Bacteria for the Brain

Enhance learning, memory, neuron production and prevent dementias

Bacteria for the Brain. Healthy Living Magazine

Bacteria for the Brain. Healthy Living Magazine

Most of us involved in the study of health and disease have long believed in the medical orthodoxy that the human brain is sterile and not subject, unlike the gut, mouth or vagina, to populations of microorganisms.

Not so, says recent research.

The brain may be just as bacterially dependent as the gut for its healthful functioning. Your brain isn’t just a chemical factory with substances like acetylcholine and dopamine. In fact, some of these chemicals or their precursors are dependent on bacterial populations for their manufacture and utilization.

We know this from AIDS research done to examine whether damage to the blood-brain barrier, a consequence of the disease, would lead to bacterial invasion. But when AIDS patients and controls without the disease were compared for genetic trails of bacterial RNA, both groups’ tissue samples had alpha-proteobacteria populations, a disparate family of gram-negative and variable species. The alpha-proteobacteriadominant microbiome in the brain is not duplicated elsewhere in the human body where the Firmicutes, Bacteriodetes and Actinobacteria phylum dominate populations.

Read: Bacteria Eats Any Cancer

“Around the world, fermentation of foods has been adopted over many generations, primarily due to their commercial significance with enriched flavors and high-profile nutrients,” says the article in the journal Preventive Nutrition and Food Science.

But now that we know the human brain is dependent on bacterial population, we understand why fermented foods, that is, foods that have been digested with active friendly bacterial populations, profoundly affect all aspects of brain function—and can be the cause or cure for anxiety, depression and memory loss.

The researchers say, “The increasing application of fermented foods is further promoted by recent evidence of their health benefits, beyond the traditionally recognized effects on the digestive system. With recent advances in the understanding of gut-brain interactions, there have also been reports suggesting the fermented food’s efficacy, particularly for cognitive function improvements. These results are strengthened by the proposed biological effects of fermented foods, including neuroprotection against neurotoxicity and reactive oxygen species.”

Read: 10 Healthiest Brain Foods

3 Fermented Foods Brain Effects

1. Cell death and acetylcholineesterase (AChE) activity of the hippocampus are decreased.

2. Expression of nerve growth factor (NGF) and activation of the NGF receptor signaling pathway are upregulated.

3. Superoxide dismutase activity is enhanced.

Dairy’s Good Brain Bacteria

Yogurt, kefir and even blue-veined cheeses are all brain healthy. Whether we’re speaking of yogurt, kefir or camembert cheese, nearly every country has developed traditional fermented dairy products of some type within their farming system. Human studies document that consumption of fermented dairy products reduces a cognitive deficit in the elderly and has neuroprotective effects.

Calpis sour milk, a Japanese beverage prepared by fermenting skim milk with Lactobacillus helveticus and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, significantly improved toxic chemical scopolamine-induced memory deficits and object recognition in an experimental study.

Read: Left Brain Vs Right Brain

Soy Brain Food

Asian countries have developed their own methods to make fermented soybean products such as sauces, soups and pastes like miso and doenjang, tempeh and natto. Neuroprotective effects are documented.

Cheonggukjang is part of Korean regional cuisine. In a study with cheonggukjang extract, a trimethyltin-treated group showed long- and short-term memory loss whereas groups pretreated with cheonggukjang showed improved memory function in a dose-dependent manner.

Soymilk fermented with Lactobacillus plantarum exhibited a protective effect on hydrogen peroxide damage to the brain and led to better learning and memory in cases of experimentally induced vascular dementia.

Read: Sugar That Starves Bacteria

Rice and Brain Longevity

Rice (Oryzae sativa) is the source of red mold rice (RMR), also known as hongqu (Chinese) or koji (Japanese), rich in chemicals called monacalins. It is cultivated with the mold Monascus purpureus. RMR has been used for many centuries to promote digestion and blood circulation but it also has a neuroprotective effect. Monacolin K (also known as lovastatin) is one of the main monacolins that has been found to have various pharmacological activities, including lowering blood cholesterol levels and reducing oxidative damage. In addition to monacolins, considerable amounts of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) have also been found in RMR, which is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The protective effect of RMR might be caused by a synergism among these multiple bioactive components.

Rice vinegar is another fermented rice product used in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. One variation of rice vinegar is kurozu, a traditional Japanese rice vinegar. It is known that concentrated kurozu feeding suppresses cognitive dysfunction and brain amyloid accumulation in senescence-accelerated P8 mice. Concentrated kurozu increased mRNA expression of heat shock 70 kDa protein 1A (HSPA1A) that stabilizes other proteins against misfolding and aggregation. The expression of HSPA1A may be associated with the decreased accumulation of damaged proteins in the brain.

Roots and Alliums

For thousands of years, ginseng root has been used as an East Asian medicinal herb for various diseases. Use of ginseng extract may enhance cognitive and psychomotor functions by stimulating the central nervous system. A study demonstrated that fermented ginseng reversed memory impairment and reduced Aβ accumulation in the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) mouse model. Another study reported that NB34, a preparation of fermented Radix notoginseng, works like memantine, a drug used for the treatment of AD.

Fermented garlic and onion have also been recognized for their medicinal properties for centuries. A study using an excitotoxin food ingredient called monosodium glutamate (MSG) found that feeding fermented garlic (black garlic) extract, the total number of pyramidal cells in the hippocampus and the spatial memory were enhanced in MSG-exposed rats. When hippocampal-derived cells were treated with fermented yellow onion (Allium cepa) extract, the glutamate-induced neurotoxicity was decreased.

Read: Extend Life: Eat A Pound Of Fruits And Vegetables

Fruits and Veggies, Fermented

Papaya, native to the tropics of the Central and northern South America, has been reported to possess free radical scavenging and antioxidative properties when fermented. A study in an AD cell model showed that the neurotoxicity of beta-amyloid plaque can be significantly attenuated by fermented papaya and expression of SOD upregulated.

Kimchi is a long-established Korean traditional food made from green vegetables with various seasonings prepared after the natural fermentation process. Lactic acid bacteria isolated from the supernatant of kimchi protected against scopolamine-induced mouse memory deficit.


In an epidemiologic study, there was a significant association between total tea consumption and a lower risk of cognitive decline. The effect was most evident in diets with fermented black and oolong teas compared to that of regular green tea.


Ganoderma lucidum is one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms used in China for more than 2,000 years. G. lucidum water extracts fermented by lactic acid bacteria significantly enhanced learning memory and cognitive function of scopolamine-poisoned rats. In parallel with behavioral changes, lower hippocampal AChE activities were apparent in the group treated with fermented G. lucidum extracts.

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