Ninety percent of the cells in the human body are those of beneficial bacteria – and the majority reside in the gut or “microbiome.” In recent years, it has become clear that the microbiome are essential for overall health.
The microbiome is involved in immune system and central nervous system function. The microbiome is also involved in metabolism, nutrient absorption, vitamin synthesis, body weight regulation, blood glucose control, and insulin sensitivity and the production of a number of chemicals, hormones, and neurotransmitters. The microbiome can affect brain function, emotions, and cognitive health.
The types of bacteria making up the microbiome vary greatly between individuals. Age-related changes to the makeup of the microbiome may be one of the causes of inflammation-related chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. Consuming specific foods can support a healthy community of bacteria throughout life.
Both probiotic and prebiotic foods can support a healthy microbiome. Probiotic foods provide sources of beneficial bacteria and are found in fermented and cultured foods. Prebiotic foods provide the fuel that probiotic bacteria need to survive.
Fermented and cultured foods are considered by many to be “functional foods” for brain and cognitive health as they affect chemical changes in the brain, enhance nutrient absorption, and decrease the stress response.
For example, fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir, were found to improve learning and memory in animal models and decrease cortisol and stress levels in humans. The fermented soy product, tempeh, was found to improve memory in elderly humans. Finally, fermented fruits and vegetables, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, have been shown to be rich in antioxidants and anticarcinogenic compounds.
While many probiotic supplements are on the market, the research is mixed as to the effectiveness of supplement sources on a number of health states. Ideally, probiotics are consumed from food sources such as:
- Life-culture yogurt
- Fermented vegetables such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and others
Prebiotics, which provide a fuel source for probiotic bacteria, improve immune system, support beneficial bacterial communities and inhibit disease-causing bacteria from taking over.
Similar to probiotics, there are multiple prebiotic supplements available, but food-based sources are preferred:
- Raw garlic
- Dandelion greens
- Jerusalem artichoke
For more information about how dietary choices can promote cognitive health visit www.affirmativhealth.com