October 10 has been designated by the World Health Organization as Mental Health Day. Recent research has pointed to a strong link between the microbes in your gut and the health of your brain. Often referred to as the gut-brain connection, studies are finding correlations between gut health and disorders of the autoimmune and metabolic systems. Some studies have even shown that microbes had a role in neurological disorders such as autism. Other studies have shown that certain strains of bacteria can significantly reduce anxiety- and depression-related behaviors in rats.
Why can single-celled organisms half a body away from our brains have an effect on your mood? Millions of nerves run from the gut to the brain. Certain bacteria may affect the messages that are sent to the brain along these nerves. Others help produce chemicals like serotonin, which controls mood, attention, sleep and pain.
So take this day to think about how to keep your brain healthy by maintaining a thriving colony of beneficial bacteria in your digestive system. Eating fermented foods is a powerful way to accomplish this. When you eat fermented foods you are eating the good bacteria you need along with the food that they need, thus helping them establish a friendly environment in your gut. If you only take probiotic pills but continue to eat an unhealthy diet, the microbes will not stick around. Also eat more of those foods that support the bacteria, such as fibrous vegetables.
Treat your gut right and your microscopic buddies will help you maintain mental health.