Got Anxiety? Go Pro, Cytokines and Silver Linings, & Breathing: It's Electric

Dawn's Big Three This Week:

1) 🥑 Food For Thought 💭
Why we’re pro-probiotics and anti-anxiety

2) 🥇 Motivation Station 🏃‍♀️
Thoughts on optimism and inflammation

3) ☔ Make It Brain
The interesting truth about nasal breathing

📸BONUS: We just launched on Instagram, dishing up 1 science backed fact for your brain every day. Aesthetically pleasing intelligence awaits. Follow us!


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🥑 Food For Thought 💭


A surge in research points to a physiological connection between our brains and intestines. It’s referred to as the Gut-Brain axis and, like your relationship with your ex, it’s a bit complicated.

Scientists agree on this: a healthy digestive system appears to foster a healthy brain and sound mind.

We know the road to digestive health is paved with probiotics. Those tiny microorganisms set up shop in our bodies and maintain peace by warding off unhealthy inflammation.

Now scientists have reason to believe one particular probiotic strain—lactobacillus rhamnosus— might help ward off anxiety too. It’s all the rage with stressed rodents.

I'm not a lab rat.
Of course, you aren’t. Scholars still have work to do but lactobacillus rhamnosus has a growing reputation for decreasing anxiety among critters. Scientists have reason to believe it could influence your state of mind too.

Sure, some are skeptical but as one Harvard scholar puts it, “There’s no reason not to try [probiotics.]” At the very least, your digestive system will thank you.

So if you’re living with anxiety, that knot in your stomach might be trying to tell you something. Maybe now’s a good time to try probiotics.

How to show your gut some love

  • Ease off salt. It can tamper with an otherwise healthy gut. (This came up in an earlier dispatch.)

  • Feast on probiotic-rich fermented delicacies. Kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and so on.

  • Seek supplements. We suggest starting here.

  • Educate thyself. This ten-minute read is easy to digest.

FOR THE NERDY: Enjoy your academic summary

🥇Motivation Station 🏃‍♀️


Speaking of mind/body interactions and inflammation, a few months ago, a team of Penn State scholars discovered a measurable connection between negative emotions and our immune system’s SOS chemical messengers, cytokines.

According to their study, our bodies respond to intense negative feelings by producing cytokines to initiate inflammation. The same can be said for germs and pesky viruses. Inflammation all the way.

Drawing conclusions
Scholars went all out developing their method, surveys and blood samples galore. (We’ll spare you.) Through rigorous work they pinpointed a relationship between emotional distress and spiked cytokine levels.

This study suggests dwelling on negative feelings—anger, fear, anxiety, and so on—does more than mess with your head. It messes with inflammation. Your immune system also pays the price.

So what now?
It sounds cliche but it’s true: Avoid dwelling on negativity.

For the record, this doesn’t mean stuffing your feelings and wearing a synthetic smile.

Cultivating optimism is a skill. Learn it. Practice it. It has the power to soothe your mind and calm your immune system.

How to combat negativity and reduce inflammation

  • Practice in-the-moment gratitude. The fact that you’re likely reading this out of your palm indicates that you have more than you need to survive. Perspective is paramount.

  • Practice “3 Good Things.” Martin Seligman’s method is now a necessary part of my bedtime routine. I even convinced my wife to join me. (No easy feat!)

  • Scroll up and read about probiotics again. Anti-inflammatories, remember?

  • Come up for air. Intentional breathing tames more than negativity. Read on.

FOR THE NERDY: The academic abstract

Make It Brain 


You do it. I do it. We all do it. It’s so mainstream we don’t even think about it.

For all you opportunistic people out there, now’s your chance to specifically increase cognition by capitalising on something you do anyway: breathing.

Simply pick up the pace and breathe through your nose. It works wonders for your amygdala. (If we lost you at “amygdala,” just carry on anyway.)

Nasal is the new black
According to a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, rhythmic nasal breathing--specifically inhalation--boosts electrical activity across the limbic system.

Who studies that?
Curious people with extraordinary minds who stumble upon rare electro-physiological data.

A few scientists became interested in breathing’s specific impact on neural activity while studying VIP-level data from patients with epilepsy.

Later on, these same scientists rounded up 60 people, a handful of laptops and a few breathing apparatuses. They set out to explore the relationship between breath, memory, and fear.

Their discovery? When people breathe rapidly, (similar to when they’re experiencing fear) their memory and reaction time improve.

Your mission
Capitalise on down time this week and focus on inhaling through your nose.

With minimal effort, you can sharpen cognition, boost your mood, and light up brain regions associated with memory, emotional judgement, scent, and arousal. (*wink)

Just hold off on the heavy breathing if you’re riding transit during rush hour. That could get mighty awkward.

FOR THE NERDY: The complete study lives here.

What We Love This Week

📽John Cryan is a bit of a hero to all of us at Dawn HQ. His TEDx Talk on gut health is just one example of why.

📖If you want a second helping of gut health info, his contribution to this fascinating book on the upcoming world of psychobiotics is certainly worth a read.

🎧 If you’re a binge podcaster, go gut crazy this week. There is no one more interesting, funny, and entertaining than gut specialist Miguel Mateas.

Community Feedback

“Dawn is 1 of 2 newsletters I let into my inbox! It's info I want, delivered in the way I need. It's straightforward and by reading it every week, I am making better decisions with my time.”

Justine Javier-Borja, ex Chief Product Officer at Threads Styling & Advisor/Consultant

“I love receiving these emails. They help me to remember to prioritise my health. I also love the sense of humour. I feel like I am sitting with one of my besties while reading it.”

Nidhima Kohli, founder of My Beauty Matching Engine

Alright, friends. Focus on your breathing and keep inflammation under control until we meet again. Basically, keep calm and carry on.

Signing off,

PS. Wanna give the gift of Brain Food? Forward this to a friend