When learning about the many benefits of probiotics, chances are good you have learned primarily about how probiotics are healthy microorganism that colonize your gut and overall make you a healthier person!
Probiotics can help strengthen your immune system, can help your body more effectively break down food to mine healthy nutrients while allowing your body to use less energy, and they can also do things like reduce bloat and inflammation, counteract the effects and symptoms of diarrhea.
Probiotics can even help with skin and hair issues, and are now known to help ease acne, hair loss, and more.
But did you know that one of the other primary parts of your body that probiotics can have an impact on are your mind?
The connection between your gut and your brain is so clear to researchers that it is now deemed the gut-brain axis by researches who specialize in the field. The gut-brain axis is the bidirectional link between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system of the body.
In short, it involves direct and indirect pathways between cognitive and emotional centers in the brain with the peripheral intestinal functions.
While it may sound surprising, the microbes that colonize your gut can actually have a real impact on your mind and your mental health.
The microbiome is the name that scientists give all the microorganisms in or on their host as well as the genetic material that they give off. The microbiota, however, refers specifically to the population in specific ecosystem. For example, the microbiota of your gut refers to just the organisms living inside your digestive tracts.
Within your gut alone, there are approximately 100 trillion bacteria! That alone is over 10 times the amount of cells that are in your body at any given time. The scheer biomass that your gut microbiota makes up has less many scientists to refer to is as the bodies’ ‘superorganism.’
The health of your microbiota in your gut can have huge impacts on your body. Allergies, weight management, autoimmune diseases, nd more have been found to be dramatically impacted by how healthy your gut microbiota is.
The gut-brain link
Recent studies have shown that the gut microbiota is central when it comes to the development and maturation of the human CNS and ENS. In fact, newborn babies are fist exposed to a microbiota when they are delivered through their mother’s vagina, one of the major hotspots of bacterial life in the human body.
In studies that involve germ-free animals to study the effects of antibiotics, probiotics, and fecal transplants, their effects on the gut microbiota and the brain’s activity and health have become clear.
Many of these studies actually suggest that the gut microbiota produces an impactful level of neurotransmitters that are responsible for the health, or disease, of the mind.
Microbes of the gut microbiota interact with your gut-brain axis through multiple pathways within the body.
The Vagus Nerve
Afferent Spinal and vagal sensory neurons carry information and feedback from the intestinal end to the brain stem which in turn activates the hypothalamus and limbic systesm in the brain.
Bacterial products are known to stimulate enteroendocrine cells to produce several neuropeptides including peptide YY, neuropeptide Y, cholecystokinin, glucagon 1 and 2, and substance P. These signals enter your body’s blood stream and can influence aboth the enteric nervous system.
Interreference with Tryptophan metabolism
An astounding fact that researchers discovered is that approximately 95% of your bodies Serotonin (known as the happy molcule) is produced in the gut. Gut microbiota also play an important and impactful role in tryptophan metabolism which is the precursor to the production of Serotonin.
Altered intestinal permeability
Chronic stress has been known to alter intestinal permeability – known as leaky gut syndrome- which is essentially a byproduct of low-level inflammation that can be linked to psychiatric disorders such as depression.
This is especially interesting because just like it has been shown that mental state can alter the effectiveness and health of your gut microbiota, it can go the other way around. The health of your microbiota can now be linked to many mental disorders.
Gut microbiota and neuropsychiatric disorders
There is growing scientific evidence which suggest that the health of the microbiota in your gut is directly linked to the mental health. If you suffer from mental health, it could be altered or even improved by and improvement of the probitoics living in your gut.
This is of course not a cause to stop using medicine that you have been prescribed by your doctor, but it is a new and exciting way to think about the gut, the mind, and the way that the two influence one another.
The current hypothesis within the field of this study is that mental health problems such as chronic anxiety, dipolar disorder, clinical depression, and even schizophrenia may all be associated with alterations in the gut microbiota.
Researchers speculate that any disruption to the normal, healthful balance of bacteria in the microbiome can cause the immune system to overreact and contribute the inflammation of the GI tract., This can lead to reactions in your body and your brain.
With all this information, it is important to keep in mind that all of this research is still very much in its infancy. Still, the science behind probiotics and their link to the gut-brain axis are incredibly exciting. If you are interested in adding probiotics to your daily regimen, there are two primary ways to do so.
This is perhaps the tastiest way to integrate probiotics into your diet. Many of the most popular fermented foods and drinks are chalk full with probiotics. These include kombucha, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, beet kvass, sauerkraut, and more.
This is the easier way and more scientific to know what kinds of probiotics and of how many you are putting into your. Daily supplements are readily available at both health and grocery stores.
Hopefully this information has changed the way you think about your body and the way that systems that seem entirely different are in fact intimately related. Now it is up to you to take this information and see if probiotics can become a part of a happier and healthier you.