Plant Based Protein Pudding Recipe (Vegan, Keto, Low Sugar)

Creating a healthy and tasty chocolate plant-based pudding recipe that was vegan, keto-friendly, and high protein was quite the challenge, let me tell you!

But I can confidently declare this one a winner … and it has very solid nutrition facts profile, as you’ll see below.

The highest percentage of calories in this recipe come from fat (29 grams). But don’t fret–it’s good fats (monounsatured and polyunsaturated)–the types that have a beneficial effect on your heart health.

These “good fats” in the recipe come from three nuts that pair surprisingly well together: cashews, macadamia, and peanut butter.

And the protein content ain’t too shabby either–a solid 18 grams per serving thanks to the addition of Pure Food Cacao Protein Powder with Probiotics.

For all of you low carb / Paleo / Keto peeps, the carb count comes in at 17 with 4 grams of belly-filling fiber … for a grand total of 13 g net carbs and just 1 gram of sugar!

You could lower this even more by switching up your nut ratios and doing more macadamia/nut butter and less cashews.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients.

Chocolate Plant Based Protein Pudding Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups unsweetened oat milk
  • 1 cup cashews (soaked overnight)
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts (soaked overnight)
  • 1/8 cup peanut butter
  • 4 scoops of Pure Food Cacao Protein Powder with Probiotics (note: you can also try 3 scoops of Pure Food Cacao REAL MEAL Meal Replacement Powder).
  • Optional: If you like it sweeter, you can add a banana, 1-2 T sweetener like honey or maple syrup, or a tiny bit of monkfruit or stevia if you prefer lower sugar, which is what I used. Or try it with shaved dark chocolate and/or strawberries.

How to Make This Keto-friendly Chocolate Vegan Protein Pudding

  1. Start by combining the macadamia nuts and cashews into a bowl. Cover and soak overnight or give them a “quick soak” by adding near-boiling-hot water and soaking for 1 hour. Overnight will get you a smoother consistency though. Drain the water once done.
  2. Add the rest of your dry ingredients to a food processor or high powered blender (I used my Vitamix) and pulse. Slowly add the oat milk a little bit at a time until you get the consistency you’re looking for (taste frequently!). I blended mine for about 2-3 minutes on medium.
  3. Scoop the pudding into a bowl. Cover and chill overnight, ideally (or at least a couple hours if you can wait that long). Serve as-is or with some fruit/dark chocolate and you have yourself a very tasty and healthy dessert!
  4. This plant-powered protein pudding will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can probably freeze it too, but I haven’t tried so proceed at your own risk! 😉

Nutrition Facts

Servings: 4

Per Serving:

Calories: 387

Fat: 29 grams

Carbs: 17 grams (4 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar)

Protein: 18 grams

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Probiotics and Immune Health: Which Strains Are Best for Immunity?

how to boost immunity naturally with probiotics

Can probiotics boost your immune system? The answer, as you’ll learn below, is yes … but there are some caveats.

In this article we’ll review several research studies that have explored the role probiotics play in immunity and reveal what, if any, probiotic strains may help improve your immune health. We’ll also talk about the right foods to eat to boost your immunity and situations in which you should probably avoid probiotics.

Let’s dig in …

The Microbiome, Explained

You have an estimated 40 trillion bacterial cells living inside your body at any given time.

A good chunk of these microorganisms live in your gut and are part of your “microbiome,” the collective community of microbes that reside with you.

The microbiome plays quite the important role in your body, particularly when it comes to immunity …

Scientists have discovered that 70-80 percent of your immune system is controlled by your microbiome.

And your gut microbiome is largely shaped by what you eat and drink, as we’ll explore further below. First, let’s talk probiotics …

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help keep your body healthy and working well. These good bacteria can provide assistance in a number of interesting ways.

Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics can help you maintain a healthy balance in your body by:

  • Supporting your immune function and controlling inflammation.
  • Helping your body digest food.
  • Keeping bad bacteria from getting out of control and making you sick.
  • Creating vitamins.
  • Helping support the cells that line your gut to prevent bad bacteria that you may have consumed (through food or drinks) from entering your blood.

