Every now and then, we reflect on the fact that most people don’t think of diet change as a high-status, established treatment. The other day, we reflected on the relationship between food and mental health.
To our great joy, we read that John Cryan, professor and principal investigator at one of the premier institutions for research on intestinal bacteria (Microbiome Institute, University College Cork), is convinced that, within five years, so called psychobiotics will be a viable treatment option to anxiety, depression, and other health issues.
According to the scientists, psychobiotics are good bacteria (probiotics) that you get by eating certain foods, and fiber (prebiotics). Together they enhance the growth of a healthy and beneficial intestinal flora. You would usually call a combination of probiotics and prebiotics synbiotics, but now the scientists at Cork University have decided to add the mental health benefits to the term. John Cryan compares the gut bacteria to small factories that produce all kinds of substances, including hormones essential to the brain. But in order for the factory to run smoothly, the intestinal bacteria need fuel, that is various sorts of fiber (prebiotics). A varied, high-fiber diet will help create a healthy gut flora where good bacteria can flourish, and in return, you will not only maintain a healthy gut and brain, but also strengthen your whole immune system.
Have you heard this before? If you’ve been to one of our lectures, or read our pale pink book, you will definitely have seen this diagram before. But to all of you who have not, we kindly recommend you to have a look. The diagram shows the composition of gut bacteria of different ethnic groups. The mint green line represents the Yanomami tribe, a group of indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest, who eat lots of fibers that serve as fuel for their good intestinal bacteria. The line at the very bottom represents people who have adopted a western way of life. As you can see, we’ve lost around 40% of our intestinal bacteria, in comparison to the Yanomami people.
And by the way, what’s particularly interesting is the fact that chronic diseases hardly exist in the Yanomami tribe.
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