Experts Say Best Depression Treatment Remains Having Coal-Covered Street Urchins Sing About Dancing Troubles Away

Very funny piece in The Onion today – especially humorous for someone like me who studies Mental Wellness?

But – before you have your chuckle – please realize that there are actually very effective natural options to improve many aspects of Mental Wellness – and there is a massive Mental Wellness Economy emerging that is combining aspects of Healthcare and Pharma/Biotech and Technology – but with a Natural orientation.

Read it on The Onion website HERE or see the text pasted below…

NEW YORK—Adding to a growing body of evidence in support of the approach, Columbia University psychiatrists published research Friday that confirmed listening to coal-covered street urchins sing a song about dancing your troubles away was still the best treatment for clinical depression.

“In 90% of cases, the most successful intervention for major depressive disorder was having a young ragamuffin tap the subject on the shoulder and say, ‘Hold on, guv’nah—’ow is it you got a frown on this most splendiferous of days?’” said lead researcher Alfred Evans, describing how the moods of severely depressed individuals improved when a gang of dirt-caked, hardscrabble chimney sweeps and newsboys appeared one by one from nearby alleyways and started into a high-spirited, irresistible song-and-dance number.

“Even the worst-off patients, those who exhibit no response to antidepressants or talk therapy, experienced decreased symptoms after exposure to the sprightly steps and carefree ditties of a chorus made up of 5- to 10-year-old orphans with names like Skimble Flintwich, Humsy Wumsy, and Lil’ Tom Wopsle.

People who have suffered for decades from a sense of inherent worthlessness not only smiled as these impish ruffians in knee pants and suspenders performed a choreographed routine with their horsehair brooms, but actually joined in for the final rousing chorus of a tune called ‘Chin Up The Livelong Day!’

By the time these knockabout youngsters smeared boot-polish mustaches beneath their noses and mimicked a group of indignant businessmen, most cases of depression had been completely cured.”

Evans hypothesized that the effectiveness of the treatment might stem from patients concluding that if these penniless guttersnipes were able to smile their way through the hard times, then, well, perhaps anyone could.

Amare Research & The Future Of Everything

One of the most frequent questions that I get from Amare customers and Wellness Partners is related to “the research” – where to find it, what it means, and how to apply it to everyday life?

At Amare, we really go out of our way to explain the science of our ingredients and our finished formulas by providing educational videos, Product Information Pages (PIPs), Powerpoint decks, and extensive Technical Data Sheets on each and every product – which can all be found in the “Resources” section at

I thought I might expand on the dozens of “resource” documents by outlining some of our targeted research in this blog. The timing is perfect, as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) just released their most recent “Future of Everything” report, which contains 2 features about “mental wellness” and another feature about the microbiome (links provided at the bottom of this post).

The key takeaways from these feature articles can be summarized as:

  1. Most of us don’t feel the way we want to feel in terms of stress levels, mental well-being, mood, motivation, and performance.
  2. COVID has had some obvious detrimental impact on stress, mood, and mental wellness – but there is a “good” aspect where people are beginning to prioritize their mental wellness because they realize that there is no physical health without mental health.
  3. The microbiome and entire Gut-Brain-Axis plays a prominent role in determining both our mental wellness and physical health – and science is leading the way to help us balance our microbiome and optimize how we feel and perform.

The biggest health problems today are not physical ailments such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes – but are rather mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, sleep deprivation, and everyday stress. When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to crave junk food and store belly fat – but when we’re resilient, we don’t succumb to stress-eating and we make better dietary choices; when we’re tired, we’re less likely to exercise or meditate – but when we have good sleep quality and metabolism, we have abundant energy levels that can fuel our lifestyle; and when we’re depressed, we’re less likely to take care of ourselves or interact positively with others – but when we have a good mood, we’re more likely to love ourselves and apply that love to others. 

Numerous international organizations, including the Global Wellness Institute, have identified “Mental Wellness” as a $120+billion (2019) segment of the health industry that is expected to experience exponential growth in the coming years.

Without overstatement, “mental wellness” is, by any measure, the most compelling growth opportunity within the natural health space – encompassing functional foods, dietary supplements, and numerous aspects of the natural products industry. Amare Global’s leadership in spearheading these studies is establishing an important foundation on which numerous companies and individuals will be able to build a meaningful business in the burgeoning mental wellness category.

For the last 4+ years, Amare Global has been pursuing a coordinated research project to improve mental wellness via the optimization of the Gut-Heart-Brain-Axis. This research initiative has led to dozens of peer-reviewed and invited scientific presentations, numerous patent applications, and several peer-reviewed scientific journal publications (list and links provided below).