Probiotics are commonly used by medical professionals to treat the following conditions:

  • Diarrhea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • H. pylori (the cause of ulcers)
  • Vaginal infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Infection of the GI tract caused by Clostridium difficile
  • Pouchitis (a possible side effect of surgery that removes the colon)
  • Eczema in children

Let’s take a deeper dive into the role probiotics play in your immune health, specifically.

Probiotics and Immune Health: What We Know Based on Current Research Studies

Study #1: Beneficial Effects of Probiotic Consumption on the Immune System

According to this 2019 study published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism medical journal:

Probiotic bacteria have significant effects on the functionality of the mucosal and systemic immune systems through the activation of multiple immune mechanisms.

The researchers in the study discovered that probiotic bacteria induce signals in the intestine that improve the behavior of the immune system and the host’s health. Probiotic bacteria were deemed to be an “effective tool for the maintenance of the intestinal homeostasis and the stimulation of the mucosal immune system.”

Study #2: Prospective Study of Probiotic Supplementation Results in Immune Stimulation and Improvement of Upper Respiratory Infection Rate

In a 2018 double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, researchers found that a 3-strain probiotic supplement was “safe and effective for fighting the common cold and influenza-like respiratory infections by boosting the immune system.”

Probiotics do appear to be somewhat effective in preventing the common cold. More research is needed but early results are promising.

“Probiotics are particularly helpful for maintaining normal bowel function and good digestive health,” says Bruce Eisendorf, M.D., a family medicine doctor at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “They also keep your immune system strong so you can fight and prevent infection.”

Study #3: Probiotics and Immune Health

A 2011 study found that:

Probiotics showed therapeutic potential for diseases, including several immune response-related diseases, such as allergy, eczema, viral infection, and potentiating vaccination responses.

Which Probiotics Are Best for Immunity?

Here are the strain-specific probiotics that may work for boosting your immune system:

Probiotic StrainImmune System Benefit
Bifidobacterium bifidumReduces cold and flu incidence.
Lactobacillus brevisReduces the incidence of flu.
Lactobacillus GGDecreased risk of upper respiratory infections for children in daycare.
Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum Reduces the risk of colds in school-aged children.
Lactobacillus rhamnosusReduces the incidence of pneumonia in people in the intensive care unit.
B. longum Helps prevent the flu in elderly patients.
Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracaseiReduces the number of days with symptoms and severity of colds.

*Shameless Plug Alert: Our digestive health supplement, Pure Food DIGEST, contains ALL of these probiotic strains!

How to Build a Healthy Immune System By Feeding Your Microbiome the Right Foods

One way to improve the levels of healthy bacteria in your gut without probiotic supplements is to eat more foods these “good bacteria” like to eat—namely, fiber-rich foods.

This means increasing your intake of:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Beans/legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds

Getting all your fiber from a single source (like a fiber supplement, for example) is not the best way to boost your gut health and immunity.

Your goal should be to eat a variety of fiber-rich foods each day.

Another way to promote a healthy gut and immune system is to eat foods that already contain beneficial bacteria (probiotics).

This includes:

  • Yogurt, kefir, and other cultured dairy products (there are plant-based options available now too).
  • Kim-chi, sauerkraut, and other fermented vegetables.
  • Miso, tempeh, natto, and other fermented soy products.
  • Kombucha (fermented tea).

All of these products are available on grocery store shelves or you can make them yourself, which is actually quite fun. My personal DIY foods: kombucha, preserved lemons, fermented pepper paste, and pickles.

Is it Safe to Take Probiotics When You’re Sick?

Probiotic supplements are generally safe for healthy people.

Studies show that taking probiotics may help you get sick less and reduce the amount of time you’re sick for (in regards to common colds/respiratory infections).

But there are some situations where beneficial bacteria (either from foods or supplements) can cause adverse affects.

Acute illnesses such as pancreatitis, Crohn’s, colitis, and celiac disease can lead to increased intestinal permeability, which is when bacteria penetrate the lining of the gut far enough to cause an inflammatory reaction from your immune cells. If your gut is already inflamed, that can spell trouble.

Those with compromised immune systems, either from a severe illness or due to medical treatment for a disease, are also generally advised to avoid probiotic foods and supplements. Some studies have found that using probiotics in severely ill or immunocompromised individuals can increase the risk of adverse effects such as infections.

