than these folks.

Lifestyle factor #1 – Exercise

People with mental health issues are more likely to lead sedentary lives. This is another factor that can increase levels of chronic inflammation.

There is a lot of evidence that exercise helps to reduce the risk, and symptoms, of mental health issues. Regular exercise reduces inflammation. We know this because CRP levels are lower in people who regularly exercise, than those who do not. Plus, people who exercise at a higher intensity have even lower levels of CRP.

I encourage you to reduce the amount of time you are sedentary, and take active breaks.


woman having bubble bath
Sleeping is great. So is washing your face before to bed. Read my post on the subject!

Lifestyle factor #2 – Sleep

Sleep plays a vital role in our physical and mental health. Lack of enough high quality sleep is very commonly associated with mental health issues. People who experience insomnia are at higher risk for later developing mental health issues.

Lower amounts of sleep can affect the immune system and increase chronic inflammation. Increasing levels of CRP and inflammatory cytokines have been measured with sleep deprivation.


If you’re not getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night, start trying to make it a priority.

Read my post on Sleep Hygiene here!



So, in summary, eating a nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet, and getting regular exercise and quality sleep can help to reduce inflammation, and improve mental and overall health.

It’s an exciting area of research that will continue to answer more questions about this link.

In the meantime, try eating a more health-promoting (anti-inflammatory) diet, and getting enough nutrients, exercise, and sleep.




NOTE: None of these are a substitute for professional medical advice. 





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Dash, S. R., O’Neil, A., & Jacka, F. N. (2016). Diet and Common Mental Disorders: The Imperative to Translate Evidence into Action. Frontiers in Public Health, 4, 81.



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Jacka, F. N., O’Neil, A., Opie, R., Itsiopoulos, C., Cotton, S., Mohebbi, M., … Berk, M. (2017). A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the “SMILES” trial). BMC Medicine, 15, 23.



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Gut-Brain Axis – Mood Food

agriculture bowl close up cooking

Mood food

Yes, it’s possible to affect our brain and moods with the foods we eat. In fact, this is a new area of research called “nutritional psychiatry“.

So, what do we know already?

We know that a healthy diet is linked with a lower risk of mental health issues.

Several recent high-quality studies suggest that what we eat is amodifiable risk factorfor depression and anxiety. This means that what we eat affects our risk of mental health issues, and we can control (modify) what we eat.

We know that the amounts and types of vitamins and minerals we consume, digest and absorb affects our brain, cognition and mood. This is the area of focus of “orthomolecular psychiatry“.

The newer information focuses on how essential components to a healthy diet include not just a lot of nutritious foods, however, but a lot of fibre-dense foods. This is very interesting because for a long time we did not realize that fibre had much purpose other than adding bulk and motility to our stool!

In fact, what we eat is the main thing that influences our gut microbes, and remember, our microbes like to eat fibre! They love to digest the stuff that we cannot digest.

A now-famous recent randomized clinical study shows that what we eat can help improve symptoms of people who already experience depression!


Components of a healthy diet include:

  • Fruits and vegetables, especially colourful and leafy vegetables;
  • Wild and pastured fowl and meat, clean wild fish and seafood, eggs;
  • Herbs, spices, sea greens, micro-greens and algae;
  • Moderate amounts of whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds;
  • Flax oil, olive oil, coconut oil, clean rendered animal fats (butter, tallow)

Some people tolerate grains and legumes better than others, and for many people that means not at all. However these foods offer an important source of resistant starch, which we know feed our friendly gut bacteria.

If you do not tolerate grains, getting your resistant starch from grasses such as rice might work better, and if not, potatoes. In both cases, it is best to cook then cool the rice or potatoes, and then to eat cold or reheat on a low temperature. If even potatoes are out, because you follow a paleo diet, you can try plantains.

Some foods highlighted in Dr. Susan Kleiner’s Good Mood Diet, developed after 25 years of providing nutrition counselling to a range of clients, include bananas, berries, eggs, flaxseed, ginger, garlic, turkey, whole greens, dark green and orange vegetables, soy and tofu.

