Microbes Define Your Mood

Just a few days ago (Jan 19, 2021), one of my favorite writers posted a new article on the Psychology Today website. Scott C. Anderson is a scientist and a science journalist – and the author of one of the very best books on the gut-brain-axis (The Psychobiotic Revolution – which you really should go get at your favorite book seller).

The original article is here (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mood-microbe/202101/psychobiotics-revolution-in-psychiatry) – and my version with highlights and comments in below…

Psychobiotics: A Revolution in Psychiatry

Psychobiotics are microbes that lift your mood. Psychiatry needs them now.

What are psychobiotics? 

Despite their somewhat sinister-sounding name, psychobiotics are microbes that can lift your mood and decrease anxiety(DocTalbott note = and the specific “strain” of the microbe matters – some might help with stress, others with anxiety, and others with depression, but you need to know the strain and its specific benefits – what we refer to as “strain specificity”). The word was coined by Psychiatrist and researcher Dr. Ted Dinan and colleague John Cryan, Chair of Anatomy and Neuroscience at University College Cork, in Ireland. These prolific investigators have pioneered research into the gut-brain axis, along with other scientists from fields as disparate as microbiology, immunology, psychiatry, endocrinology, gastroenterology, and neurology. Researching the gut-brain axis requires a surprising diversity of disciplines.

What is depression?

There are many reasons for people to feel depressed or anxious. Bereavement, for one, often leads people into depression. That is normal and expected, as long as it doesn’t linger too long.

There are many treatments for people with depression, including psychoactive drugs that attempt to rebalance the neurotransmitters used by brain cells to communicate with each other. These drugs tend to target dopamine and serotonin centers of the brain, because these areas of the brain seem to be involved in happiness and motivation. There is also cognitive behavioral therapy, which has had a great track record for many people.

But there is a growing appreciation for the damage that can result from a “leaky gut”, a phenomenon that allows toxins and bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Once that happens, the heart diligently pumps these pathogens to every organ in the body, including the brain.

There is a barricade, called the blood-brain barrier, that keeps pathogens out of the brain, but we now have evidence that this barrier can be breached, creating a “leaky brain” analogous to the leaky gut. In extreme cases, this leads to brain inflammation that can deeply disturb the affected person, causing anxiety, confusion, hallucinations and sharp personality changes.

But inflammation can also lead to garden-variety depression and anxiety. It is not a small problem. The comorbidity of depression and gut disease can be as high as 75%. It looks similar to “ordinary” depression, but the cause lies in the gut, not the brain. (DocTalbott note = it is not an overstatement to say that if you’re not feeling your best in terms of your mood, irritability, fatigue, stress resilience, and overall mental wellness – that you need to look at what is going on in your gut if you want to have a brain that performs at its peak potential).

This is the gut-brain axis, which initially popped out of the first germ-free mouse experiments by Nobuyuki Sudo in 2004. Germ-free mice changed everything Sudo found that mice born and raised with no bacteria behaved differently than normally germy mice. It was a stunningly simple, but powerful, observation.

At that time, we were just beginning to realize that gut bacteria were, for the most part, beneficial to us. That was a huge break from the “kill all germs” philosophy. But just what those microbes were doing in our gut was a big mystery. Germ-free mice presented a golden opportunity to investigate.

When Sudo realized that germ-free mice had a different reaction to stress, it was confounding. How in the world could bacteria affect behavior? Sudo then introduced normal gut bacteria to the mice and discovered something else: he could fix their stress response, but only if he inoculated them before they were three weeks old – the equivalent of a human teenager. After that, the window of opportunity slammed shut.

Since then, researchers have shown that this is not just happenstance or a mere association. The relationship is causal. An astounding series of experiments have shown that you can transmit depression by transferring microbes. Most of these studies use fecal transfers, and some have gone from humans to mice, thus demonstrating cross-species causality. In general, feces from depressed animals will make the recipient depressed as well. From a psychiatric point of view, that is truly revolutionary.

What is the mechanism?

Although much more research needs to be done, there are some good theories about how microbes manage to pull off such a feat. One tantalizing piece of evidence is that if you cut the vagus nerve that connects the gut to the brain, many of these effects disappear – implying that at least some of the psychoactive properties of microbes are transmitted by that meandering nerve bundle.