Our projects span over 4 years and encompass a series of coordinated research trials intended to elucidate the links between Gut-Brain-Axis function and mental wellness (Study 1); between the Heart-Brain-Axis and mental wellness (Study 2); and between mental wellness and physical health (Study 3). An overarching theme between studies and across the entire project has been that a wide range of natural ingredients (probiotics, prebiotics, postbiotics, phytonutrients, and herbal extracts) can help to restore balance within the interconnected “Gut-Brain-Heart-Axis” to dramatically and dynamically improve mental wellness parameters.

Study 1 (Gut-Brain-Axis), assessed microbiome parameters (e.g. Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Akkermansia, etc) and correlated those levels to psychological outcomes (e.g. depression, anxiety, stress). 

Study 2 (Heart-Brain-Axis), assessed heart efficiency (heart rate variability) and correlated those levels with mental/physical energy parameters (e.g. energy, focus, vigor).

Study 3 (Mental/Physical Health), showed how improvements in mental wellness (brain), brought about by balancing gut and heart parameters, were also linked to improvements in physical health (blood glucose, cholesterol, cardiac risk, cortisol).

Across these studies, we confirmed that targeted nutritional interventions could reliably and predictably simultaneously improve both mental wellness and physical health.

Objective: Across this series of studies, we intended to examine the close multi-directional relationship between mental wellness parameters (mood, focus, energy, resilience) and physical health status (body weight, blood sugar, cardiac risk) – and show how these may be largely and simultaneously modified through natural nutritional regimens targeting the microbiome and the gut-heart-brain- axis. Previous research has shown targeted weight loss effects and anti-depressive benefits of diets high in fiber and phytonutrients and low in sugar and processed foods. Thus, our objective was to determine changes in parameters common to both obesity and depression (e.g., microbiome balance, metabolic biomarkers, and psychological mood state) following a coordinated supplementation regimen combining probiotics, prebiotics, and phytonutrients.

Methods: Across our series of multiple clinical trials, with more than 100 subjects, we examined interventions of 4-6 weeks duration with targeted blends of probiotics, prebiotics, and phytonutrients. Microbiome balance was assessed in fecal samples (Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, Akkermansia, and others). Biomarkers, including blood lipids, glucose, cortisol, and butyrate kinase, were assessed as indicators of effects on cardiovascular, inflammatory, and energy metabolism. Heart efficiency was assessed by measurements of heart rate variability (emWave Pro, heartMath Institute). Psychological mood state was assessed using the validated Profile of Mood States survey (POMS) to generate scores for Global Mood State and six sub-scales (Depression, Tension, Fatigue, Anger, Confusion, and Vigor).

Results: Following supplementation, we found significant increase in populations of “good” bacteria (+8% Bifidobacterium, +33% Lactobacillus, +62% S. Thermophilus, +90% Akkermansia) as well as bacterial ratios associated with a healthier “obesity-resistant” metabolism (+6% composite score, -11% Firmicutes, +6% Bacteroidetes, -14% F/B ratio). Metabolites associated with stress and glycemic control improved post-supplementation (-11% cortisol; +89% butyrate kinase, -6% glucose), as did body fat (-2%) and blood lipids (-8% total cholesterol, -5% LDL, +3% HDL, -23% triglycerides, -7% TC/HDL). Heart efficiency was improved as indicated by ~15% increase in heart rate variability. Psychological indices were significantly improved post-supplementation for both positive (+17% Global Mood; +23% Vigor) and negative mood states (-38% Depression; -41% Tension; -42% Fatigue; -31% Confusion; -39% Anger).

Conclusions: These results demonstrate, across multiple coordinated studies, the close relationship between microbiome balance, systemic metabolism, heart function, and psychological parameters – and the utility of targeted supplementation to optimize the entire Gut-Heart-Brain-Axis for both improved metabolism and enhanced mental wellness and physical health.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified stress and depression as global epidemics and the leading causes of disability worldwide. In North America alone, there are hundreds of millions of people who spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year on “feel different” remedies such as antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs, opioid painkillers, drugs for ADHD, drugs for sleep, and an unending array of energy drinks and junk food that we self-medicate with in response to being tired, stressed, and depressed.

Unfortunately, while many of these approaches will change how we feel – none of them will help us feel better. These synthetic approaches generally take us from feeling bad in one way to feeling bad in a different way – while utterly failing to help us feel truly good in the ways that we want to feel. 

Our coordinated research projects have spanned 4+ years focusing on the links between nutrition, biochemistry, and psychology (e.g. how and why nutrients make us feel a certain way) – and now we’re at an exciting time in history where we can finally use traditional natural options – in a science-supported way – to address many of today’s modern mental wellness challenges. These breakthroughs in our understanding of ancient/traditional medicine, natural supplements, and functional foods provide us with a wide array of scientifically validated tools that can dramatically improve how we feel and perform in every aspect of our lives.