Perhaps not surprisingly, foods associated with poorer mental health, by most researchers, include alcohol (depression), caffeine (anxiety), processed, sugary, salty, fried, fast, and high-fat foods, as well as sugary drinks.

blur breakfast brown cafe
A sweetened vanilla latte iced coffee with chocolate syrup is one potential anxiety trigger.


A randomized clinical study shows that nutrition can help improve depression.

The SMILES trial took 67 people who already had depression and ate poor quality foods. This means they ate a lot of sweets, processed meats, and salty snacks; and not very many fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and dietary fibre.

They split the participants into two groups.

One group was given seven nutrition counselling sessions and were asked to eat more higher quality foods and fewer poor quality foods.

The other group was given “social support” only – they paired up with someone to discuss the news, sports, or even play cards or board games.

After 12-weeks the people who improved their diet had improvements in some of their symptoms of depression!

The researchers concluded that improving dietary quality is a “useful and accessible strategy for addressing depression in both the general population and in clinical settings.”(Jacka et. al, 2017)

[It is also helpful to have a helping hand as we change our habits! That’s why I run the Healthy Habits facebook group! Studies show people succeed best with witnesses!]

While this was the first study of its kind, and had positive results, it will be great to have additional studies to confirm and expand on these results.

In the meantime, we can improve our diets to eat more healthful nutrient-dense foods, and fewer low quality foods to improve both our mental and physical health.


What about probiotics?

person holding three orange carrots
Carrots contain fibre which feed bacteria, and they also contain bacteria!

There is research specifically looking at probiotics and mental health.

“Probiotics” are health-promoting microbes that “confer a health benefit” to the host.

While they could mean the germs in the forest air or lake water outside, we usually mean “supplemental probiotics”, as in things we can eat, drink, or supplement with. They’re found in things like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, miso, and kimchi.

What you may not know is that there are many many probiotics IN plant foods.

Like, right in the leaves! There can be millions in one leaf of spinach! This is one reason why eating a wide variety of farm-fresh, organic, unprocessed plant foods is incredibly beneficial. It gives more variety to your microbiome!

The closer you can get them to the soil the better, and the more rich the soil, the better the microbial life, and therefore, the greater potential health benefit can be conferred. There are no studies on the effect of probiotics directly from dirt, though there are a few studies have looked at the mood effects of people who take probiotic supplements.

One review of 10 studies found that there are some mood benefits from probiotic supplementation.

Another review looked at seven studies that compared probiotic supplements to placebo in healthy volunteers. The researchers concluded that there was a statistically significant improvement in psychological symptoms and perceived stress in people who took the probiotics.

This research is promising, but still preliminary.

PRO TIP: If you have any health conditions, or are on medications, please check with your healthcare professional before taking any supplements. Also, everyone should read the labels before purchasing a supplement to ensure that none of the cautions or warnings apply to them, and to ensure they’re taking it as per the directions for use on the label. Also, check for allergens, the top major ones must be listed.

Now that we’ve looked at foods to put in our gut to help our mental health, the trick is to put these changes into action!

The best way is to try to add one fibre rich vegetable at every meal. Try to include sources of resistant starch, and colourful fruits and veggies.

I hope that was helpful.

If you have more questions, please reach out!

I will be writing more on the microbiome and the gut-brain connection in future, it is too big a topic not to!




The Gut-Brain and Inflammation

This one is all about INFLAMMATION and how it affects the brain. This article focuses specifically on the links between inflammation and mental health.

Mental health issues have a huge impact on society. Some suggest that their impact is larger than any other chronic disease, including heart disease or diabetes.

I also find it particularly heartbreaking to see people suffer from mental health issues.

There are so many factors involved in complex conditions like mental health issues. Science is just starting to unravel one of these factors – inflammation.

photo of head bust print artwork
Feeling like you’re missing half your mental capacity? Inflammation might be involved.

First, we’ll go over the many links between inflammation and mental health (there are a few). 

