Good mind and body health depends on the basics: getting good sleep, exercising, and eating well. Certain foods are especially known to be “health foods”. Among these are fermented foods.
Fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, lassi, kombucha, some cheeses, tempeh, and some breads, enhance gut health and mood. Gut-healthy, live bacteria thrive in these types of foods. When we eat them, they colonize in our bodies. They are then able to help us convert sugars into alcohol, acids and other nutrients. These “probiotic” live microorganisms also support the growth of other healthy bacteria. Because gut health is believed to impact brain health, it’s important to eat what supports the health of the body.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects many facets of human behavior, such as mood, stress response, appetite, and sexual drive. Up to 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced by your gut microbiome (the collection of healthy bacteria in your gut). In addition, the gut microbiome plays a role in brain health. This article by the American Psychological Association addresses the relationship between healthy gut bacteria and mood states.
It’s important to note that not all fermented foods, such as beer, some breads and wine, are significant sources of gut-healthy organisms due to cooking, filtering and the addition of preservatives. Also of note is the importance of avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use which disrupts the gut biome and can take years to recover.
Good food can be good medicine.
Still, more research is needed to understand how gut health may regulate mood. In addition to supporting the gut’s ability to potentially enhance neurotransmitter production, adding fermented foods into a normal healthy eating routine may improve digestive health, which can ultimately promote immune strength by increasing the production and availability of nutrients needed by the body as a whole.