Of all things, some people are calling 2021 the year of the microbiome! Weird right? Interest in this topic is certainly growing, especially as a notable offshoot from the past year’s discussion around immunity.
Put bluntly, cells in our gut microbiome outnumber cells in our whole body by approximately 10 to 1, so how can we ignore them? There are countless varieties of microbes, and together they comprise a mind-boggling array of genetic information.
Treated as a whole, each individual’s microbiome dictates a little differently how our overall wellness is influenced through the complex processes of digestion; in fact, each person’s overall health also informs our gut-health environment… a classic two-way street.
Since we know that a healthy lifestyle (e.g. daily stress relief practices, matcha tea, etc) encourages a happy gut, below we’ll consider what steps on the other hand, that one might take to boost gut-health directly – especially with mental health in mind!
Mental Health and Gut Microbiome
Mental health, you ask? Well, we’ve discussed before why a healthy gut may mean good things for cognitive longevity + nootropic benefits, but today researchers are steering the figurative highway (between gut and mind) towards a focus on common mental-health conditions.
‘Mental Health’ really is somewhat of a misnomer these days, since mental health issues do not necessarily originate in the mind – the gut-brain axis is the perfect proof to this: it appears that some common forms of depression and anxiety often may originate/directly involve digestive health [1-2].
Even the researchers themselves acknowledge that this frontier of medicine is only taking off in the past couple of years, with most studies confirming an experimental, positive correlation in subjects between either probiotics or ‘whole-dietary’ approaches, and mental health symptoms [1-2].
Added promise comes from reports stating that a diet rich in naturally occurring polyphenols/antioxidants may provide individuals with mental health protections as well, courtesy of the gut-brain axis [3-4].
- With green tea being millennia old, it shouldn’t surprise too many people to learn that products like matcha are often the highlighted natural product studied for microbiome/mental health [3-4].
- On a related note, new findings from 2021 further demonstrate why antioxidants in matcha may be more useful during digestion than other conventional green teas, due to the high-quality, powdered format 
How does Microbiome Influence Mental Health?
It’s understood that these principles for a healthier microbiome are equally sensible for anyone wanting to be proactive over their mental space too, not necessarily just for those with existing conditions like depression and anxiety.
Simply speaking, here’s how it works: a poor diet will fuel the less-friendly microbes that live inside each of us, bringing an imbalance against the healthier bacteria which are responsible for producing hormones, neurotransmitters, and more.
An imbalance like this allows the bad microbes to aggravate our immune system too, and even produce unhealthy byproducts. Given enough time, those unfavorable microbes may start changing your body’s chemistry enough that it impacts mental health.
However, in a healthy microbiome environment, the friendly microbes are more gentle to your digestive tract, your immune system is happier, and microbial byproducts instead have healthy properties, like helping to break down your food into easier to absorb nutrients/vitamins.
Five Research-backed Ways that Matcha Green Tea Boosts Gut Health
It’s our guilty pleasure to highlight the actual science behind how green tea & matcha may provide individuals an edge in their health, and here with a focus on mental well-being (btw – see our article about matcha + anxiety).
In the case of microbiome and gut-brain axis, it’s actually quite remarkable how the natural compounds in matcha could help out; so much, that some researchers aren’t even debating over certain gut-benefits anymore:
- A few ongoing studies have proceeded to measure higher-quality matcha (i.e. Ceremonial) vs. lower-grade matcha (i.e. culinary) for which may the most of those gut-friendly properties .
We’ll be very curious what they find! But for now:
Green Tea May Improve Microbial Diversity in Microbiome
It’s suggested that a diverse microbiome is a healthy one. The meta-analysis from this year reports that the compounds found in green tea could encourage a more diverse (i.e. balanced) microbiome – that’s good news for the gut-brain axis !
Research Says Matcha Tea/Green Tea Acts as a Probiotic in the Gut
A probiotic can either fuel the good bacteria, or control against the bad ones (or both). The research summary from earlier this year explains that green tea may boost levels of the good microbe known as “Bifidobacteria .”
Prior research also shows the polyphenols may control the ‘less-friendlies’ ; taken together one may expect these potential beneficial changes from green tea to trickle into a healthier mental space.
Matcha Green Tea May Boost Nutrient Absorption for Mental health
A healthy microbiome is just as important as a healthy diet, but sometimes even the best efforts towards balanced eating may fall short on certain nutrients.
Polyphenols from Matcha Tea Promote Gut-health against Obesity
One of the most intriguing findings stated in the 2021 analysis, is how green tea, in testing, regulated the microbiome in a manner against obesity ; to be clear, there’s actually a strong connection reported between obesity and dysbiosis of the gut.
Seeing that there’s also a connection between obesity and certain issues of mental well-being, it’s not improbable that a regular green tea practice could have upstream benefits in both areas. Future research can tell us more.
Matcha and Green Tea May Benefit the Microbiome through better Mood
This one is in reverse order. Since it’s understood that the gut-brain axis goes both ways, the leading researchers are acknowledging how practices which facilitate better mood and mental health may have direct benefits to an individual’s gut-health.
Matcha green tea is one of the safest, natural daily drinks which is reported for relaxation properties. The psychoactive properties of L-theanine, a calming amino acid found in matcha, are known to directly impact mood .
As one of many brain boosting molecules in matcha, those mood properties should not be ignored for someone looking to balance their microbiome health. Remember, it’s a two way street.
 Järbrink-Sehgal, E., & Andreasson, A. (2020). The gut microbiota and mental health in adults. Current opinion in neurobiology, 62, 102-114.
 Berding, K., Vlckova, K., Marx, W., Schellekens, H., Stanton, C., Clarke, G., ... & Cryan, J. F. (2021). Diet and the Microbiota–Gut–Brain Axis: Sowing the Seeds of Good Mental Health. Advances in Nutrition.
 Ma, Y., Ding, S., Fei, Y., Liu, G., Jang, H., & Fang, J. (2019). Antimicrobial activity of anthocyanins and catechins against foodborne pathogens Escherichia coli and Salmonella. Food Control, 106, 106712.
 Jin, J. S., Touyama, M., Hisada, T., & Benno, Y. (2012). Effects of green tea consumption on human fecal microbiota with special reference to Bifidobacterium species. Microbiology and immunology, 56(11), 729-739.
 Rusak, G., Šola, I., & Bok, V. V. (2021). Matcha and Sencha green tea extracts with regard to their phenolics pattern and antioxidant and antidiabetic activity during in vitro digestion. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 1-11.
 Takegami, M., Hashimoto, Y., Miyoshi, T., Munekawa, C., Yoshimura, T., Nakajima, H., ... & Fukui, M. (2021). Effect of matcha consumption on gut microbiota in healthy Japanese individuals: study protocol for a double-blind crossover interventional study.
 Khairudin, M. A. S., Jalil, A. M. M., & Hussin, N. (2021). Effects of Polyphenols in Tea (Camellia Sinensis sp.) on Modulation of Gut Microbiota in Human Trials and Animal Studies.