The Connection Between Physical and Mental Health: How Probiotics Play a Role
There is no health without mental health. With the formerly outright taboo topic of mental health becoming more de-stigmatized by the day, it is more important than ever that we recognize and elaborate on the intimate connection between the health of our physical being and that of our mental states. Understanding the links between the mind and body is a necessary foundation in advancing strategies to reduce the possibility of co-existing conditions and support those currently living with mental illness and deep-rooted physical conditions.
To start, lifestyle factors such as maintaining an adequate level of physical activity and sustaining a good diet are crucial in influencing how we feel. According to the World Health Organization, a healthy diet includes staples of proteins, essential fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and water in their correct proportions. Here is where our kraut comes in! Sauerkraut is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals that support the body’s vital functions. Beyond those benefits, each jar contains live probiotics -- healthy bacteria -- that act as the first line of defense for your immune system. They also assist in making foods more digestible, which increases your gut’s ability to absorb the advantageous vitamins and minerals that the product contains.
That added layer of probiotics may provide more than an immune boost. A study published in 2013, among others, strongly suggests that probiotics can influence behavior at an elevated level. Some of the most notable differences between one administered an adequate amount of probiotics and that of a control subject include enhanced memory (spatial and non-spatial); as well as, reduced anxiety, feelings of depression, and even some facets of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The connection between the gut and brain that allows for the mental benefits of probiotics is known as the “gut-brain axis”; and it is so structurally vested that the state of your gut and that of your brain are invariably related. While this research specifically oriented towards the relationship between probiotics and the mind is promising, it is fairly new and should be taken with a grain of salt. With that said, there are many benefits of probiotics to the body that are proven, and these studies give some needed insight into how probiotics may be taken advantage of in the future.