Though research about the gut-brain axis is a “growing, pioneering and still relatively novel field,” scientists say humans can improve their mental health by eating a balanced diet rich in fermented foods.
Changes in the gut microbiome can impact the brain’s behavior. Research advancements in the last 20 years “suggest that these (gut) microorganisms aren’t just a vital part of our physical selves, but also our mental and emotional selves, too.” This can be a major breakthrough in how mental health is treated.
For example, one study found individuals with depression have different gut bacteria compared to individuals without depression. Those without depression have a higher amount of bacteria associated with better wellbeing and quality of life. Antidepressants didn’t help. Another study found taking certain probiotic strains improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. And yet another study found taking prebiotics improved the brain’s cognitive function.
But research is still in its early stages. Though some strains of bacteria have been scientifically proven “to have a positive effect on the human mind,” researchers don’t know why and how. Genetics, personality and environmental factors have also not been studied. More large-scale human studies are needed – and those studies are extremely expensive.
In the meantime, John Cryan, a professor of anatomy and neuroscience at University College Cork, encourages people to eat a diet high in fiber, prebiotics and fermented foods. A study by Cryan and his colleagues found that diet
Cryan and his colleagues studies 45 people eating that diet and found they were less stressed than the control group.
“What I like about fermented foods is that they democratize the science,” says Cryan. “They don’t really cost much and you don’t have to get them from some fancy store. You can do it yourself. In this field, we want to provide mental health solutions to people from all socioeconomic areas.”
Read more (BBC)