This study found that, for people, the consumption of fermented foods helped to reduce neuroticism and social anxiety. It seems reasonable to think that the same could be true for pets. (And, believe me, there are a lot of pets with anxiety issues).
The researchers relate that the most likely reason for the mental improvement is that fermented foods contain probiotic bacteria. This idea makes sense because of the importance of the hormone, serotonin.
Serotonin is a key player in brain health and mood. In fact, SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft are powerful drugs used to treat depression and anxiety. They have their mood altering effect because they increase the levels of serotonin in the brain.
It may surprise you to hear that 95% of the serotonin in the body is made in the intestine. Probiotics have been shown to effect serotonin levels. I had a gut feeling about that.
I have previously written about the importance of probiotics. However, the thing I like about this study is that it is about fermented food and not specific probiotic supplements. You see, while veterinary medicine has recently embraced the use of probiotics for certain symptoms, they have taken the typical, Western approach.
Western medicine researchers tend to find something that has a positive effect (herb, fermented food). Then they isolate the “active” ingredient. Now they sell the single element as a drug or “natural” supplement and expect to get the same health benefits at the original, natural substance.
For example, both Purina and Iams have come out with their probiotic supplements. But, each of the supplements contains only one specific strain of one specific bacterium. It may have a definite effect, but it will not balance the gut’s bacterial environment and build health. Fermented food does that.