Fermented Food Linked to Mental Health

I've talked a lot about the benefits of having a happy belly. As someone who's been dealing with IBS for 10 years I know how miserable life can be with an unhappy belly. Not only does it run you down physically, but now MORE research is coming out to show that there is a strong connection between gut health and mental health.

This recent report states that:

As our knowledge of the human microbiome increases, including its connection to mental health (for example, anxiety and depression), it is becoming increasingly clear that there are untold connections between our resident microbes and many aspects of physiology. [The researchers] put forward the argument that fermented food partly explains the link between traditional dietary practices and positive mental health.  The link could manifest itself directly through gut-to-brain communication, they say, or indirectly through beneficial bodily changes such as improved glycemic control antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, or reduction of intestinal permeability.

The label ‘probiotic’ is often given to beneficial forms of gut bacteria, and one of the foods containing lactobacillus microbes is live-cultured yogurt. Healthy animals given one strain of lactobacillus show a reduction in anxiety and depression-like behaviors under stress. Even mild chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract can provoke anxiety in animals.

Some great foods to eat that promote a healthy gut:

  • Kefir - fermented milk
  • Kombucha - fermented tea
  • Yogurt - try to go with low sugar varieties as sugar feeds unhealthy bacteria!
  • Sauerkraut - fermented cabbage
  • Tempeh - fermented soybeans
  • Miso - fermented grains, beans and spores
  • Dark chocolate - contains probiotics!
  • Olives - also high in probiotics

I don't actually let Salem drink Kefir, but he tries:

Kefir

This study got me thinking about the book Happy Belly . The author, Nadya Andreeva, really stressed how an imbalance in the gut could cause an imbalance in mental states. I 100% believe it. If your brain could affect your gut, why couldn’t your gut affect your brain? Imagine what it would do to your brain if the bacteria/yeast/flora was thrown off due to imbalanced diet, stress, or antibiotics? I’ve been taking probiotics for years now and there is plenty of research available to show that taking probiotics can have a positive impact on mood.

If you deal with mild anxiety or depression make sure you are doing the best you can to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and eat foods that support gut health (fermented foods and foods like yogurt that have probiotics in them.) Doing those three things really help me keep my generalized anxiety disorder in check!

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Does your gut ever effect you negatively physically or emotionally?

How often do you eat foods with probiotics/bacteria in them?