We used to think that mental wellness was “just” related to the brain and various influences of stress hormones such as cortisol. Eventually, science advanced enough to inform us that the gut microbiome (the collection of trillions of gut bacteria) creates up to 90% of our body’s neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine – and has a dramatic influence on our mood, motivation, and resilience. Even more recent, are the scientific and medical observations that the heart, through electro-magnetic signals sent to the brain, plays an equally influential role in determining our mental well-being.

A New Mental Wellness Solution – Our Three Brains

The “first” brain in your head is networked with both the gut (our “second” brain) and with the heart (our “third” brain). Each of our three brains sends and receives a wide range of signals to and from each other. It is the coordinated action of our three brains – and the interplay between them – that ultimately determines our overall mental wellness. Our three brains “talk” to each other through a complex network of nerves, cells, and biochemicals. This network—referred to as the Gut–Brain–Heart Axis—includes nearly 100 trillion bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal system (our “microbiome”) and the cloud of electrical and magnetic signals generated by our heart. Coordination between these helpful bacteria and coherent heart signals are instrumental in modulating the function of our immune system, optimizing the body’s inflammatory response, and supporting many other aspects of our mental wellness and physical health.


We have shown that specific nutritional ingredients can deliver meaningful improvements in overall well-being and psychological mood states (reductions in stress, fatigue, depression, and anxiety) through well-defined mechanisms of action including improved microbiome balance, lowered inflammation, primed immune function, increased heart rate variability, improved cardiac risk profiles, balanced blood sugar, and reduced stress hormones.

These individual studies – and the overall project – demonstrate that natural nutritional interventions very well may be the solution to one of our most pressing global epidemics – and one that is open and accessible to all without the high cost, marginal benefits, and severe side effects of existing synthetic options. Our studies are on-going to expand our understanding of using natural nutritional interventions to move people from “bad” to “wellness” and further toward “optimized and flourishing” (“Mental Fitness”).

Wall Street Journal (WSJ) – The Future of Everything Report:

WSJ: “Modern Life is Messing with Our Microbiomes, but Science is Fighting Back

WSJ; “Forget What You Think Happiness Is

WSJ; “COVID-19’s Lasting Effects on Mental Health – for Good and Bad

Amare Global Peer-reviewed Scientific Presentations and Publications

12 peer-reviewed scientific presentations (2018-2020) – including American College of Nutrition, American College of Sports Medicine, Experimental Biology, HealCon, International Society of Nutrition Psychology Research, and others.

6 peer-reviewed scientific publications (2018-2020) – including Functional Foods for Health & Disease, EC Nutrition, FASEB Journal)

12 patent applications for the use of natural nutrition interventions for improving various aspects of mental wellness.

Presentations (related to FundaMentals)

  • American College of Nutrition = November 2017 – Alexandria VA (“Outstanding Research” Award)
  • Experimental Biology = April 2018 – San Diego, CA
  • American College of Sports Medicine = May 2018 – Minneapolis, MN
  • Mental Health America – Fit for the Future Conference = June 2018 – Washington DC
  • Microbiome Movement – Gut Brain Axis = November 2018 – Boston, MA
  • American Mental Wellness Awareness Association = November 2018 – Hershey, PA
  • NAMI Professional Education Day (National Alliance for Mental Illness) = February 2019 – Honolulu, HI
  • International Society of Nutritional Psychiatry Research (INSPR) – November 2019, London, UK

Presentations (related to product as noted):

  • (Kid’s Mood+) = Targeted Dietary Supplementation Improves Mental Performance in Children. Experimental Biology / American Physiological Society (April 2020, San Diego, CA)
  • (Project b3, MentaHeart, Kid’s Mood+) = Keynote: The Brain-Body-Biome – How Mental Wellness Drives a Multi-Faceted Impact on Physical Health (HealCon – complementary medicine conference – Newport Beach CA, May 2020)
  • (MentaHeart) = Optimization of Heart-Brain-Axis Signaling Improves Mental and Physical Performance. American College of Sports Medicine (May 2020, San Francisco, CA)
  • (Project b3) = Keynote: How the Gut Influences Mental Wellness and Physical Health (International Academy of Colon Hydrotherapists – Kissimmee FL June 2020)
  • (Project b3) = Dual Role of Gut-Brain-Axis Modulation in Obesity and Depression – Functional Food Center – 28th Annual Conference on Functional and Healthy Foods for Longevity (San Diego, CA Aug 2020)

Publications (related to product as noted)


  • Effect of Coordinated Probiotic/Prebiotic/Phytobiotic Supplementation on Microbiome Balance and Psychological Mood State in Healthy Stressed Adults. Functional Foods in Health & Disease Journal. Vol 9, No 4 (2019)


  • Effect of Astaxanthin Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Function in Runners”. EC Nutrition 11.6 (2017): 253-259. 
  • Astaxanthin Supplementation Reduces Depression and Fatigue in Healthy Subjects”. EC Nutrition 14.3 (2019): 239-246. 
  • Effect of Astaxanthin Supplementation on Psychophysiological Heart-Brain Axis Dynamics in Healthy Subjects. Functional Foods in Health & Disease Journal. Vol 9, No 8 (2019)

Project b3:

  • Modulation of Gut-Brain-Axis Improves Microbiome, Metabolism, and Mood. Functional Foods in Health & Disease Journal. 2020; 10(1): 37-54.