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Digestive Enzymes vs Probiotics: What’s the Difference?

Types of Digestive Enzymes and Benefits of Each

In this guide, we will answer all of your most common questions about digestive enzymes:

  • What are digestive enzymes, what do they do, and where do they come from?
  • Digestive enzymes vs probiotics: what’s the difference?
  • What do digestive enzymes help with?
  • Which enzyme should you take to break down carbs, fats, proteins, etc.?
  • What’s the best time to take digestive enzymes and probiotics? 
  • Do you need an enzyme supplement?

Let’s get started …

What Are Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes help break down food in your mouth and gut so nutrients are released and can be absorbed across the intestinal barrier into the bloodstream.

Therefore, one of the main things digestive enzymes do is to increase the bioavailability of nutrients. In other words, they help your body digest certain foods better

Where Do Digestive Enzymes Come From?

Our bodies make some types of digestive enzymes. They’re produced in your saliva and as exocrine secretions from the pancreas when you consume food.

Digestive enzyme supplements come from three different sources: animals, plants and microbes.

Animal-sourced

These include pancreatin, pepsin, trypsin and chymotrypsin. Pancreatin includes many of the enzymes necessary for digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates (proteases to break down proteins into amino acids; amylase to break down complex carbohydrate molecules into manageable sugars; and lipase to help break down fats).

Plant-sourced

Plant-sourced enzymes include bromelain (from pineapple), papain (from papaya), and gluten-specific proteases, which help break down proteins.

Microbial-sourced

These enzymes come from fungi and bacterial sources and can be used by vegetarians and vegans instead of animal-based enzymes. Common enzymes in this group include amylase, glucoamylase, proteases, lipase and multiple types of saccharidases including lactase (to digest lactose), alphagalactosidase (for digesting beans, legumes and cruciferous vegetables) and cellulase (to help digest cellulose in plants).

Are Digestive Enzymes the Same As Probiotics?

Digestive enzymes and probiotics can both help you improve digestion but they’re not the same. Probiotics are living microorganisms that may provide certain health benefits when ingested while digestive enzymes are non-living molecules that help you digest specific foods better.

Your body produces enzymes but does not produce probiotics, so they must be consumed through the diet or supplemented.

Who Should Take a Digestive Enzyme Supplement?

First, it’s important to understand that an enzyme will only help improve digestion of a food if it’s the right type of enzyme for the right type of food.

Second, digestive enzymes will also only help improve digestive symptoms if those symptoms are  related to poor digestion of particular nutrients or enzyme deficiency. 

What Causes Digestive Enzyme Deficiencies? 

There are many reasons why our bodies often don’t make enough digestive enzymes. One of the main reasons is poor exocrine pancreatic function. The causes of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) are quite diverse and include:

  • Problems with the endocrine part of the pancreas such as insulin dysregulation from diet high in refined carbohydrates and diabetes
  • Gall stones that block the bile duct and reduce/halt the flow of pancreatic juices (biliary stasis)
  • Poor function of the Sphincter of Oddi
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Micronutrient deficiency
  • Protein deficiency
  • Diets high in refined carbohydrates causing hypoglycemia, insulin resistance and diabetes
  • High calorie intake
  • Too little or too much exercise

Other factors that also impact digestive enzyme output are:

  • Consuming foods or drinks that promote intestinal inflammation including coffee, alcohol, sugar, and highly processed foods
  • Individual food sensitivities like gluten, dairy, corn, soy etc.
  • Chronic GI infection or inflammation
  • Repeated antibiotic exposure, which affects gut microbiota, digestive and liver health
  • Physical, emotional or psychological stress
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Aging

Symptoms of Digestive Enzyme Insufficiency 

Symptoms of digestive enzyme insufficiency usually appear in the gut and may include:

  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Irritable bowel type symptoms
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gut microbiota dysbiosis
  • Undigested food in the stools
  • Stools that float (steatorrhea)
  • Feeling full after only a few mouthfuls
  • Food allergies and intolerances

And for some folks, the lack of enzymes can become a chronic insufficiency that may lead to obesity, allergies and poor immune function, depression and anxiety, premenstrual syndrome, fatigue, autoimmune conditions such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Types of Digestive Enzymes and Benefits of Each