Then, in the next post, I’ll do a follow up to may Mood Food post, with low-inflammation foods that support healthy brain function. We’ll talk about some exciting research into natural approaches – things like foods, nutrients, and lifestyle upgrades – and how these are related to better mental health.


NOTE: None of these are a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have any of these conditions, make sure you’re being monitored regularly by a licensed healthcare professional. Don’t discontinue mental health meds on your own, ever.


What is Inflammation?

The word inflammation comes from the Latin word “inflammo,” meaning “I set alight, I ignite.” [Sounds like a Prodigy song.]

Because inflammation can become harmful, it has gotten a lot of bad press lately.

However, inflammation isn’t always a bad thing. As in most areas of health, or life, it’s the balance that’s important.

Inflammation is actually a natural process that our body uses to protect against infections, irritants, and damage. The body’s actions are often more intelligent than we comprehend. Just as fever can be very healing, inflammation helps our bodies eliminate damaged cells and tissues, and helps them to repair. 

Inflammation also helps to reduce the cause of the damage, for example, by fighting the infection. Inflammation that happens in a big way, but for a short time can help the body to heal these injuries and infections.

person putting bandages on another person s knee
The swelling that accompanies inflammation is a smart way for the body to naturally immobilize an injured area so that we don’t use it quite so much for a while.


On the other hand, lower levels of inflammation sometimes stick around longer than necessary. This long-term “chronic” inflammation can cause damage over time.

Often, there are few, if any, signs or symptoms. It’s this chronic inflammation that is linked to many conditions including mental health, heart disease, and diabetes.

Inflammation mostly comes from our immune system’s response to infections and injuries. It also involves our blood vessels (arteries and veins) and other molecules. A few of these inflammatory molecules, or “markers,” include free radicals (oxidants), cytokines, and C-reactive protein (CRP).

So, what are the links between inflammation and mental health?

Inflammation and mental health

There are many factors linked to suboptimal mental health. One of these is inflammation.

In terms of depression, the link with inflammation was first discovered back in 1991. With respect to bipolar disorder, the link between it and immune dysfunction was proposed as far back as 1981.

NOTE: While there are many links between inflammation and mental health issues, it’s not the only connection. Others include neurotransmitter issues (e.g. serotonin, dopamine, etc.); reduction in growth factors (e.g. brain-derived neurotrophic factor, BDNF); and neuroendocrine issues (i.e. chronically increased stress hormone levels).

Research shows that inflammation may be a factor for about one-third of people with depression.


Link 1 – Inflammation and mental health

First of all, some mental health issues are associated with increased inflammatory markers like cytokines and CRP. For example, people with depression tend to have higher levels of cytokines. In fact, some of the inflammatory markers found in the blood are known to reach the brain.

High levels of inflammation may also inhibit recovery in people who experience mental health symptoms.

In fact, some researchers believe that levels of inflammation may actually be able to predict negative mental health outcomes.

While inflammation may be part of the cause of mental health symptoms for some people, it can go in both directions. Mental health issues may also increase some of these inflammatory markers.

Some animal studies show that stress can cause significant increase in inflammatory markers. Even people who are stressed tend to have increased levels of inflammatory markers and lower levels of anti-inflammatory markers.


Link #2 – Inflammatory illnesses and mental health

Inflammatory illnesses like allergic and autoimmune diseases (did you know those were inflammatory diseases?), as well as metabolic conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, and obesity) are associated with higher rates of mental health symptoms.

And this link also goes both ways – people with mental health symptoms are more likely to get metabolic-related conditions.

This link between mental health symptoms and metabolic conditions has led some researchers to coin the term “mood-metabolic syndrome.” This is meant to reflect the fact that they’re linked to each other, and also that these links can go both ways.


medical tablets pharmacy cure
Careful with medications.

Link #3 – Inflammatory medications and mental health

People who take certain inflammatory medications are at increased risk of developing mental health symptoms. On the other hand, some medications used to treat depression (e.g. SSRIs) reduce levels of some inflammatory markers.


