Have you ever heard the phrase “you are what you eat?” Well when you eat a hot dog chances are you are not turning into a hot dog, however, new research has been coming out to confirm that what you are eating can affect your mental health. In particular, studies have shown that inflammation in the gut has a strong correlation to mental illness. This is really exciting since millions of people are inflicted with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Scientists have been studying our gut microbes and their connection with mental health for several years and the research is pretty impressive.
One study in rats showed when the rats were fed bacteria from mentally unwell rats, the test rats developed the conditions also. On the contrary, when mentally ill rats were given bacteria from healthy rats, their conditions improved.
Scientists are unsure what form the treatments may take, and since all of the research is new and upcoming, we don’t have the answers to many of our questions. The only thing we know for sure is that the two are linked via the Gut-Brain-Axis and if we have a healthy gut it seems to impact our mental health. So how can we obtain a healthy gut microbiome? Probiotics and prebiotics are helpful to maintain a healthy gut, along with eating a balanced diet. Probiotics can be found in foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. Prebiotics are foods that act as fuel for the probiotics. Prebiotics occur naturally in many foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. High fiber foods are a good source of prebiotics.
Clapp, M., Aurora, N., Herrera, L., Bhatia, M., Wilen, E., & Wakefield, S. (2017). Gut microbiota's effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clinics and practice, 7(4), 987. https://doi.org/10.4081/cp.2017.987
Pennisi. (2020, May 11). Meet the ‘psychobiome’: the gut bacteria that may alter how you think, feel, and act. Science | AAAS. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/meet-psychobiome-gut-bacteria-may-alter-how-you-think-feel-and-act
Stefanie Malan-Muller, Mireia Valles-Colomer, Jeroen Raes, Christopher A. Lowry, Soraya Seedat, and Sian M.J. Hemmings.OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology.Feb 2018.90-107.http://doi.org/10.1089/omi.2017.0077