Eat Your Way to Better Brain Health

Eat Your Way to Better Brain Health

Two new books from National Geographic experts explore the link between food and mood.


7 - 12+


Biology, Health, Geography, Human Geography


Fruit & Vegetable Display

Microbes in human intestines can improve your mental well-being and may even hold the cure for nervous system disorders. These so-called "psychobiotics" are prebiotics and probiotics that can heal your mind.

Photograph by Bruce Dale
Microbes in human intestines can improve your mental well-being and may even hold the cure for nervous system disorders. These so-called "psychobiotics" are prebiotics and probiotics that can heal your mind.

Here’s food for thought: The microbes in your intestines can improve your mental well-being and may even hold the cure for nervous system disorders. Researchers on the cutting-edge of health science are discovering that your gut may impact how your brain works more than we ever realized. The science behind this relationship between mind and microbiome is the subject of the new book The Psychobiotic Revolution: Mood, Food and the New Science of the Gut-Brain Connection, written by science journalist Scott C. Anderson, along with John F. Cryan, Ph.D., and Ted Dinan, M.D., Ph.D., leaders in the field of psychobiotics. So what is a psychobiotic? Cryan and Dinan, who actually coined the term in 2013, define a psychobiotic as “a live organism that, when ingested in adequate amounts, produces a health benefit in patients suffering from psychiatric illness.” Essentially, these are the prebiotics and probiotics that can heal your mind. Our microbiome—where all those bacteria and microbes and yeasts live—has often been referred to as our “second brain.” Recent research has shown that it impacts not only the efficiency of our digestive system but also our immune system and our nervous system. Time and time again scientists are discovering that having a healthy, balanced gut is the key to healing much of what ails us. By consuming the appropriate psychobiotics for our illness—through foods and supplements—and finding that correct balance between the gut and the brain, we can potentially cure depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and a whole host of other ailments. The Psychobiotic Revolution provides you with simple, easy-to-follow steps to help bring balance back into your gut, including which psychobiotics to focus on for many of today’s greatest illnesses. And it’s not just for disease. Changing your food—and your lifestyle—is proven to make you a happier person. For the last 15 years, Dan Buettner has been traveling the world, studying the behaviors and habits of the longest-lived people. More recently, Buettner has discovered an interesting connection: Many of these people are also the happiest. So Buettner decided to expand his research and unearth the secrets of the world’s happiest places. In his latest book, The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People, Buettner examines the three strands of happiness—purpose, pride, and pleasure—to uncover the many factors that can bring you joy. Most of our choices in life, as well as the environment in which we live, contribute to one of these three types. Some actions may satisfy only one, but those that can combine two or three strands—such as exercising outdoors (purpose and pleasure)—are helping people in places such as Denmark and Costa Rica to live the happiest lives in the world. Throughout the book, Buettner ties the research together with stories and learnings from actual people, such as Ervins Trans, the 29-year-old Latvian living in Denmark who calls himself “freakishly happy.” Buettner attributes Denmark’s status as one of the happiest countries in the world to the fact that its inhabitants trust each other, have great friend networks, bicycle everywhere, eat healthier, and take vacations, among other factors. You can live this way too. In addition to information on who is happiest around the world and why, The Blue Zones of Happiness includes tips for what you can do to bring some of that joy into your own life. Using the “Power 9 of Happiness,” you can create your own personal blueprint for a happy life. Originally published on October 31, 2017.

Media Credits

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Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Roza Kavak
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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