Different types of enzymes have different benefits. Here are some of the most common ones:

ENZYME CLASS

TYPE / SOURCE

FUNCTION

LipasesLipase / humans, plants and microbes
Essential for digestion of fats.
ProteasesGluten proteases / microbes
Digest gluten and casein.
Alkali proteases / microbes
Digest proteins with pH 4.0-11.
Acid proteases / microbes
Digest proteins within pH 2.0-6.0.
Bromelain / pineapples
Digest proteins.
CarbohydrasesAmylase / humans and microbes
Digest starch and glycogen-specific enzymes and gluten.
Amyloglucosidase / plants and microbes
Digest amylase disaccharides into monosaccharides. Works best with amylase.
Lactase / humans (babies), plants and microbes
Digest the milk sugar lactose.
Alpha galactosidase / microbes
Digest raffinose, stachyose and verbascose in legumes, whole grains and some vegetables.
Invertase / humans, plants and microbes
Digest sucrose and maltose.
Fibrolytic EnzymesPhytase / plants and microbes
Digest phytic acid from nuts, seeds, and grains.
Cellulase / plants and microbes
Digest cellulose, a plant fibre found in fruit and vegetables.

What to Expect When Taking Digestive Enzymes and/or Probiotics

When introducing new bacteria and/or an enzyme supplement into your system, it’s common to experience a brief increase in GI activity like gas, bloating, etc. This normally lasts 1-2 weeks max and is your body’s way of acclimating to a shift in the balance of bacteria in your microbiome. If symptoms persist past this point, it’s probably a good idea to stop.

After a couple weeks, you should notice less of these types of symptoms, as long as you’re taking the supplements at the right times. Which leads to our next topic …

When Is the Best Time to Take Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics?

It’s best to take digestive enzymes and probiotics either right before or with a meal to maximize their time of being in contact with food. Try taking them before or with your largest meal or two of the day to start, and then before/with other meals as-needed.

You should not take probiotic or enzyme supplements first thing in the morning or on an empty stomach because you will likely experience an increase in gas and bloating (note: per the section above, it’s normal to have some of these symptoms even if you take the supplements with food for the first couple weeks). Give your body time to adjust!

Do You Need Probiotics, Digestive Enzymes, or Both?

If you’re having gut issues, the first thing you should do is go visit a licensed healthcare provider who can help you determine if you have an enzyme deficiency. We also recommend scheduling an appointment with an allergist to see which foods, if any, you may be having adverse reactions to.

There does appear to be some benefit to taking a combination of probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes (this is called a synbiotic).

While digestive enzymes will help you break down food and absorb its nutrients, the probiotics will create a natural protective layer of bacteria and the prebiotic fiber will help “feed” the good bacteria.

What to Look for In a Digestive Enzyme / Probiotic / Synbiotic Supplement

Our criteria is admittedly more stringent than others but here’s the checklist we recommend using:

  1. Formulated by a doctor or credentialed healthcare expert.
  2. Contains multiple strains of probiotics and enzymes at safe, efficacious doses.
  3. Ingredients sourced from North America or Europe.
  4. Delayed release capsule or spore-forming probiotics used to ensure most probiotics reach your small intestine.
  5. Third party tested for pathogens and other contaminants and post-production testing done on each batch to ensure you’re getting what it says on the label.

About Our Probiotic / Digestive Enzyme Supplement, DIGEST

If you’re considering a supplement, here’s some more information about our product, Digest, and what sets it apart from other digestive health supplements:

pure food digestive enzymes plus probiotics ingredientscompare digestive enzyme probiotic supplements

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Kachava Reviews: Compare Ka’ Chava Meal Replacement to Pure Food Real Meal

Most Kachava reviews you see online have one thing in common: a vested instead in selling more Ka’ hava protein!

This one is the opposite.

Because we sell our own line of plant-based protein and meal replacement powders.

And for that reason, we like to write honest assessments of our competitors’ products to help our customers understand how they compare to ours.

How do you remain unbiased when selling a competitive product?” you may be asking. The answer is:

  1. By focusing on objective criteria in our reviews: ingredients, nutrition facts, and price.
  2. By analyzing real customer reviews from the best source of consumer product feedback, Amazon.

