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Can Fermented Foods Lower Stress?

Much of the world is now engulfed in an apparent second wave of the pandemic virus. But can fermented foods lower stress and anxiety caused by the disruption and lockdown?

The news of the pandemic continues to show parts of Australia now engulfed in what appears to be the latest wave of the COVID-19 virus. This is particularly so in higher populated areas of the country such as Melbourne and there have been notable clusters in Sydney. The recent announcement by Victorian premier Dan Andrews after the terrible spike in cases in the state has highlighted the stress of people now living under curfew conditions. 

Health experts, like Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the US (and member of the president’s COVID-19 task force) and chief medical officers in Australia, have warned about such a second wave for months.

We’ve spoken recently about the positive effect fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi has on mental health. So let’s dive deeper into the benefits of these foods during the pandemic. 

How fermented foods lower stress

The link between fermented foods and mental health

The gut has become known as the body’s “second brain”. Science has found the gut can “instruct” our brains in many ways. The chief way it does this is chiefly through the vagus nerve. The full relationship between the gut and the brain is known as the gut-brain axis. So let’s examine this vital link and cover briefly how it plays a vital role in our mental health.

According to H. Leon Daneschvar, a health professional based in Boston, Massachusetts in a recent article:

“Research is increasingly suggesting that the bacterial composition of the gut (microbes) affects our state of mind, by influencing the immune system, nerve signals and the neurotransmitter serotonin.”

Dr Daneschvar goes on to say that serotonin is “well established” in its link to depression and anxiety and is located mostly in the gut and nervous system. 

“It has been suggested that the mechanisms by which gut microbes influence mood or fatigue include: reducing systemic inflammation, the activation of the neural pathway between the gut and brain and altering the tissue level of mood-regulating minerals such as zinc and magnesium,” he adds.

Anxiety, depression and stress during the pandemic

The lockdown has produced strains for people staying at home and the stress of essential workers dealing with the public has risen dramatically. This has coupled with the stress and strain of uncertainty about job losses and how long the pandemic will last. Latest news from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it may be unlikely that a virus will be found that will provide long-lasting benefits.

Prof. Ian Hickie, one of Australia’s foremost mental health experts, has outlined the uncertainty during the pandemic as one of the key reasons behind the decline of the nation’s mental health.

De-stressing the mind with fermented foods

The science now informs us that good mental health and fermented foods are linked. Studies now show that a microbial approach to diet has many benefits to our health, including mental health. The better the balance of our gut microbiome towards beneficial bacteria (“good bugs”), the better our physical and mental health. One way to improve the balance is through eating more fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi. 

The Gutsy alternative 

We at Gutsy recommend a diet containing fermented foods. However, it’s important to buy the right fermented foods. Those that have been pasteurised (a heating process to kill all bacteria) will have little if any, beneficial probiotics. They are unlikely to survive the pasteurisation process.

But Gutsy’s sauerkraut and kimchi are raw, organic and fermented for six weeks. This means you get the very best gut-healthy fermented food, teeming with the “good friends”. This is the probiotic bacteria including lactobacillus, which will give us many physical and mental benefits.

Fermented foods have key mental health benefits and may be of great benefit coping during this current pandemic crisis. Other ways to manage stress during this crisis are keeping the lines of communication open with friends and family (via Zoom or just a phone call), learning to work effectively from home, doing regular outdoor exercise, taking up meditation and yoga and working on ways to improve you and your family’s diet.

However, please follow health guidelines in your state, wash hands repeatedly with soap and water or use a sanitiser high in alcohol content to kill germs. Observe social distancing and wear masks when instructed by health authorities.

Always consult your health professional if you intend to change your diet and monitor how you progress.

Please note, this article is not to be taken as medical advice. 

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