Why Mental Health Begins in the Gut

It saddens me to say that according to the CDC 1 out of every 5 kids in America experiences a mental disorder.  This not only includes behavior, mood and anxiety disorders, but also attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders,  etc

As mental health issues are sharply rising in kids, we must ask ourselves this…Are kids really changing or are we changing our kids?

To dive into the answer lets first explore this.

– 95% of our serotonin is produced in our gut.

– Serotonin is the chemical that has great impact in balancing and regulating our moods and also perception.

– Prozac and other similar medications essential allow for more serotonin to be available in the brain to be picked up by receptors.

– 50% of Dopamine production is also in the gut.

– Most Americans have a unhealthy gut bacteria balance.  An unbalanced gut cannot produce serotonin the same as a healthy gut.


The connection between our gut and brain is clear.

While the medical community is just beginning to understand this connection through more and more studies confirming this connection to be true, ironically this connection was known more than 2,000 years ago by Hippocrates.



All Disease begins in the gut.


Break down the word disease and you get dis-ease.

Our gut is a powerhouse.  The good bacteria in our gut is responsible for assimilating nutrients, producing b vitamins (the energy vitamins), our immune system response, our stress response and our mental response, just to name a few key things.

The problem is, most Americans (I have seen figures up to 90%) have poor gut bacteria balance or a leaky gut.

The standard American diet is killing our good gut bacteria in the droves and allowing the pathogenic bacteria to take over.


As the pathogenic bacteria takes over, our nutrient assimilation goes down and this impacts our vitamin and mineral absorption, our energy, our moods, mind frame, our perception, our immune system and our general brain function.  Basically are brains and bodies are starving for nutrients while our bodies are fighting undigested food particles in our blood stream thanks to leaky guts.

We are changing how our kids brains work simply by the food we are feeding them and our lifestyle.


Just a few weeks ago I gave a talk on the gut-brain connection at a wellness conference.  Afterwards people came up to me in droves.  Most said, “I thought I was eating healthy, until I heard your talk.  I want to learn more.  What can I do?”

wellness fair -Health Coach Summer


Here’s what you can do.  Learn what kills good gut bacteria and learn how to establish good gut bacteria.

The top 5 things that kill good gut bacteria.

1. Sugar.  Sugar feeds the pathogenic bacteria.  The bad bacteria literally craves it.  Yes, that is why you crave sugar, because of the bad bacteria…

2. Processed foods.  It might be fast and easy to reach for the box, but it has ill effects on our mental health due to all of the preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial colors, shelf stabilizers, pesticides etc. which mess with our gut bacteria.  When we lived in Australia they took out preservative 282 (a calcium proponent) out of breads because they noticed it impacted the attention span of school children.

3. High stress levels.  Busy schedules, worry, anxiety, overwhelmed feelings, etc. these all negatively impact good gut bacteria. Our mind frame impacts our health just as much as the food we eat.

4. Antibiotics.  Overuse of antibiotics are widely becoming known as a huge issue both in Drs. over-prescribing it and the antibiotics in our meat.  Antibiotics kill everything – good and bad.

5. Pesticides – Pesticides work by killing the nervous system and bacteria in bugs and pesticides are made from petrochemicals which means there is a residue.  Watch this super short video to see how many pesticides are in our system and how eating organic dramatically changes the levels.


7 Ways to establish good gut bacteria for good mental health.

1. Eat real, fresh foods.  Listen to your mother 😉 eat your fruits and veggies, especially a wide variety of greens.  Ditch the processed foods.

2. Kick sugar to the curb.  Not only does sugar feed the bad bacteria, but white sugar has no nutritional value so the body has to pull from your nutrient reserves in order to process it and most people do not have good nutrient reserves…  Kids, in general, are consuming more sugar than ever.

3. Lower your Stress.  You are in charge of your life.  Breathe more and emotionally react less.  Parents who are very stressed out, high-strung and overwhelmed are passing their emotional stress onto their children.  This emotional reactionary stress hugely impacts health.   Take things out of your schedule, you will be happy you did.  From being a music teacher for over 15 years I can tell you that it is easy to spot the kids who are in too many activities.  Kids don’t show stress like adults – over-scheduled kids just become disinterested in things, they become distracted, or they get antsy, need to be entertained and are demanding.

4. Eat supper together.  Did you know that your mood impacts your rate of digestion?  If the family is together, chatting and laughing, verses rushing to and fro, the digestion rate is better and your absorption rate will improve. Kids will also eat more nutritious meals when at home verses on the go.

5. Eat Probiotic Rich Foods.  Kefir, cultured veggies (see my post of how to make your own cultured veggies), raw cheese and yogurt (if it is free of artificial colors, high fructose corn syrup and/or aspartame).  Since most people have leaky guts, cultured coconut water like Inner Eco Wild Berry Coconut Water Kefir, Kevita or CocoBiotic will heal the gut lining and are the best probiotic options.

6. Enjoy soups with a chicken broth base at least twice a week. Chicken broth heals the gut and provides amazing nutritional benefits that are bio-available nearly immediately.

7.  Eat fish (or fish oil). Even though fish oil does not establish good gut bacteria, the omega fats in fish oil are essential to good brain health – the fats are the nutrient carriers from the gut to the brain.  People with depression (and anxiety) benefit from fish oil as it also raises serotonin levels.

A healthy gut is essential to our mental health. Establishing good gut bacteria doesn’t happen overnight, but it is worth it!

To your health,






p.s. As always, I want to hear from you.

Share your stories in the comments below and please share this post with friends – it literally could save someone’s life!













About The Author

Summer Brackhan

Mom, sociologist, teacher, author, musician, world traveler, parenting and health coach who believes healthy living incorporates body, mind and soul and that life is not about living in little boxes, but experiencing everything at its fullest.


  • Mayara

    Reply Reply August 13, 2015

    I’ve always known that gut brtceaia have a key role in controlling celiac disease. I’ve known there is difference between C-section and normally born kids. Is there ways to increase the gut brtceaia.?

    • Summer Brackhan

      Reply Reply August 25, 2015

      HI Mayara! Yes, you can increase gut bacteria quite easily through what you are eating. A probiotic rich diet can come from cultured vegetables, kefir (milk or coconut water), yogurt, kombucha, raw cheeses etc. There are also starting to be more live probiotics on the market in health food stores. If you check out my recommended products page, you will find 3 that are listed as well that can be ordered on-line.

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