Link #4 – Inflammatory diets and mental health

There is growing evidence that people who eat a high quality diet tend to have a better sense of well-being and better mental health. This includes better moods and lower stress. Certain anti-inflammatory diets have lower rates of mental health issues.

This also means that studies show links between unhealthy eating patterns and mental health issues. Inflammatory diets (which we’ll go into more detail in other posts) are associated with higher rates of mental health symptoms.


Foods and moods

Evidence for a link between what we eat and how we feel is fairly new. The first studies to be published on this were as recent as 2009. This new area is called “nutritional psychiatry.”

The relationships between foods and mental health are complex, and we’re just starting to understand them. While many studies show a link, all of them don’t.

As an example, one study concluded:

“Our data support the hypothesis that high dietary quality is associated with good emotional well-being.”(Meegan et. al, 2017)


What foods are associated with worse moods? These not-so-healthy dietary patterns include higher intakes of:

  • Saturated fat and processed meats;
  • Refined sugars and starches; and
  • Fried and processed foods.


Not surprised?

People who eat this way tend to report more mental health symptoms than those who eat a more health-promoting diet. And, several recent studies consider poor eating habits to be a risk factor for some mental health issues.


Not surprisingly, these not-so-healthy foods are also linked with higher inflammatory markers like CRP. And several studies show that improving the diet can reduce levels of CRP.

In fact, some studies show that the higher the “inflammatory factor” of the diet, the higher the risk for mental health issues.

One dietary pattern that’s been studied a lot is the Mediterranean diet. This diet includes a lot of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, fish, and olive oil. It also contains a lot of nutrients and fibre. Eating a Mediterranean-style diet is associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers and a reduced risk of mental health issues.

Olive oil, fish, herbs, lemon, wine and getting lots of veggies are Mediterranean hallmarks.

This complex association between food and mental health can also go both ways. Mental health symptoms can also influence appetite and food choices. And it’s likely that other factors such as obesity, exercise, food insecurity, and use of alcohol and tobacco are probably involved as well.

We don’t know exactly how these eating patterns affect mental health – inflammation is definitely one possibility. Nutrition can impact how our immune system functions, and this can affect levels of inflammation, and mental health issues. It could also be through the effects of the nutrients themselves, and even directly through the digestive system (microbiota-gut-brain axis).


Better foods for better moods

In fact, it’s not just “associations.” A recent clinical study found that when people start eating a healthier diet, they can actually reduce some of their mental health symptoms!

This study is particularly interesting. It’s called the SMILES trial.

The SMILES trial

What makes the results from the SMILES trial strong is that it was an actual experiment. It didn’t just ask people what they ate, measured their inflammatory markers, and what their symptoms were. It was “interventional” – people agreed to actually change the way they ate!


The researchers say:


“…this is the first RCT [randomized control trial] to explicitly seek to answer the question: If I improve my diet, will my mental health improve?”(Jacka et. al, 2017)


Here’s how it worked:

The SMILES trial recruited 67 people with with depression and poor dietary quality to a trial for 12-weeks. These were people who reported a high intake of sweets, processed meats, and salty snacks; and a low intake of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and dietary fibre.


Half of them were asked to:

  • Eat more vegetables, whole grains, fruit, legumes, low-fat unsweetened dairy, raw and unsalted nuts, fish, lean red meat, chicken, eggs and olive oil; and
  • Eat less sweets, refined grains, fried food, fast food, processed meats and sugary drinks; and,
  • Drink no more than 2 glasses of wine per day (with meals, preferably red wine).


This half of the participants who upgraded their diet were also given seven professional nutrition counselling sessions.


The other half of the people in the SMILES trial were given social support. They were “befriended” and discussed sports or news, or played cards or board games. There was no nutrition support, nor any dietary recommendations given to people in this group.


The researchers found that in 12-weeks the people who improved their diet actually also improved some mental health symptoms!

