Are Fermented Foods the Key to Happiness?

Written by Max Goldberg on July 24, 2012. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

Whether it is with a salad or any other dish that I am making at home, organic fermented foods – usually sauerkraut (above) or kimchee – can almost always be found on my plate. Why is this?

I have come to understand that if we want to have a strong immune system, we must take care of our gut and provide it with beneficial bacteria.

And that is exactly what fermented foods give us – beneficial bacteria.

Dr. Natascha Campbell-McBride, a Russian neurologist and founder of the GAPS Diet, says that:

“about 85% of our immune system is located in the gut wall. This fact has been established by basic physiology research in the 1930s and the 1940s. Your gut, your digestive wall, is the biggest and the most important immune organ in your body. There is a very tight conversation and a relationship going on between the gut flora that lives inside your digestive system and your immune system.

Your gut flora—the state of the gut flora and the composition of microbes in your gut flora—has a profound effect on what forms of immune cells you will be producing on any given day, what they’re going to be doing, and how balanced your immune system is.”

Dr. McBride also believes that an imbalanced gut will result in a host of physical and emotional disorders, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, asthma, skin problems, digestive issues, and autoimmune disorders. And this doesn’t even begin to mention all of the health problems that many children face such as autism, ADD, and allergies.

An imbalanced gut also leads to depression, and this has particular relevance to me.

When I was at Natural Products Expo West earlier this year, I had a very interesting conversation with Donna Gates, author and leading health expert.

I went on to tell her about my history with antidepressants and depression (I took Prozac for almost 11 years and struggled with serious bouts of depression after going off of the drug in 2001), and she informed me that 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut.

So, if we want to produce high amounts of serotonin, one of the key neurotransmitters responsible for happiness, we must have plenty of beneficial bacteria.

For me, that is reason enough to make sure I have a steady flow of organic fermented foods -  sauerkraut, kimchee, beet kvass, kefir, cultured vegetables – in my diet.

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  1. Great article. So true. I just wish doctors knew this information. Perhaps they would not prescribe as many anti-depressants and would prescrible pro-biotic rich foods instead.

    Written by Angelique Matthews on August 2, 2012 @ 8:34 pm
  2. Hi Angelique,

    Thanks for your kind words, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Doctors need to look at diet as a cause of depression, instead of just treating it with pills.

    However, the best approach is to empower people with this information so they never have to go see the doctor in the first place.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on August 3, 2012 @ 11:15 am
  3. this is a new area for me to study … I think it holds a promise of improved health :)

    Written by Keith on August 7, 2012 @ 10:47 am
  4. Hi Keith,

    Glad to hear it!

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on August 8, 2012 @ 9:35 am
  5. wow really fascinating i think fermented foods count as probiotics yes? perhaps more people should focus on the fermented vegetables and roots (sauerkraut, kimchee, etc) instead of the “American diet” recommends of dairy products, i cannot tolerate dairy at all unless i consume it maybe once a month, so i get my probiotics from sauekraut and this drink kevita (though i dont know much about kevita) well anyway my point it more people should have awareness about probiotics and fermented foods, what about kombucha? i used to drink synergy but am going to avoid the “flavored” ones and focus on the raw/normal form. maybe you should do an article on your on experiences with fermented food incase you havent already because i think there is a “fear” or fermented food in the way its made and look, but i think it is really beneficial when made right and organically obtained

    Written by Cristina Rose on December 27, 2012 @ 12:40 am
  6. Hi Cristina,

    I, too, am a huge fan of fermented foods because of the beneficial bacteria and their popularity is only increasing. Thanks for sharing.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 27, 2012 @ 11:21 am
  7. I have a really hard time eating fermented foods because I have an extremely (unfortunate) heightened sense of taste and smell and they tend to make me gag. Can I get the same benefits out of taking expensive acidopholus? I keep seeing different opinions on this.

    Written by Sarah on February 25, 2013 @ 3:12 pm
  8. Hi Sarah,

    It is something that you should speak with a doctor or nutritionist about.

    Good luck!

    Written by Max Goldberg on February 27, 2013 @ 1:30 pm
  9. Great article! What are your favorite fermented kimchi / sauerkraut / other to buy ? I can’t seem to brave making it myself and am looking for some good products/brands to have at home. (NY area) Thanks ! Have a happy and fermented day!

    Written by RL on July 11, 2013 @ 3:03 pm
  10. Hi Rebecca,

    In NYC, I really like Hawthorne Valley. These fermented foods, however, are very regional – different brands in different parts of the country.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on July 14, 2013 @ 1:48 pm
  11. Max,

    Strange question, but do you start by cleaning out the gut, is there a way? Or do the fermented foods, after eating them for awhile take care of this?

    Written by Michelle on February 27, 2014 @ 3:31 pm
  12. Hi Michelle,

    I am not an expert in this area. My best suggestion is for you to get Dr. Alejandro Junger’s book CLEAN GUT. You can get it by clicking here:

    Good luck!

    Written by Max Goldberg on March 1, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

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