Fermented foods may be the key to boosting serotonin

The newest diet trend has been linked to boost mental and physical health


Reported by Danica Walker

Serotonin, the mood regulator that is abundantly present in a healthy gut, is hard to come by when exam season hits overdrive, and food picklers argue that eating fermented foods can ensure gut health.

Fermenting happiness

Although food has been fermented for a millennia, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi and various other forms of fermented foods have recently seen an increase in popularity. This isn’t just for the unique flavour, but also because of the health benefits that fermented foods can offer, according to molecular microbiologist Lucy Shewell.

“Supplementation with probiotics been shown to positively enhance immune system function, improve the symptoms of lactose intolerance, and can prevent infection with pathogenic or disease causing microorganisms,” writes Shewell.

Fermented food is unprocessed and probiotic, which helps promote good gut health, according to John Bienenstock, professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster University.

“We think that targeting the gut microbiota, the potential key modulator of the immune and nervous systems, could lead to a greater improvement in the emotional symptoms of patients suffering from depression or anxiety,” Bienenstock wrote in 2016 for the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 

“The composition and the function of the bacterial community inhabiting the gut can be improved through dietary interventions or the use of beneficial bacteria such as probiotics,” writes Bienenstock. 

Andrea Potter, a holistic nutritionist and sauerkraut workshop teacher at UBC, advocates for good bacteria. She said that people need to stop fearing germs and claims that introducing fermented food into her diet changed her lifestyle for the better.

“This is about becoming allies with the good bacteria so that we are immune to the bad ones,” Potter said. “When I started taking probiotics and enzymes, I noticed that I had more energy and was getting sick less often and less severely.”

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