Guest Blogger: Andy Reed of Krazy Kraut

Probiotics and Brain Health: Why Do Fermented Foods Make Us Feel So Good?

We have all heard about how probiotics help with immunity and digestion. And most of us remember our first time trying a quality fermented food, that first spoonful of delicious live-culture kraut, or first swig of a gourmet kombucha, and the immediate feeling of “WOW! I feel great!” that followed. Why do we feel so good when we eat quality fermented foods? Well, science has been busy lately proving the connection between our mood and our microbes, the connection between our brains and our bacteria.

Growing Our Internal Microbe Garden

Our bodies are like coral, an assemblage of life forms all living together. As adults we all carry around two to five pounds of bacteria, also known as our “microbiota” - 10 times more microbial cells than human cells! Since we are the homes for these microbes, whether or not we know or care, we are the owners of our “microbiome,” which is defined as our microorganisms, the genomes they contain, and the interactions between these microbes and our human physiology.

Most of these bacteria live in our gut, which is also home to our second brain, the enteric nervous system. “What, we have a second brain?” you may ask. Yes we do, and it turns out that the enteric brain and the microbes it interacts with may be the ones really running most of the show when it comes to our mood and dietary choices. Our second brain, which is home to our “gut feelings,” operates separately from our primary brain and consists of hundreds of millions of neurons contained in our intestines that are intricately connected to our mood and our microbes. Science is now showing the type of microbes you contain, or do not contain, may be influencing the way you process stress and emotions and can be the difference between a calm, happy, and centered mood and one of depression, anxiety, and hyper-reactivity.

Our internal microbe garden contains thousands of microbe species, and new research indicates the right combinations can affect our mental health. Previous studies have revealed that in mice, changes in gut microbe colonies appear to ease feelings of anxiousness and help to control the levels of cortisol, a potent stress hormone related to inflammation. In general, the more cortisol you have the more stressed out and unhealthy you are. Conversely, the less cortisol we produce the more human growth hormone we produce, the “anti-aging/good mood” hormone attributed to longevity and disease-free living. New human studies are being conducted all over the world that are showing the connection between probiotics and increased ability to handle stress and retain a good mood.

Probiotics in Fermented Foods

How to get the “right” combination of microbes? Until the pre-historic miracle microbiome pill is developed, research shows it would behoove us all to intentionally inoculate our systems in the historic way by eating as many live-culture probiotic fermented foods as possible.

Since the probiotic microbes come ultimately as starter-cultures from soil-based microbes, when choosing dairy and vegetables for fermenting it makes most sense to source from certified organic and biodynamic farms, which have highest soil ecosystem diversity. Organic and biodynamic farms must cultivate the diversity in their soil ecosystems so that the plants are healthy enough to not need herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. Instead, they have immune function strong enough to fight off the pests and competition from weeds. As the Weston Price Foundation explains, “All health begins with the soil!”

Andy Reed has extensive experience in culinary arts and the medicinal values of the healing energetics of foods based on Asian Healing Food Energetics. Andy is the owner of the OEFFA-certified organic Krazy Kraut Fermented Foods. Krazy Krauts are four varieties of live-culture probiotic-rich fermented nutrient-dense vegetable and spice combinations made in Columbus, Ohio, from vegetables grown by small Ohio organic family farms. Andy is also a licensed acupuncturist with a specialty of oncology and Asian healing food energetics.