Many studies have confirmed that truly there’s a strong link between what we eat and our mental wellbeing. While many people understand how their diet can affect the state of their gut, most aren’t clear about the effect the food they take have on their mental health.
Back in 2010, a clinical study conducted in France discovered that two strains of bacteria – Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus helveticus – commonly found in fermented foods could reduce psychological distress and improve mood.
Another study carried out by a different group of researchers in 2014, and a more recent research published in 2018 confirmed the findings of the 2010 study. Results of the two studies showed that traditional dietary practices that favor fermented foods, fruits, vegetables, seafood, and lean meats help in driving down depressive symptoms and anxiety.
Researchers also found that unhealthy dietary patterns consisting of refined foods, high-sodium snacks, and high-sugar beverages can elevate emotional and behavioral problems in people.
So how exactly can fermented foods and beverages improve your mood and mental wellbeing? Read on to find out.
What Inflammation And An Unhealthy Gut Do To Your Mental Health?
There is sufficient evidence that mental disorders, inflammation in the blood, and compromised guts often go hand-in-hand. In fact, scientists have discovered that people struggling with mental illness or depression usually have an abnormal amount of proinflammatory molecules (e.g. cytokines – the harmful type) in their blood.
When the proinflammatory cytokines get too high, they can damage the intestinal lining and cause the gut contents to leak into the blood. This action further aggravates and spreads inflammation throughout the body, and the bad deeds don’t stop there. The inflamed, leaky gut will also start to leak bacterial components into the body and which, in turn, will trigger the immune response and increases inflammatory substances in the blood.
Over time, when the blood inflammatory molecules become too much, they can negatively affect the brain and intensify psychiatric symptoms.
How Fermented Foods Can Improve Your Mood and Health
For some years now, fermented foods and beverages have taken the food sector by storm. They’ve been called many things, from the probiotic powerhouse to the natural mood booster. These foods offer so many benefits, some of which are helping to reduce the level of pathogens in the blood and boost the mood of the “eater”. So how do they achieve these feats?
Before we go on, it’s important we point out that not all fermented foods are beneficial to the body. The ones with great health benefits are those with probiotics. These types contain “live and active cultures,” which deliver most of the wonders that people are raving about fermented foods.
Now back to the different ways probiotic fermented foods can give you better mental and body health. For one, during the fermentation of foods like Kombucha, sauerkraut, or kimchi, organic acids which contain anti-inflammatory properties are produced. When you take any of these probiotic foods, the anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties in them will help eliminate the bad bacteria from your gut.
The end result is a cleaner stomach and lesser inflammation in the body. And the healthier your gut is and the lesser the harmful molecules roaming your body, the better your brain will function, which will positively affect your mood.
Another way fermented foods can give you a happier mind is through promoting healthy levels of a neurotransmitter (called serotonin) in the body. Serotonin is produced in the digestive tract, and it helps regulate mood, anxiety, and happiness in a person. When the amount is low in the body due to an inflamed or unhealthy tract, it results in anxiety and depression.
However, when you maintain optimal gut health by taking foods with probiotics, your gut will produce a healthy amount of serotonin, which now maintains happiness and keeps anxiety at bay.