MIND GAMES: Scientists say your tummy controls more of your mood than you think.
MIND GAMES: Scientists say your tummy controls more of your mood than you think. imv

The unlikely organ responsible for your happiness

SOME say happiness is a state of mind but Warwick residents are about to learn the secret to mental health actually lies in the pit of your stomach.

Experts are calling it 'the second brain' and have revealed that around 80 percent of happiness hormone serotonin is produced in your gut.

Darling Downs psychologist and gut expert Elspeth Haswell-Smith completed her thesis on the link between fermented foods and mental health and is travelling around the region to educate people on the benefits of consuming natural probiotics.

She said maintaining good gut health had an enormous influence over mood and mental well being.

"Adding fermented foods to your diet increases the reduction of anxiety and depression and my research showed it was another protective layer along with maintaining other healthy lifestyle habits," she said.

Mrs Haswell-Smith said the awareness around probiotics was growing as people became more concerned about antibiotic resistance, but fermented foods still held 'hippy' connotations for many people.

"Most people are comfortable taking probiotics in a capsule form, but you can actually get a lot of healthy probiotics through the food you consume," she said.


Portrait of beautiful young woman eating yogurt at home.
GUSTY MOVE: Warwick locals will get the low down on the benefits of bacteria in a hands-on workshop. nensuria

The thought of eating 'live' cultures may sound squeamish to some, but foods like yoghurt, sour dough bread, sauerkraut, tempeh, fermented milks and pickles all contain colonies of bacteria that are likely to make your insides sing.

But the health food focus does allow room for a little indulgence.

Gutsy locals will get the opportunity to taste, try and make their own fermented foods including a fermented chocolate brownie in the three-hour workshop this Saturday.

"It's a very hands on process and they will actually physically ferment the food themselves and take it home," she said.

Letting food fester away with bacteria may seem counter-intuitive to health, but Ms Haswell-Smith said people need not be deterred by the fear of food poisoning, noting that fermentation was an ancient method of food preservation.

But an all-out binge on sauerkraut and pickles may not be the best idea either.


sauerkraut, cucumber pickles and yogurt - popular probiotic fermented food - three measuring cups against rustic wood
IN A PICKLE: Experts saying adding fermented foods to your diet can improve your mental health and prevent anxiety and depression. Malykalexa

"There's a lot of people who go what's this rage about and will just pick things off the shop shelf to try out," she said.

"But consuming the wrong type of bacteria can actually exacerbate existing health and gut conditions and cause die-off symptoms like urgency to go to the toilet, belly ache and even sinus problems in some individuals.

People with thyroid issues could also notice an increase in symptoms if consuming certain ferments.

With thousands of bacteria out there and the science of it a newly burgeoning field, it can be difficult to get your head around the mysterious gut.

But Mrs Haswell-Smith said it all started with experimentation, and aside from the health benefits, fermenting was a fun and creative process for people to try out.

The Food For Life workshop will be held from 11am - 3pm at Skye Creative Studio on Saturday February 3.