Ingredients-wise, Kachava is actually one of the better plant-based meal replacement products on the market.

There are a few things we don’t love about their products too.

Read the rest of our Kachava review to learn more …

What Is Kachava?

Kachava, also known as “Ka Chava,” is an “all-in-one plant-based superfood meal,” according to kachava.com.

It’s available in two flavors, Vanilla and Chocolate.

Ka’Chava provides you with all the functional fuel you need to thrive both physically and mentally in a single, ready-to-go meal.

Source: https://www.kachava.com/pages/benefits-all

Kachava Ingredients and Nutrition Facts

Kachava shakes are quite nutrient-dense. They contain:

  • 70+ Superfoods & Nutrients
  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • Greens
  • Omega 3s
  • MCTs
  • Probiotics
  • Adaptogens
  • Antioxidants
  • 26 Vitamins & Minerals

Ka’Chava serving sizes (62g Chocolate & 60g Vanilla) are larger than most other shakes on the market.

Nutrition-wise, here’s a summary of what you get per 2 scoop serving:

  • 240 calories
  • 7 grams of fat
  • 4.4 grams of saturated fat
  • 24-25 grams of carbohydrates
  • 9 grams of dietary fiber
  • 6-7 grams of sugar (5-6 grams added sugar)

Here are the complete nutrition panels / ingredient lists for each of the two Ka’chava flavors currently available:

Kachava Chocolate Protein Powder / Meal Replacement Nutrition Facts

kachava chocolate meal replacement powder nutrition

Kachava Vanilla Protein / Meal Replacement Nutrition Facts

kachava vanilla ingredients nutrition facts

Kachava Cost

On their website, Kachava costs $69.95 / bag for a single purchase ($4.67/serving), or $59.95 with a monthly subscription ($4/serving).

On Amazon, Kachava costs $77.95/bag.

Other Ka’chava Reviews (from Amazon)

Amazon reviewers rate the product as-follows:

ka chava reviews

Here are the three most popular Ka’chava positive reviews on Amazon:

On a lark, I bought a bag because I often look for something quick and easy for lunch at work and have tried a LOT of different meal replacement/protein shakes. Either they taste great and have really iffy nutritional value and high sugar, or they are really healthy, high in protein, low carb and taste like chalky watery paste. The nutritional value of this stuff is pretty amazing and it is low sugar/carbs. I took a chance because I don’t mind the cost if the taste will compel me to use it and not spend my usual $5-$10 per day for a nutritionally questionable lunch I often don’t have time to eat. Based on reviews saying it tasted “amazing”, I went in cautiously hopeful. Let me be clear, this does not taste “GREAT” or “AMAZING”, imo. But more importantly (for me at least), it does not taste BAD like so many other drinks I’ve tried. I keep a bag of frozen berries in my office fridge and add a few with just water to a small bullet blender. I can actually drink it down quickly without feeling like I have to force it down in an unpleasant way. I am sure if I start experimenting with other ingredients, I can get it to taste great, but I don’t really feel the need. I’ve used it for about two weeks consistently and I was very suprised to note that I was not hungry or peckish for late afternoon snacks, of which I am often guilty. Felt pretty sated and energized till dinner. Not to get all TMI, but my “movements” have also been really healthy as well the following day, and on days where I have a lunch meeting or something other than the shake, I definitely note the difference in that department. Sorry, but it seemed like a relevant observation. The ingredients and purported nutritional value are the highlight here. I don’t feel guilty “only” having a shake for lunch and actually suspect it is good for me? Pricey for sure, but so far two weeks in, I am a believer and suspect I’ll buy more. I’m not on a crusade to lose weight or eat super healthy all the time, but was just looking for something convenient, healthy and good enough that I wouldn’t dread going to it for a quick lunch from time to time. That I stuck with it for two weeks compelled me to write up a review. If it was $10-$20 less, I’d probably make it a subscription.
The Ka’chava meal replacement is packed full of excellent nutrients! I actually really like the sweet chocolate taste, yet it also has 9g of sugar (which appears to be naturally occurring from all the added fruits?). However, there are a few things that I would like the company to alter, before I would purchase this meal replacement again:
1. Please use methylcobalamin Vitamin B12, NOT cyanocobalamin Vitamin B12, because the former is natural and the latter is synthetically bound to cyanide! It appears the only damn reason nutrition labs make cyanocobalamin is because the cyanide gives the B12 a slightly longer shelf life, but at what toxic cost to a human body taking it?!
2. Most of the ingredients are organic, which is good, but it would be truly excellent if all the ingredients were sourced organic.
3. The price for the Ka’chava blend is a bit steep. I predominantly purchase the Sunwarrior and Garden of Life meal replacements, because they both have excellent, all organic ingredients at a far better price to quantity ratio.
I have tasted a lot of protein powder over the years. This one is worth the money. The ingredient list is really impressive – all
You need to add is some nut butter (for a little more fat) and it’s a really good meal replacement. Like – really good. I only gave it 4 Stars because it’s so pricey. There is no other protein powder out there with clean and super healthy ingredients that tastes like this – except maybe shakeology – and this tastes better. I love a good shake after a tough workout – I’m sticking with this one.
I was not given product or anything in exchange for this review.