  • 2018 — NutraAward (Best New Finished Product): Amare Fundamentals Pack
  • 2018 — Botanical of the Year (Finalist): Mood+
  • 2018 — Startup of the Year (Finalist): Amare Global
  • 2019 — Probiotic of the Year (Finalist): Kids FundaMentals
  • 2019 – Startup of the Year (Finalist): Amare Global

Patent Applications

NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS AFFECTING GUT-BRAIN-AXIS BALANCE AND MENTAL WELLNESS (GBX Proprietary Blend) for signaling support across the entire gut-brain-axis and found in several Amare products (FundaMentals Pack; MentaBiotics; MentaFocus; Energy+; VitaGBX; Kid’s VitaGBX)

NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS AFFECTING MOOD STATE AND SLEEP QUALITY (Sleep+) to protect the synergistic combination of corn grass + griffonia seed and the combination of the full 10-ingredient formula in Sleep+ for promoting sleep quality

NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS AND METHODS OF SUPPLEMENTATION AFFECTING THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM (HempGBX+) Unique blend of hemp oil, black cumin seed oil, black pepper oil, and white frankincense to fully support the entire ECS (endocannabinoid system) for improvements in pain, mood, stress, and sleep. Works via a previously unknown mechanism of priming ECS receptors and activating ECS receptors for overall superior benefits

NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS AND METHODS OF NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTATION AFFECTING HEART/BRAIN AXIS (MentaHeart) Unique blend of astaxanthin, palm fruit bioactives, CoQ10, and bergamot fruit extract shown to uniquely improve mood and mental/physical energy levels

NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS AND METHODS OF NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTATION AFFECTING MOOD AND FOCUS IN CHILDREN (Kid’s Mood+) Unique blend of saffron, rosemary, clove, oregano, and holy basil to support mood and focus



Open Mic Night!

Bring your questions and any topics for discussion…

You can join via Zoom at (password = “amare”) or on the livestream to Facebook

I’ll talk about my ski accident and what I’m doing to rehab my shoulder in time for a 50-mile trial run next month…

We can talk about anything you want – maybe about how the ‘Metal Wellness Economy” is the Next Big Thing in health?

Or how the Gut-Brain-Heart-Axis is the newest cutting-edge way to improve mental fitness and physical performance?

Or how I’ll be opening the world’s first “Mental Fitness Center” in May – where people can come to learn about natural modalities for improving mental wellness and even become a Certified Mental Wellness Coach (CMWC) so you can build a business around helping others reach their full mental and physical potential?

Hope to see you tonight at 6pm PST!

Do you want to be part of the Mental Wellness Economy?

Please join me tonight at 6pm PST for a discussion of how “Mental Wellness” is considered the “Next Big Thing” in all of health and medicine – and how YOU can participate in the Mental Wellness Revolution.

You can join via Zoom at (password = “amare”) or on the livestream to Facebook

Stress, loneliness and burnout were exploding pre-pandemic, and a stronger focus on mental wellness has been a cultural mega-shift these last few years: People awakening to the importance of integrative solutions including meditation, sleep and brain health – with businesses rushing in to offer all kinds of solutions. 

People increasingly seek non-clinical help in coping with everyday mental challenges, and that’s where the mental wellness industry is emerging as a new way to think about well-being.

Study after study shows how the pandemic has ravaged our mental well-being. People are desperate for alternative strategies to cope – and 2021 and beyond will be the tipping point for “mental wellness” to rise to the top of priorities for many people.

Your Fiber Deficiency…

You almost certainly need more fiber in your diet. In fact, fiber might be the MOST important nutrient for you to focus on?

The national recommendations are around 30 grams per day – but most Americans only get around 15 grams or less (mostly because we’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables).

This lack of fiber has serious implications for not just your gut, but also the health and performance of your brain, heart, immune system, and virtually every aspect of your health.

I did a quick segment on my monthly Fresh Living visit (KUTV – CBS channel 2 in Salt Lake City) – you can see the clip here

I’m also doing a Deep Dive about “Why you need more fiber – and how to get it” tonight at 6pm PST – which you can join via Zoom at (password = “amare”) or on Facebook

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 ( – 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 =

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.

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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

How to “Feel Better” in 2021

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