Improve Mood With Psychobiotic Foods

My patients, my staff – heck, almost everyone I talk to today – all tell me that the stress of modern life is piling up and making them sick.

In a moment, I’ll share the latest research into reducing stress using psychobiotic foods. But first, let’s talk about why it’s so important to tackle this silent killer head-on.

The impact of stress on your mental health is pretty apparent, but it can affect your physical health just as hard.

Along with headaches, fatigue, and an upset stomach, chronic stress can result in a lower sex drive, sleep problems, and even weight gain.1

Unfortunately, this isn’t a fleeting problem. According to the American Institute of Stress, 55% of Americans experience stress at some point during the day.2

And more than three-fourths of American adults report physical symptoms of stress, including headache, tiredness, or sleeping problems.

It’s gotten so bad that even conventional thinkers admit we’re in the middle of a mental health crisis.

Although we typically associate stress with what’s happening in your life – finances, family obligations, a busy work schedule, and so on – as a regular reader, you know what you put into your body every day plays a crucial role in how you feel emotionally.

And that eating a Primal-based diet can improve your mood.

But now we have proof that a unique kind of food can change your mood.

Recently, researchers from APC Microbiome at the University College Cork published findings suggesting that a diet high in prebiotic and fermented foods can help reduce stress and improve sleep quality.

In the study, researchers recruited participants aged between 18 and 59 years old with poor dietary habits. The study group was discouraged from consuming unhealthy foods such as sugary desserts, sodas, and fast food and encouraged to eat psychobiotic

foods that contain live bacteria instead. The group was studied against a control group that received minimal intervention.

When the four-week study was over, researchers found that those who increased the number of fermented foods they ate experienced less stress and enjoyed better sleep quality.3

This isn’t the first time scientists have seen results like this. Previous research has already established a link between stress and the gut microbiome – the community of microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts.4

When foods are fermented, carbohydrates are converted into organic acids, which can supercharge microbiome activity. In turn, these foods have antioxidant, anti-fungal, anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties.5

Great examples to add to your own stress-free diet include kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir. One of my personal favorites is kombucha.

I like to brew up a tasty treat for your microbiome – kombucha tea. Kombucha contains vitamins B1, B6, and B12, all of which are known to help fight depression and steady your mood. It also contains vitamin C, which suppresses the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

Here’s the recipe I use…

Make Your Own Kombucha Tea

First, gather the following:

➤ Stockpot
➤ 1-gallon glass jar (two 2-quart glass jars will also work)
➤ Tightly woven cloth (tea towels or clean napkins will do the trick)
➤ 6 16-oz glass bottles with plastic lids
➤ A small funnel

Next, you’ll need your ingredients:

➤ 3 ½ quarts of water
➤ 1 cup of all-natural cane sugar
➤ 8 bags of tea (you can use black tea or green tea – or a mix of both)
➤ 2 cups of starter tea from unpasteurized, unflavored store-bought kombucha
➤ 1 SCOBY per fermentation jar (SCOBY stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” You can purchase a fresh one online)

Now it’s time to make your tea.

Step 1: Make the tea base. Bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in sugar until dissolved. Add the tea and allow it to steep until the water cools. This can take a few hours. But you can speed up the process by placing the pot in an ice bath, freezer, or refrigerator.

Step 2: Add the starter tea. After the tea cools, remove the tea bags or strain out any loose tea. Stir in your starter tea.

Step 3: Transfer to jars and add SCOBY. After stirring your mixture, pour the contents into a 1-gallon glass jar, then add SCOBY. Next, cover the mouth of the jar with a few layers of cloth and secure it with a rubber band.

Step 4: Ferment for 7-10 days. Keep the jar at room temperature, away from sunlight, where you know it won’t be disturbed. Check periodically. It’s not unusual for the SCOBY to float to the top. After seven days, begin tasting the tea. Once you’ve reached your preferred balance of sweetness and tartness, the kombucha is ready for bottling.

Step 5: Remove SCOBY. Prepare and cool another pot of tea for your next batch of kombucha using the same steps outlined above. Gently remove the SCOBY from your current jar and set it on a clean plate.

Step 6: Bottle finished kombucha. Measure out your starter tea from this batch and set it aside for the next. Pour your fermented kombucha into bottles using a small funnel, including any juice, herbs, or fruit you desire for flavoring. Leave about a half inch of headroom in each bottle.

Step 7: Carbonate and refrigerate the finished kombucha. Store the bottles at room temperature for 1-3 days to allow carbonation. Carbonated bottles will feel rock solid. Refrigerate to stop fermentation, and consume your kombucha within a month. Clean the jar for your next batch.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD, CNS


1. Mayo Clinic. “Stress Management.” Mayo Clinic, 24 Mar. 2021,
2. Batson, Joseph. “What Is Stress?” The American Institute of Stress, 2011,’
3. Berding K, et al. “Feed your microbes to deal with stress: a psychobiotic diet impacts microbial stability and perceived stress in a healthy adult population.” Molecular Psychiatry. 2022
4. Foster J et al. “Stress & the gut-brain axis: Regulation by the microbiome. Neurobiol Stress. 2017;7:124-136
5. Sanlier N, e al. “Health benefits of fermented foods.” Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(3):506-527