If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, and unable to focus, and you’ve tried absolutely everything under the sun, you may want to consider giving your gut bacteria a little extra love. The gut-brain connection or the gut-brain axis is something not everybody is aware of, but everybody needs to know about because your gut is kind of like your second brain.
How Does Your Gut Affect Your Mood?
Your gastrointestinal system naturally contains bacteria, and this microbiota, or “gut flora”, is what assists with modulating your internal systems, such as with the digestion of protein, fats etc, as well as the immune system which helps to shield against harmful bacteria.
There are factors that can do significant damage to your helpful bacteria, such as antibiotics and inflammatory bowel conditions, and the same could be said for depression and anxiety.
However, because of the link between the gut bacteria and the brain, the gut microbiome can alter how our brain functions, so being prone to inflammatory bowel syndrome can also put you at risk of developing depression and anxiety.
Can Your Gut Make You Depressed?
Serotonin is very much linked to depression, if you’re particularly deficient, but also happiness, if you’ve got a good balance, which leads us to ask “Does serotonin produced in the gut go to the brain?”
Most antidepressants actually help to increase serotonin, and 90% of any serotonin created in the body is created in the gut, and not in the brain as we may have been led to think.
Gut bacteria are also said to be responsible for creating neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, and GABA, which are all necessary to maintain a healthy mood, motivation and concentration levels, as well as to ward off symptoms of anxiety. All the more reason to look after your good gut bacteria!
Can Probiotics Help Improve Your Mood?
A study conducted involving healthy women who had no history of gastrointestinal or psychiatric issues were split into three groups, one of which was the control group who consumed nothing extra other than their usual meals.
The other two groups either consumed a fermented milk product with probiotics i.e. yoghurt, or non-fermented milk products containing a five-strain probiotic.
The group that consumed the fermented milk product for just four weeks showed calmer brain activity during an emotional attention task, while the control group who consumed nothing other than their regular meals showed the opposite, increased brain hyperactivity during the same task – Probiotic-rich fermented foods for the win!
Probiotic-Rich Foods to Improve Your Mood
Look after your gut microbiome and make sure that you leave a little space for probiotic-rich foods in your diet – While fresh fruits and vegetables are important, consider also adding fermented foods which are either naturally probiotic or have had probiotics added to them, such as:
- Sourdough bread
- Some cheeses
Try A Probiotic Supplement For Improve Mental Health
If the idea of eating fermented foods doesn’t exactly make your gut bacteria dance for joy, try adding a good probiotic supplement. Studies show that using probiotic supplements could improve mental health.
So there may be benefits of using probiotics for individuals suffering from depression and anxiety, especially if they’re also consuming plenty of gut-friendly foods. These benefits include boosted cognitive and digestive function, as well as better emotional and physical well-being.
Another study showed that the patients with a major depressive disorder (MDD) who took a probiotic supplement saw an improvement in their depression compared to other patients who took a placebo.
Studies also show that probiotics help to improve psychiatric disorder-related behaviours, such as depression, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), including helping to improve memory.
Take Care Of Your Gut Microbiome
As we learn more about the benefits of probiotics for mental health and wellbeing, future treatments may even turn to probiotics as the first line of defence against conditions like anxiety and depression. Remember that our gut is our second brain so we need to take care of our gut microbiome and it will take care of us.