The beneficial live microorganisms that are present in some fermented foods are called “probiotics” (derived from the Greek word meaning “for life”, and for good reason).
Probiotics have long been studied for the beneficial health effects they produce when consumed. For example, probiotics have been linked to the prevention of colon cancer, cholesterol and blood pressure management, immune function improvements, the prevention of infections, reducing inflammation, and supporting gut health while under stress.
In recent years, a growing body of evidence has also been investigating whether probiotics have the potential to promote a different aspect of health – namely brain health.
The interest in the field of probiotics and mental health was first sparked when a ground-breaking study was conducted in Japan in 2004. When two groups of mice (one group being germ-free, without bacteria in their guts) were placed under stress, the researchers were able to reverse the exaggerated stress response of the germ-free mice by introducing beneficial bacteria into their guts. The experiment highlighted the connection between microbes in the gut and stress responses in the brain, and suggested that altering the gut microbiome (e.g. with probiotics), could influence brain function.
Since then, many studies have focussed on the positive connection between probiotics and brain health, particularly on mood, behaviour and depressive symptoms.
A recent 2019 large-population based study found an association between probiotic food consumption and lower rates of depression among men. These findings were in line with previous conclusions by Benton et al. who found that probiotics improved mood in healthy individuals who reported having poor mood at the beginning of the experiment.
When our gut is healthy and balanced, our “good” bacteria can do what they’re supposed to do, like produce critical neurotransmitters that effect the biochemistry of our brain, and thus effect mood, behaviour and depression.
These findings reiterate the significant role that diet and nutrition have on regulating and promoting mental health.
Boost your good bacteria for a healthy brain with some of our probiotic-rich dishes:
- Our Herbed Pine nut & Goji Quinoa Salad, with Beetroot Hummus, Broad beans and Sauerkraut (containing sauerkraut for immune-boosting probiotic benefits)
- Our Miso Salmon with Asian Vegetables and Brown Rice (containing miso paste, another non-dairy probiotic that we love)