The three most popular Ka’ chava negative review on Amazon are:

I am a pretty easy to satisfy when it comes to food and beverages… definitely not too demanding on flavors. But I must say that the chocolate flavored version of this product is pretty bad tasting. I carry a very low sugar diet and I do not spice up or season too heavy any of my meals, so I am not expecting “healthy” alternatives to taste particularly good or sweet. But this is ridiculous.
Considering how expensive this product is, that most, if not all of the statements claimed by the product are “non FDA evaluated”, that daily nutritional/dietary values are not established, and that the flavor is *extremely* bad, the price should be subject to a steep downward correction. I would not pay more than $19.99 for a product like this. Yet it is priced at $77.99.
I most certainly don’t want a refund or to be contacted regarding my review. I am just being purely honest about my experience with it.
Be very careful purchasing this there’s no return and it’s very expensive. I did not like it it does not shake well with water almond milk etc. even when blended it’s uncontrollably thick …

Summary: What We Love / Don’t Love About Ka’ Chava

What We Love About Kachava:

  • Solid organic plant based protein blend.
  • Balanced macronutrient profile for a meal replacement.
  • Quality superfoods, adaptogens, probiotics, and enzymes.

What We Don’t Love About Ka’ Chava:

  • Get rid of the 6 grams of added sugar! Use a bit more organic monkfruit instead.
  • Ditch the “natural” flavors and gums.
  • Find an organic source of pea protein.

Compare Our Kachava Alternative–Pure Food Protein Real Meal

Here’s a quick comparison of Ka’ Chava Meal Replacement Powder vs. Pure Food Real Meal:

BenefitKa’Chava Meal Replacement PowderPure Food REAL MEAL
Calories Per Serving240205
Protein Per Serving25 grams26 grams 
Sugar Per Serving 6 grams 0 grams 
Cost Per Serving (Subscribe & Save Price)$4.00$2.00
Contains Gums and Flavors YesNo 
Organic ingredientsYes (except for pea protein)Yes
Stevia-freeYesYes

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How to Reduce Anxiety Naturally: Foods, Supplements, and Techniques That Actually Work

If you’ve ever felt “butterflies in your stomach” or “gone with your gut”, you’re likely getting signals from an unexpected source hidden in the walls of your digestive system.

Scientists call this “second brain” the enteric nervous system (ENS) and it’s made up of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from your esophagus to your rectum, connected by a giant nerve called the vagus nerve.

How, exactly, does this “gut-brain axis” affect your mental health? What role, if any, do microbes in our gut play in how we feel when we’re stressed and anxious? Can you reduce your anxiety levels just by changing the way you eat? What are some proven strategies you can use for reducing anxiety, starting right now?

We’ll answer all those questions and more in this article.

The Role of the Enteric Nervous System (ENS)

how to reduce anxiety without medicationThe ENS controls digestion, from swallowing to the release of enzymes that break down food to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption to elimination, according to Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology. Pasricha states:

The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results.

The ENS may trigger emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. Dr. Pasricha noted:

For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around.

This means that inflammation in your gut may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.

But feelings like anger, anxiety, sadness, surprise—all of these (and others) can also be the cause of symptoms in the gut.

