Are you aware that the gut is often referred to as our “second brain?”
That’s right! The intestines have trillions of bacteria that not only work to digest food, but also have a significant impact on our overall health and well-being.
Recent studies have shown that the balance of bacteria in our gut has a direct impact on our mental health and the severity of conditions such as anxiety and depression. That’s where probiotics come into play!
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for our health, particularly our digestive system. They help to maintain the balance of good bacteria in our gut, which can be easily compromised due to poor diet, stress, an unhealthy lifestyle, or taking antibiotics.
Specifically, these good bacteria help to create an optimal environment in the gut, which leads to better digestion, nutrient absorption, and regular bowel movements. While you can consume probiotics in supplement form, the best way to get them is through a diverse diet that includes fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso.
The Role of Probiotics in Mental Health
The gut and the brain are intricately connected. For instance, have you experienced a “gut feeling”? This is because the gut and the brain communicate with each other through the vagus nerve, a long nerve that runs from the brainstem to the abdomen.
While researchers once believed that the brain was in charge of everything, including the gut, we now know that the gut also has a significant effect on our mental health. In fact, the gut produces over 90% of the body’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, sleep, and appetite. Thus, it is not surprising that dysbiosis, or the imbalance of bacteria in the gut, has been linked to various mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, and even autism.
The good news is that probiotics can help to restore balance in the gut, which has a positive impact on our mental health. Research has shown that taking probiotics can lead to a reduction in anxiety, improved mood regulation, and a decrease in symptoms of depression. In fact, certain strains of probiotics such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium bifidum have been shown to be particularly effective in improving mental health.
Additional Benefits of Probiotics
In addition to improving mental health, probiotics have numerous other benefits. These include:
- Reducing the severity and duration of diarrhea, particularly in individuals taking antibiotics.
- Improving digestive health and nutrient absorption.
- Reducing inflammation in the body.
- Boosting the immune system to fight off infections.
- Preventing and treating vaginal yeast infections.
- Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The gut is an essential part of our overall health, and probiotics are an easy and effective way to maintain the balance of good bacteria. By promoting gut health, probiotics have numerous benefits, including improving mental health, reducing digestive issues, and boosting the immune system.
Remember, the best way to consume probiotics is through a diverse diet that includes fermented foods. However, if you are unable to consume these foods regularly, consider adding a probiotic supplement to your routine. Your gut (and brain) will thank you!