Another shocker is that bacteria know how to make neurotransmitters all on their own. Microbes don’t have brains, of course, but they may use neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin to communicate with each other, just like neurons do. They may also be communicating with us as well. There is accumulating evidence that microbes could even be using these chemicals to affect our cravings, another spooky instance of mind control.

Studies show that psychobiotics can improve the mood of even healthy individuals, implying that inflammation may not be the whole story. More research is needed to fill in the gaps in our understanding, but the field is moving quickly.  

Can we control our microbes to improve our mood?

The research so far has indicated that healing a leaky gut can go a long way toward improving mood. The best way to do that is to support those microbes that nourish the gut lining. That turns out to be fairly easy: increase your consumption of fiber. (DocTalbott note = if you were only going to do one thing to help your gut it would be to eat more fiber – but not just “any” fiber – you want to focus on soluble fiber and especially fibers that have “prebiotic” effects to support the growth and metabolism of the “good” bacteria that produce those neurotransmitters for mental fitness).

Fiber refers to chains of sugar molecules that our body can’t break down, but our microbes can. Properly fed, these beneficial microbes produce substances like butyrate that are excellent gut salves.

Fiber is found in veggies and fruit, two food categories that have dropped precipitously from western diets. Vegetables like artichokes, asparagus, onions, garlic, and beans are full of fiber. So are fruits like berries. An important source of psychobiotics is fermented food like sauerkraut, pickles and yogurt (unsweetened). Refined sugar and junk food, on the other hand, supports pathogenic microbes that may lead to leakiness.

The bottom line

Not all psychological problems start in the gut, and some amount of depression and anxiety is normal and healthy. For those with long-term depression, antidepressants are still popular and effective tools. Still, as Dr. Dinan has found with many of his patients, a psychobiotic alternative has great promise and possibly fewer side effects.

The beauty is that you can try fiber or ferments yourself with a trip to the grocery store. Psychobiotics are complex, involving all bodily systems, and everyone is different due to unique genes, environments, diets and antibiotic history. So pay attention to your psychobiotic adventures and take notes about what works for you.

If you are already being treated by a psychiatrist, make sure to talk to them about diet changes. But even if you are already on a drug regimen, keeping your gut in good shape will never hurt.

If you are a psychiatrist, the lesson of psychobiotics is that it might be wise to check on your patient’s gut as well as their mind. As strange as it seems, microbes affect our moods, and simply eating better could change your life.


Dinan, Timothy G., Catherine Stanton, and John F. Cryan. “Psychobiotics: A Novel Class of Psychotropic.” Biological Psychiatry 74, no. 10 (November 15, 2013): 720–26.

Sudo, Nobuyuki, Yoichi Chida, Yuji Aiba, Junko Sonoda, Naomi Oyama, Xiao-Nian Yu, Chiharu Kubo, and Yasuhiro Koga. “Postnatal Microbial Colonization Programs the Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal System for Stress Response in Mice.” The Journal of Physiology 558, no. 1 (2004): 263–75.

Abautret-Daly, Aine, Elaine Dempsey, Adolfo Parra-Blanco, Carlos Medina, and Andrew Harkin. “Gut-Brain Actions Underlying Comorbid Anxiety and Depression Associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” Acta Neuropsychiatrica 30 (March 8, 2017): 1–22.

Kelly, John R., Yuliya Borre, Ciaran O’ Brien, Elaine Patterson, Sahar El Aidy, Jennifer Deane, Paul J. Kennedy, et al. “Transferring the Blues: Depression-Associated Gut Microbiota Induces Neurobehavioural Changes in the Rat.” Journal of Psychiatric Research 82 (November 2016): 109–18.

WSJ on Mental Wellness (AGAIN)…

Nice article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about mental health (on top of their article about mood and gut health last month) – original here = apple.news/AS1PPXUYFQ1S1fiedNSuTew

I’ll be talking about these and related topics tonight in my seminar on how to “Function Better” – please join me?

A Workout for Your Mental Health

Keep stress from the Covid pandemic and other events under control by sticking with these daily practices

Stressed out? Grumpy? Tired all the time?

You need a mental-fitness regimen.

For months, therapists have reported a significant increase in clients who are anxious, worried or depressed over current events—the Covid-19 pandemic, economic woes, civil unrest. And while they can teach coping skills, such as emotion regulation, to help deal with the stress, they say it’s also important for people to proactively take steps to be mentally healthy, just as they would if they wanted to be physically fit. “If you wait until a major stressor hits to try and bolster your mental health, it’s like trying to inflate your life raft while you are already drowning at sea,” says Wendy Troxel, a clinical psychologist and senior behavioral and social scientist at Rand Corp.

