The link between mood and microbes - Sovereign Health Group
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05-27-16 Category: Mental Health, Nutrition, Recovery

Brain food

Brain food has been a popular topic for years. Certain foods such as walnuts and fish have been shown to be packed with minerals and vitamins that can help fuel the brain, providing improvements in cognitive tasks and memory. On the other hand, processed and genetically modified foods do not bring any health benefits to the body or the mind. Rather they are just empty calories that can have potential harmful effects on the body due to the additives and chemicals. One uncommon but ancient drink, known as kefir, has been shown to improve the gut-brain relationship. The gut’s microbiome and its link to mental health have piqued neuroscientists’ interests.

Studies on the gut-brain relationship

“The microbiome is likely to have its greatest impact on the brain early in life,” according to an article in Nature about a 2014 study, led by pharmacologist John Cryan, Ph.D., at University College Cork in Ireland, that was to be presented at a neuroscience meeting. “… his group found that mice born by caesarean section, which hosted different microbes from mice born vaginally, were significantly more anxious and had symptoms of depression. The animals’ inability to pick up their mothers’ vaginal microbes during birth — the first bacteria that they would normally encounter — may cause lifelong changes in mental health.”

According the American Psychological Association (APA): “Such findings offer the tantalizing possibility of using beneficial, or probiotic, bacteria to treat mood and anxiety disorders — either by administering beneficial microbes themselves or by developing drugs that mimic their metabolic functions. The new research also hints at new ways of managing chronic gastrointestinal (GI) disorders that are commonly accompanied by anxiety and depression, and that also appear to involve abnormal gut microbiota.”

Kefir, an ancient grain

Kefir is an ancient fermented grain that is packed with bacteria and yeast, similar to a probiotic regimen. Kefir grains originated in the Caucasus. These grains resemble the appearance of cauliflower and are packed with lactic-acid bacteria and yeast. These grains are placed in milk and ferment over time into a thick sour drink. For the vegan or lactose-free community, kefir grains can be fermented in other forms of milk such as coconut milk, soy milk and almond milk, making it available to everyone with certain dietary restrictions.

Keeping the brain healthy is just as important as keeping the rest of your body healthy. Exercise, hydration and a proper diet are just the start. Maintaining healthy relationships with people and avoiding toxic environments are just as important. A healthy brain and body can help curb mental illness. The gut-brain relationship is still relatively new and much more research is being done to solidify this relationship. Kefir is one way to help maintain this symbiotic relationship.

At the end of the day, your brain is one of the most important organs and it is imperative that you take good care of it. That is why the Sovereign Health Group offers each patient with a customized, holistic treatment plan to brain wellness. Sovereign Health is a leading behavioral health care provider with locations across the United States that treat people with addiction, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. For more information, please call our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a senior staff writer at the Sovereign Health Group and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of medicine. She is a physician and author, who also teaches, practices medicine in the urgent care setting and contributes to medicine board education. She is also an outdoor and dog enthusiast. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at

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