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How Fermented Foods Can Help Mental Health in Seniors
Author: Dawn Flemming
June 21st, 2019

There is a growing link between the bad bacteria in your digestive system and your mental health as a senior. Knowing the right foods may help with depression.

By Dawn Flemming

As scientific research advances, the link between what we eat and our mental health becomes clearer. More and more research is showing that as we increase our intake of processed and sugary foods, the more our digestive tracts become populated with bad gut bacteria that are responsible for secreting chemicals that are associated with higher levels of inflammation, depression and potentially other mental and cognitive diseases.

This is particularly important information for seniors as autoimmune inflammatory diseases and their effects become more pronounced as they age.

How does one reduce bad gut bacteria in the digestive tract?

Aside reducing processed and sugary foods, one must eat foods that are fermented with good bacteria. This type of beneficial microflora is important because

good bacteria produce substances that reduce inflammation by blocking inflammation producing proteins called TNF-a. Blocking these protein may help stop and even reverse the inflammation that is typically associated with autoimmune diseases

Unfortunately, it is this type of inflammation that may induce depression and anxiety in people. Remember that most of your serotonin (the happiness neurotransmitter) is produced in your colon!

disease trained specialists geriatric in-home care

Fermented foods are a good source of beneficial bacteria. ParkinsonsDisease.Net writes that:

Fermented foods made through a traditional fermentation process have been shown to produce novel compounds that provide immune, glycemic (blood sugar), and anti-inflammatory properties. Fermented foods are also more likely than a probiotic supplement to contain a variety of good bacteria, and the synergy between the different bacteria types seems to provide more benefit to the body than they would on their own.

There are plenty of fermented foods that can be helpful, these include

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso
  • And much more

But let’s dig in deeper on the mind-gut connection.

ParkinsonsDisease.Net lists the following 7 ways how one’s gut flora is linked to mental health:

  • Influencing the production of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that interact between neurons; imbalances of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine have been linked to depression5)
  • Activating the neural pathways between the gut and brain
  • Limiting inflammatory processes
  • Improving nutritional status
  • Limiting intestinal pathogens and bacterial overgrowth
  • Providing analgesic (pain-relieving) properties
  • Reducing the toxin burden

Aging is not a reversible process. But much of your mental health can be in your hands through a proper diet. Speak to your doctor and see which fermented foods are safe for you.

Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.

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