Many people turn to talk therapy, exercise, meditation and a healthy diet to do this. Shirlee Hoffman, a 75-year-old retired marketing consultant in Chicago, limits her news consumption to about five minutes a day. Erin Wiley, 50, a licensed psychotherapist in Toledo, Ohio, uses an app to track the things for which she is grateful. Rhonda Steele, 62, a special-education teacher in Sellersburg, Ind., prays and reads devotions. Dwight Oxley, 84, a retired physician in Wichita, Kan., reads and plays the piano. Rachel Glyn, 66, a retired aesthetician in Philadelphia, tries to do as many things as possible for others. Michael Schauch, 40, an investment portfolio manager in Squamish, British Columbia, rock climbs—he says the view gives him perspective. Stedman Stevens, 62, the CEO of an aviation technology company in Wilmington, N.C., takes 15 minutes each afternoon to sit alone without distractions. “I listen to what my mind shows me,” he says. “This restores my mental strength.”

What steps should you include in your mental-fitness regimen? Here is advice from the experts.

Make sleep nonnegotiable. Most adults need 7-8 hours of quality sleep. “Following a consistent sleep-wake schedule sends a powerful signal to the brain that the world is safe and secure, which can help reduce anxiety and foster resilience,” says Rand’s Dr. Troxel, author of “Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep.” She suggests setting a consistent wake-up time, counting backward to determine when to go to bed, and creating a relaxing wind-down routine, starting an hour before bedtime. Take a bath, read a book, turn down the lights and the thermostat. (65-68 degrees is ideal.) Disconnect from technology to minimize your exposure to distressing news and light.

Set a routine.Get up at the same time each day. Get dressed! Create a morning ritual—many people write in a journal or set an intention for the day, although just drinking coffee in the same chair works. (I drink a large glass of water first thing, then a cup of coffee, and play with my dog.) Eat meals and exercise at set times. This helps create a sense of predictability in a world that feels out of control.

Calm your mind.You can’t cope with stress well if your brain is on high alert at all times, says Carolyn Daitch, a psychologist in Farmington Hills, Mich., and co-author of “The Road to Calm Workbook.” She recommends beginning the day with 15-20 minutes of yoga, meditation or prayer, then scheduling four “mini interventions” during the day—a two-minute breathing exercise or other quick tension-releasing technique. (One of her favorites: Make a tight fist with one hand, imagine it holding all the tension in your body for 10 seconds, release it.) She says to think of these practices as a “stress inoculation.”

Watch your language.The words we use to talk to ourselves color our outlook. So try to replace “hot” language with “cooler” language, suggests Patricia Deldin, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (“This is a challenge but I can handle it,” not “I’m overwhelmed.”) And stop “shoulding” yourself. (“I would like to…” not “I should.”) “A simple language change can influence our feelings and, subsequently, our actions,” says Dr. Deldin, who is CEO of Mood Lifters, a mental-wellness program.

Practice compassion. Research shows self-compassionate people are happier, more optimistic, more motivated and more resilient. Yet, too often, we are mean to ourselves. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. Start by acknowledging when something is painful. (Dr. Daitch recommends putting your hand on your heart and saying: “This isn’t easy.”) Then talk to yourself as you would to your best friend. And remind yourself that everyone goes through difficult times. This diminishes your stress reaction and connects you to other people.

Move your body.Research shows that aerobic exercise reduces fatigue and tension, and improves alertness, concentration, sleep, mood, and self-esteem, according to Dr. Deldin. And studies show that exercise in nature has even more benefits: It reduces the body’s stress response, lowers cortisol levels and blood pressure, and it gives you a sense of awe, which boosts mood. Dr. Deldin recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, which can be broken up into small periods. (Even five minutes of exercise begins to decrease anxiety, she says.)

‘If you wait until a major stressor hits to try and bolster your mental health, it’s like trying to inflate your life raft while you are already drowning at sea.’

— Dr. Wendy Troxel, Rand Corp.

