Can Increasing Fermented Food Intake Boost Mental Health?

The link between fermented foods, like kimchi and sauerkraut, with gut health is well established. But recent research is unveiling another benefit of fermented foods – improved mental health.

Scientists attribute this intriguing effect of food on our cognitive performance to the microbiota-gut-brain axis, a complex network of neurons that link our guts to our brains.
These new findings can be instrumental in discovering new avenues for improving mental health outcomes through diet and lifestyle changes.

What Are Fermented Foods?

Fermented foods are those that have gone through a lactofermentation process during which bacteria are allowed to feed on sugars and starches naturally found in foods, creating lactic acid and infusing the foods with probiotics and beneficial nutrients.

Some examples of fermented foods include kimchi, kefir, greek yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, and kombucha.

Foods of this nature have been enjoyed by people of all different cultures and backgrounds for their exciting flavors and health-boosting benefits. Little do they know, these superfoods were also impacting their mental wellbeing.

What Is The Gut-Brain Axis?

The gut-brain axis is the complex network of communication that connects the nervous system of the intestinal tract with the central nervous system, which includes the brain. These networks include neurons, endocrine pathways, and immune connections.

Each person has a unique gut microflora – hundreds of different strains of bacteria living in their intestines. These bacteria can be nourished or killed off via our dietary choices. And different diets lead to different sets of bacterial strains comprising each individual’s microflora.

What’s fascinating is that the bacteria and the substances they release can interact with the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems that are connected to the gut. So everything we eat has a direct impact on our well-being, including mental health, memory, cognition, anxiety, and depression. The more diverse your microbiome is, the better the effects it has on your health.

Fermented Foods And Mental Health

The link between fermented foods and their effect on mental health is rooted in the way fermented foods can add to the diversity of your microbiome. A diverse and well-balanced microbiome, which fermented foods support, is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the gut-brain axis. Research has shown that an improved gut microflora composition has a positive impact on common mental health woes.

Research into the gut-brain connection is still fairly new, and scientists are still working out how everything works. The idea that the foods we eat can impact our mental health is an exciting prospect for those who suffer with cognitive or mood disorders. Studies on fermented foods are especially promising as they show a bigger impact on health than regular foods due to their ability to boost the variety and health of the microbiome. As research continues to evolve, it may not be long before dietary recommendations for mental health will include a daily dose of fermented foods.