They said:

“We report significant reductions in depression symptoms as a result of this intervention… The results of this trial suggest that improving one’s diet according to current recommendations targeting depression may be a useful and accessible strategy for addressing depression in both the general population and in clinical settings.”(Jacka et. al, 2017)


It would be great for other, larger trials to confirm these results. In the meantime, eating a more health-promoting diet is helpful for so many conditions, not just mental health conditions!


What do you think of these results?

It seems inflammation is one of several factors that is linked with mental health and mood issues. It may be a factor for up to one-third of people who suffer from these.

The link between inflammation and mental health issues is thought to go both ways – inflammation can contribute to mental health and mood issues, and vice versa.

So, do you think we would be a happier society overall, and that teens could have less anxiety, if we all ate a little better?

I love to hear from you!




Next post: Better Nutrition for Better Moods


To Breakfast or Not to Breakfast?

You have probably read a few things (maybe a few of my posts?) on the benefits of IF or Intermittent Fasting. And if you have read about IF or fasting you’ve probably learned that the most popular meal to skip is breakfast.

However, like most things in life, there are no absolutes or clear rules that apply to all.

For some people, eating 3 meals per day, especially breakfast, can be very important. This might not be true for their whole lives, but under certain circumstances, I feel it is best to eat breakfast. Let’s find out when this is true, and why.

woman in black blazer holding a smartphone while standing near wall
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Breakfast – Why It’s Important for Busy Women Not to Skip

The alarm goes off and you are rushing around preparing for a busy day ahead, whether you have children to get ready for school, or papers to read for a morning meeting, by the time you’ve watched the news, brushed your teeth and sorted your make-up, you are already exhausted – sound familiar?

It’s no wonder so many busy women end up skipping breakfast and just grabbing an expensive coffee which is drunk in the car on the way. But there are many reasons why this habit is bad for our health.

First of all, eating in the car or when watching the news is really not good. In both cases, the stress that is happening at the level of your nervous system will interfere with digestion.

So one of the reason you need to eat is to take a time out and breathe. Sip, chew, breathe, chew, chew, relax, chew…its just a few moments, relax, you’ll live, I swear.

One of the other main benefits is to get real nutrients.

Although fasting can have benefits, and mimicking a fast with a bulletproof coffee or tea can keep us energized until noon, real breakfast with real food provides nutrition, and that’s what calms nerves and heals the body.

Grass-fed butter with eggs and greens or a bowl of hearty soup are great options for starting the day in a way that nourishes the adrenals, the glands responsible for keeping a stressed woman going.

For me, fasting is still something I aim but usually fail to do, as I still wake up hungry. I also deal with a lot of stress, so I listen to my body, and nourish it in the morning.

person drinking wine
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Breakfast – Why It’s Important for Sugar (and alcohol)-Sensitive people Not to Skip

The brain chemistry of people who are prone to getting addicted to (or who find themselves fighting not to be addicted to) sugar and alcohol, and even many street drugs, is different from other people. They have less serotonin, less beta-endorphin, and usually much more variable blood sugar. This is why they crave and get hooked on sugar, or alcohol, or whatever spikes their hormones – they need this to feel okay.

It is therefore not fair to expect such a body and brain to deal with the mild abuse a stronger, less sensitive body can take. Mild abuse, like say, nutritionally empty foods, or blood sugar-spiking foods, or even, no food at all. You will not get ‘normal’ moods and performance out of a sugar-sensitive body, and should not expect it, under these poor circumstances.

If you think about it properly, when you wake up in the morning, your body has had no fuel since your evening meal the night before – potentially 12 hours beforehand – so your body is in starvation. Think about the words – “break” “fast” – literally the meal which breaks the fast you have been on while sleeping.

If you are sugar sensitive, do not skip meals, including breakfast, and take care not to eat a breakfast that is mainly sugar, or mainly simply carbs, as they break down to sugar. You’ll notice a HUGE difference.

food gourmet on top of brown table
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Breakfast Provides Many Benefits to Our Health and Wellbeing

You need the energy to kick-start your system and get your body ready for the day ahead. According to some other nutritionists, a healthy breakfast should give you around 30% of your daily calorie requirements. It provides us with energy, protein, calcium, iron, fiber and B vitamins which are all needed to get you through the day. If your body doesn’t receive these first thing, studies have shown your body is less effective at taking them on during the rest of the day.