Create a media diet.There’s too much negative news these days. Decide how much you will consume—think of this as a “news calorie count”—and stick with it. Set aside blocks of time to turn off your phone. Purge negative people from your social media feed. Look for positive streams to follow or articles to read. (My feeds are largely about sailing, scuba diving gardening or baking.)

Choose extracurricular activities wisely. Research shows that pleasant activities, ones that give you a sense of purpose (such as volunteering), and ones that make you feel accomplished or masterful (such as learning a language) improve mental health. So pick up a new hobby, practice an instrument, work on improving at a sport. “The ability to exert control over something provides a sense of self-satisfaction and contentment,” says Brad Stulberg, an executive coach in Asheville, N.C., and author of “Peak Performance.” “And progress nourishes the soul.”

Cultivate supportive relationships. People with strong relationships are emotionally healthier. So make a commitment to connect regularly with friends and family. Set a goal to reach out to one person a day. Ask about the other person and discuss something other than the day’s awful news. And be open about how you are, because vulnerability can be bonding.

Be grateful.Especially for your loved ones. And let them know. Everyone is feeling challenged right now. When I’m annoyed with someone in my life, I think of at least five things I love about the person. Often, I’m surprised that my list goes on and on. I’m smiling before I’m done counting.

Elevate your physical performance…

Please join me tonight at 6pm PST for a discussion about “function better” with:

•Stronger Immune System

•Less Body Fat

•Lower Cholesterol

•Superior Cardiovascular Health

•Better Brain Health

•Successful Aging

•Sharper Mental Fitness

•Enhanced Physical Performance

Microbiome Patterns Related to Health Status

Microbiome connections with host metabolism and habitual diet from 1,098 deeply phenotyped individuals | Nature Medicine

The gut microbiome is shaped by diet and influences host metabolism; however, these links are complex and can be unique to each individual.

We performed deep metagenomic sequencing of 1,203 gut microbiomes from 1,098 individuals enrolled in the Personalised Responses to Dietary Composition Trial (PREDICT 1) study, whose detailed long-term diet information, as well as hundreds of fasting and same-meal postprandial cardiometabolic blood marker measurements were available.

We found many significant associations between microbes and specific nutrients, foods, food groups and general dietary indices, which were driven especially by the presence and diversity of healthy and plant-based foods. Microbial biomarkers of obesity were reproducible across external publicly available cohorts and in agreement with circulating blood metabolites that are indicators of cardiovascular disease risk.

While some microbes, such as Prevotella copri and Blastocystis spp., were indicators of favorable postprandial glucose metabolism, overall microbiome composition was predictive for a large panel of cardiometabolic blood markers including fasting and postprandial glycemic, lipemic and inflammatory indices.

The panel of intestinal species associated with healthy dietary habits overlapped with those associated with favorable cardiometabolic and postprandial markers, indicating that our large-scale resource can potentially stratify the gut microbiome into generalizable health levels in individuals without clinically manifest disease. Analyses from the gut microbiome of over 1,000 individuals from the PREDICT 1 study, for which detailed long-term diet information as well as hundreds of fasting and same-meal postprandial cardiometabolic blood marker measurements are available, unveil new associations between specific gut microbes, dietary habits and cardiometabolic health.
— Read on www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-01183-8

How to “Feel Better” in 2021

Please join me tonight at 6pm PST for a Deep Dive on the science of How Gut Health is Related to






Join via: Amare Facebook Group 1 – Mental Wellness Solutions

OR ZOOM (https://zoom.us/j/9292793215); Password: amare

Meeting ID: 929 279 3215

One tap mobile:

+16699006833,,9292793215# US (San Jose); +13462487799,,9292793215# US (Houston)

Wellness With Courtney

I am super-excited to congratulate my daughter, Courtney Talbott, on her acceptance into the highly competitive MS/RD program at Boston University (Master of Science in Nutrition & Dietetic Internship).

Courtney is in her final semester of studying Nutrition (major) and Psychology (minor) at CalPoly – and she has been extremely active with the Real Food Collaborative, media work to educate consumers, Amare, and developing her own educational platform at WellnessWithCourtney.com and on Instagram (she has some terrific content and recipes – so check it out).

Last Call for Energy Drink Prototype

Just about a year ago, many of you helped me raise money to rebuild a school in Madagascar. Together, we were successful in raising enough to fund not only the rebuilding of the school, but also a teacher’s salary plus books and school supplies – and we did all of this just as the coronavirus pandemic was starting to spread around the globe.

