Microbes on the Mind

Eating for gut health – a survey on probiotic food

Fermentation for cooking and preservation has old roots and can be found in most food cultures around the world. For a long time, people have chosen what to eat in order to maintain and strengthen a healthy gut. This seems to be a rising trend, with some using diet as a tool for managing a health issue or diagnosis, and an increasing interest in the gut microbiome. 

At the same time there is a growing scholarly emphasis across disciplines on the symbiotic relations of the diverse creatures of the gut, as well as importance of the brain-gut axis for our mental health. Understanding the body as entangled, relational and co-dependent is no doubt tremendously important for how a less anthropocentric and more multi-species relational ecology of existence and responsibility may be imagined. However, the hype around the promises of intervening in the gut microbiome has been accompanied by a huge and profitable industry in cookbooks and dietary supplements. 

Numbers of microbiomic dieters has increased accordingly. People are becoming increasingly aware of and fascinated by how their diet affects their general wellbeing, as well as their gut health and microbiome. People eat, and even make, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut themselves these days. They take probiotic supplements and adjust their diet to manage their gut health. 

The Survey

The stories and experiences of people engaging in what we might call microbiomic diet culture are of great interest for the Microbes on the Mind research group. That’s why postdoc Andréa Wiszmeg has launched a qualitative survey investigating motivations for eating to maintain a healthy gut microbiome, as well as how scientific findings, and trends in health and dieting interact with people’s everyday lives, backgrounds and health histories. In order to try and capture the intricate interplay between experiences of health, illness and wellbeing, as well as our personal backgrounds and the socio-cultural role of the gut, the survey contains a variety of questions, such as:

  • Are you experiencing general change in your wellbeing (physical and/or mental), as a result of consuming fermented or probiotic products or foods? Please, describe the change.
  • Were diets, health and food considered important, or a topic often discussed, in your family when growing up? Did someone follow a specific diet or use certain health products? Which and why?
  • What does the concept of ‘gut feeling’ mean to you? Is it just a metaphor or something you feel in your body? Is it helpful or unhelpful?

The hope is that the survey will help further the understanding of the interplay between microbes and the human experience of eating for gut health in culture and society.

Interested in the survey? Click here to participate.