In terms of our circadian clocks, our bodies are best primed for food between 9 and 5 at most latitudes, but food also helps set your body’s sense of awakeness – the longer you wait to eat, the harder it might be to wake early. In terms of time, breakfast really needs to be eaten by most people between 45 minutes and two hours of waking up.

This timing gives you the chance to put the needed fuel into your body to make sure your metabolism is balanced throughout the day.

woman measuring her waist
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How Eating Breakfast Helps You Lose Weight

If you skip breakfast (skipping is not the same as intentionally fasting) you are not providing your body with what it needs for energy and you will soon get hungry and are more likely to then reach for high sugar, high fat snacks, to compensate. People who skip breakfast tend to end up reaching for the snacks around 10am which doesn’t help if you are trying to lose weight.

This aspect means breakfast really sets your body up for the day and can help curb those mid-morning sugar cravings. In a study it was revealed that people who not only ate breakfast, but made it their largest meal, lost almost 18 pounds over a three month period.

The other people, who took part in the study, eating the same calories during the day but most of these for their evening meal, lost only around seven pounds. This study was published in Obesity.

Make breakfast your energy priority

A good nutritious breakfast will give the first supply of energy your body receives daily. For all the energy you need to take you through to lunchtime, it should be at least around 300 calories, as a general rule.

kids sitting on green grass field
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Other Health Benefits Beyond Weight Loss

Breakfast brings a large number of health benefits, besides weight loss.

In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a published study revealed that not eating breakfast could actually increase the risk of diabetes for women. The study showed that women who did eat breakfast between no, and six times a week, were at far higher risk of developing the disease than those who ate it daily.

Brain Function Studies have proven that children who eat breakfast do better at school as they are better able to concentrate and behave well. Breakfast helps to restore the levels of glucose which help with our brain function, and helps balance out our insulin levels.

However, I still suggest they be paired with a fat and a protein! This helps to improve memory, concentration and mood and also lowers stress levels. We all know that feeling of anger that rises up through being hungry. Breakfast can help us avoid this.

In order to avoid the blood sugar roller coaster later, we need to eat a balanced breakfast. That’s why I do suggest proteins at breakfast, but since most people don’t want to cook on weekdays in my experience, I will make some other suggestions, other than cooking up bacon every day.

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Ideas for Quick and Nutritious Breakfasts

So it’s all very well telling you why you should eat breakfast, and why it’s good for you, but realistically you probably knew most of those things already and yet, you were still skipping?

Knowing you need to eat breakfast, doesn’t mean you suddenly gain time in the morning to start preparing and making amazing morning meals does it? That’s why I have come up with some tips for improving the most common tasty breakfasts that are super quick to make and don’t require a frying pan.

Of course, you can always make a pot of soup or prep some mini frittatas in advance next Sunday, and that would be ideal!

In the main time, as you work on that habit, and schedule some time into your Sunday for shopping and cooking, here I will look at some common breakfasts and how to improve on them.

An Energy Bar and Fruit

The combination of a piece of fruit and energy bar does not always create a balanced breakfast, despite what you may hear elsewhere. While nothing is quicker than just peeling a wrapper and grabbing a piece of fruit and eating them straight away, doing this could be either a great thing or awful depending on what exactly you eat. Often it is too high in sugar and too processed to be good.

Ensure that the bars provide more provide fiber than sugar and a high ratio of protein to carbs. I like paleo bars with simple ingredients, and those with seeds, nut butters, nuts and dried fruit (as opposed to oats and sugar with chocolate-like topping).

The amount of sugar, fat, fibre and protein is what is going to make a big difference to your health. It takes real looking to find commercial bars that have a good ratio, so I suggest  you eventually make your own, with enough fibre, fat and protein, and not just carbs. Make your OWN bars from scratch from real ingredients and held together with bananas/flax/chia, then freeze a huge batch.

blueberry topped dessert
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Instant Oatmeal

There are many instant porridge sachets around now – all you need to do is add water and microwave for a few minutes and then you have a healthy breakfast – or do you?