As part of the fundraiser, I sent a “thank you case” of my prototype “energy drink” to anyone who donated $100 (60 servings = $1.67/serving) – and I asked for feedback on what people thought of the drink. On average, that version was deemed to be highly energizing (everyone loved how it made them feel), but perhaps “too sweet” for some people? A handful of people even thought that the formula was “too potent” at the suggested 4-ounce serving size (including 100mg of caffeine) – so they dialed things down by using only 2-ounces at a time?

Based on this feedback, I have a new (better!) version coming out with Amare Global in the next month or two. This new version uses a somewhat different blend of natural ingredients (from 3 continents – Asia, Africa, and North America) – so we can deliver a very noticeable boost in mood, motivation, and metabolism – without using caffeine and without having to “over-sweeten” to cover the bitter-tasting actives. I am super-excited for this new formula, which goes far beyond anything that exists in either the “energy” or “weight” categories – it really is a new way to optimize mental and physical performance at the high end of the mental wellness continuum.

All that said, I still have some remaining lab samples of the previous prototype – so if you liked the earlier version, let me know. Same deal as before ($100/case), but since the KickStarter campaign is concluded, you can just donate to either PayPal (DocTalbott@yahoo.com) or Venmo (@DocTalbott). Unfortunately, when these final samples are gone, they’re gone (but the new version will launch with Amare in a few weeks).

I’m hoping that global travel opens up in 2021 – because how cool would it be to join me on my next visit to Madagascar – or to some of our ingredient farms in Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, or North/South America (every continent besides Antarctica)!?!? I’m hoping to run a contest or two in 2021 to enable people to join us to see where our ingredients come from, how they’re harvested, and how we support the local people and economy – so stay tuned for news about that (subscribe for updates below)!

Microbiome and Aging

Yet another interesting article outlining the many ways in which the human microbiome governs so many aspects of human health – in this case, the aging process.

Gut microbiota and aging

Zongxin Ling, Xia Liu, Yiwen Cheng, Xiumei Yan & Shaochang Wu (2020) 

Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1867054



Aging is characterized by the functional decline of tissues and organs and increased risk of aging-associated disorders, which pose major societal challenges and are a public health priority. Despite extensive human genetics studies, limited progress has been made linking genetics with aging. There is a growing realization that the altered assembly, structure and dynamics of the gut microbiota actively participate in the aging process. Age-related microbial dysbiosis is involved in reshaping immune responses during aging, which manifest as immunosenescence (insufficiency) and inflammaging (over-reaction) that accompany many age-associated enteric and extraenteric diseases. The gut microbiota can be regulated, suggesting a potential target for aging interventions. This review summarizes recent findings on the physiological succession of gut microbiota across the life-cycle, the roles and mechanisms of gut microbiota in healthy aging, alterations of gut microbiota and aging-associated diseases, and the gut microbiota-targeted anti-aging strategies.

Getting “Unstuck” in 2021

If 2020 has left you “stuck in a rut” (like it has for literally millions of people across the country), then please join me tonight at 6pm PST for a discussion about how to get “unstuck” – whether that be with your motivation, your energy levels, your weight, whatever.

This isn’t about “rah rah” happy thinking – it’s about SCIENCE (specifically nutritional biochemistry and nutritional psychology) – and more importantly, how we can USE the new science around gut health, your microbiome, and the Gut-Brain-Heart-Axis to get you moving in the right direction again.

Maybe you’re stuck because of stress (there was plenty of that to go around in 2020 – and more to come in at least the first part of 2021)?

Maybe you’re stuck because of hormones (both pregnancy and menopause are associated with the topics that we will discuss tonight)?

Maybe you’re stuck because of food intolerances or environmental “toxins” (which can include antibiotics, air pollution, pesticides, etc)?

Getting UNSTUCK means that your daytime fatigue is replaced with abundant physical energy and mental focus.

Getting UNSTUCK means that your metabolism starts to move again – and you lose body fat without “exercising” any harder or “dieting” any more strictly.

Getting UNSTUCK means that your chronic stress is more manageable because your resilience is enhanced – allowing you to show up to any given situation and take care of business.

Streaming live on Facebook (Facebook.com/amareglobal) and Zoom (https://zoom.us/j/9292793215) – password “amare”

Subscribe for updates at:




ShawnTalbott.com (blog)