With that in mind, let’s explore some strategies proven by research to help you reduce inflammation in your gut, which can help you significantly reduce your stress and anxiety as a result.

What to Eat to Decrease Your Anxiety and Stress Levels

Food plays a vital role in helping to control anxiety and stress. Let’s look at what to eat and what not to eat if you want to reduce your anxiety.

What Not to Eat

  1. Sugar: A diet low in sugar can starve out undesirable bacteria in the gut, leading to a positive effect on the gut-brain axis. Also, anxiety is often associated with hypoglycemia, a condition in which blood sugar drops to an abnormally low level a few hours after a sugary meal or drink. Balancing blood sugar is crucial to keeping symptoms of anxiety at bay.
  2. Saturated Fat: Diets higher in saturated fat and added sugars have been associated with higher anxiety levels.
  3. Alcohol: Drinking booze is also associated with higher levels of anxiety. Moderation is key.

What to Eat

  1. Vegetables and Whole Grains: Studies have found that people who eat more vegetables and non-refined grains are less likely to suffer from anxiety.
  2. Unsaturated fats: A meta-analysis of 14 studies found that people who suffer from depression and anxiety consumed lower levels of healthy monounsaturated fats (from olive oil, fish, and nuts).
  3. Fermented foods: Fermented foods like sauerkraut have beneficial microbes that may play a role in stress, anxiety, and depression. Aim to add a serving or two of fermented vegetables to your diet each day.

Specific diets, such as a low-FODMAP diet (a diet low in carbs and sugars), eliminate certain foods that can produce gas and bloating in IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) patients. But this diet is hard to adhere to and may not be healthy in the long run because you’re forced to eliminate so many beneficial foods.

Supplements That May Help Improve Your Mood and Decrease Feelings of Anxiety

By now, you know that a healthy diet is crucial for physical well-being. Researchers in recent years have also begun to study whether certain supplements can improve gastrointestinal health and your mood.

Here are some of the most promising ones:

1. Probiotics

Probiotics have been shown to help improve the overall balance of your gut flora, leading to a “broad healing effect” in multiple body systems.

Researchers have found that manipulating the gut microbiota with probiotics may help manage symptoms of mental disorders.

And a 2019 review study published in the journal General Psychiatry revealed that over half of the 21 clinical studies included in the review showed positive results in treating anxiety symptoms through regulation of intestinal microbiota.

The review looked at two kinds of interventions (probiotic and non-probiotic interventions). Both probiotic and non-probiotic (diet and exercise) interventions were found to be effective.

It’s important to note that multiple probiotic strains across varying studies were used and contributed to positive outcomes in improving gut-brain connectivity and, hence, anxiety. Diversity is key.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium has been shown in small studies to have a beneficial effect on anxiety symptoms. More research is needed but because of its other many benefits, we highly recommend magnesium as a front-line supplement for most adults.

3. CBD

While human-based research on CBD and anxiety is fairly limited at this point, there are several small studies that have been conducted:

  1. A 1993 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology followed four groups of 10 people. Groups were given either CBD, Valium, ipsapirone, or placebo. The results suggested that ipsapirone and CBD have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) properties in stressful situations.
  2. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, “CBD reduces anxiety in social anxiety disorder (SAD).”
  3. A 2015 review published in the journal Neurotherapeutics found that CBD may help improve the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

4. L-lysine and L-arginine

A double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized study showed that taking a combination of the amino acids L-lysine and L-arginine can help reduce mental stress and anxiety.

5. Kava

Kava is a plant extract made from Piper methysticum, a plant native to the western Pacific islands. There is evidence that suggests kava may be a useful way to treat mild anxiety.

How I Have Personally Reduced My Anxiety Dramatically

These are the strategies I have personally used that have been most impactful for reducing and controlling my stress and anxiety:

best sleep dietResearch shows eating a diet high in certain foods (like sugar) is associated with higher anxiety levels. So how do you know what the “right” foods for you are?

My advice: avoid fad diets and one-size-fits-all approaches to nutrition. Different foods affect people different ways and I think we’re entering a very exciting new chapter of personalized nutrition.

To that end, I highly recommend getting a microbiome test from Viome and an allergy test at a physician’s office. These two tests will tell you exactly what foods to eat more of and which ones to avoid based on your unique gut bacteria.