Imagine being able to improve your mood just by enjoying the delicious and intense flavors of fermented foods like raw sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt? It sounds too good to be true, but the reality is that the probiotics found in these foods may be producing mental health benefits, and are even being explored as treatments for stress, anxiety, and depression.
Writer and researcher Sarah Levine (otherwise known as Salix Roots) writes about this exciting field of microbiome research for Neurohacker Collective:
Who would think that a heaping dose of raw sauerkraut, kimchi, or yogurt on a regular basis could decrease anxiety, reduce stress in our lives, and improve our overall state of mind?
Probiotic rich and fermented foods and beverages go way back. The exact origins are lost to the annals of time, but Neolithic vessels point to intentional fermentation of fruit, rice, or honey beverages being a common practice 10,000 years ago . Kefir is attributed to herdsmen of the North Caucasus mountains around 8000 B.C, who discovered fermented milk when it naturally curdled in the animal pouches it was stored in. Sauerkraut is thought to have originated 2,000 years ago in China among the Mongols, then later introduced to Europe by migrating tribes.
Beyond the palatability and preservative potential, we know fermentation confers a number of health benefits. The process increases the bioavailability of nutrients. Fermented foods contain beneficial microbes that aid in digestion and promote the growth of healthy gut flora. But can these bacteria also affect mood? The emerging field of human microbiome research might provide some clues.