Again, here it is imperative to avoid the ones with added sugar and flavours. Aim for a heartier oat flake, for a lower glycemic load, and go organic as well – oats are notorious for being well sprayed with glyphosate. If you have gluten sensitivity, avoid oats, they are contaminated with gluten.

In order to keep the calories from sugar down, buy a plain version, or lightly flavoured, and add your own toppings such as flax oil, grass-fed butter, berries and seeds to provide an easy breakfast virtually instantly.

Eventually, start making overnight oats or chia puddings, and just grab and go in the morning.

Greek-Style Yoghurt

Go for natural plain Greek-style yoghurt or SKyr. If you cannot find a high-fat version, add in a source of fat (like avocado, oil, or nuts), and then add some protein (like collagen and hemp seeds), and fresh fruit, for a nutritious, quick and healthy breakfast on the run.

Do stick to unsweetened. Even if you add honey or maple syrup, it’s healthier than the sweetening they add for you.

Again, this only takes a minute or so to prepare and can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing.

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High-Fibre Cereal

A lot of people love raisin bran. It’s tasty and helps to keep us regular, right?

While it can bring health benefits and help you feel full, opting for a high fiber cereal that is also very high in sugar is not a great long term plan. Make sure you avoid the traditional sugar filled cereals as these will spike your blood sugar while not necessarily helping provide what your body needs.

Go instead for the more natural organic cereals that have optimal ingredients and nutrition. Read the label. Look from whole grain, and ancient grains. (Whole wheat is not the same as whole grain.) Never consume more than 10 grams of sugar in a sitting, and always pair it with fat, fibre and protein, even if it’s from full fat milk.

The Take Away

For many people, a busy lifestyle means rushing in the morning and skipping breakfast is a common but bad habit to get into.

Breakfast can make a big difference to our health and weight, reaping the benefits for us. There are many options which are quick and easy to make, and also provide nutrition – from smoothies to energy bars, from cereal to scrambled eggs, so no more excuses people!




Mental Health Begins in the Gut?

How will that meal affect your mind?


What Is Gut Health?

There has been lots of talk recently about what has become known as “gut health.” The Johns Hopkins Medical Center, one of the most well-respected hospitals and Medical Schools in the United States, says there is a good reason for this. Hidden within the walls of your digestive system is what is known as “your second brain” and is changing the way that we look at the links between mood, digestion, health and cognition.

How Is It Even Possible that the Enteric Nervous System (gut) can affect our Mood?

The ENS may sense things that our cerebral brain can’t. Evidence has been found that when the GI tract is irritated it sends signals to the central nervous system, which can trigger our mood and ultimately affect it.

When you consider that between 40% of the urban population has bowel problems of some kind and that a higher percentage of these individuals develop depression and/or anxiety, it’s easy to see how there could be a connection.

Our bodies are filled with bacteria. There are more bacteria in a human body than there are human cells – an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms living in our bowels alone. The key here is to have more good microorganisms to help you:

• Digest food;
• Absorb nutrients;
• Break down medications; and
• keep balance with other microbes

What Else can we do to Feel Good?

All the advice your grandmother and mother told you. Go play outside, eat real food, laugh More. Lighten up. Laughter really is the best medicine. It helps to reduce stress and floods your body with the happy hormones and chemicals that make the good overtake the bad.

There was even a study conducted (you can read more about it by clicking this link), where researchers studied healthy people as well as those with atopic dermatitis – a disease that is often associated with imbalances in gut bacteria.

The researchers had the participants watch funny movies daily for one week. In only one week, the patients’ gut flora had changed and resembled the healthy participants!!

Laughter may be the best medicine, it is definitely one type of medicine.

In the next post, I’ll dig into Reasons Gut Health Habits can be Good Health Habits.

“See” you then!