Studies are coming out every day that link the effects of imbalances in gut bacteria to a host of mental health conditions including: depression, anxiety, autism, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. Although not yet entirely understood, scientists have discovered that signals go both from the brain to the gut AND from the gut to the brain. Prompted by this realization, they are beginning to triangulate the factors that bear on the bacterial balance and overall health of our guts so that we may safeguard our brains. Some negative factors include refined sugar, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, environmental chemicals and antibiotics. Some positive factors include pro/pre biotic supplements, plant-based diets (or ample fruits and vegetables as part of a non-vegetarian diet), fermented foods (e.g., yogurt, which is rich in the good bacteria lactobacilli), and complex/high-fiber carbs. More specifically, there is a whole host of foods that actually assist in cleaning and balancing the gut, including: chia seeds, apples (especially apple cider vinegar), green tea, garlic (due to allicin content), kombucha (fermented black tea), and lemons. The bottom line: a healthy gut is at the core of your brain/body function, so keep this in mind the next time you’re at the grocery store!