Benefits of Probiotics and How They Help Your Gut and Brain
What Are Probiotics?
We’ve heard the word before and if you're like me have had your fair share of that delightful drink rich in probiotics, kombucha. Likewise, if you're like me, you've wondered "what exactly are probiotics? And what exactly is their purpose?
In short, probiotics (from pro and biota, meaning "for life") are a combination of live beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts, the good gut bacteria. They are actual living microorganisms residing in your gut, mainly large intestines, and there are TRILLIONS of them in you and me, right now.
The most common types of probiotic bacteria are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Lactobacillus aids in stomach and bowel health, while Bifidobacteria, not only boosts your gut health, but also breaks down and absorbs nutrients. Both will also out-produce and fight off other bad organisms that may cause diseases.
As these microscopic critters are working for you in your gastrointestinal tract, they clear the way for a boosted immune system. This positively affects your brain health which of course can lead to a heightened state of well being.
Probiotics are not to be confused with prebiotics, which are types of fiber that feed the good bacteria in the digestive system. To sum it up, probiotics provide all sorts of powerful benefits for your body and brain.
How Do Probiotics Work?
Good bacteria keep you healthy by supporting your immune system and controlling inflammation. Certain types of good bacteria can also:
Help your body digest food.
Keep bad bacteria from getting out of control and making you sick.
Help support the cells that line your gut to prevent bad bacteria that you may have consumed (through food or drinks) from entering your blood.
Breakdown and absorb medications.
Where Do Probiotics Come From?
Probiotics occur naturally in a healthy person's gastrointestinal tract. A well-balanced diet rich in fiber will help your good bacteria levels remain high. There are, of course, certain foods that are packed with probiotics. What do these foods have in common? They all have a slightly zesty tang to them. This is an effect of the fermentation process. Fermentation is whena substance breaks down into a simpler substance. Microorganisms like yeast and bacteria usually play a role in the fermentation process, creating these fermented foods, which are rich in probiotics:
You can also purchase great probiotic supplements
Are There Any Negative Side Effects?
Probiotics are safe for a majority of the population, but side effects can occur. While most people don't experience any side effects, the most commonly reported were a temporary increase in gas and bloating. These have typically subsided within a few weeks and occur when ingesting too much at one time. When adding a probiotic supplement to your diet, remember to start with low doses.
Personally, I experienced extremely mild side effects when I made my leap into adding probiotics to my diet. I kept at it and have since experienced a noticeable difference in the health of my GI tract.
Why Should I Be Conscious of this Beneficial Bacteria Intake?
Your gut and brain have a very special relationship. When you have a healthy gut, the conversation it’s having with your brain (gut-brain axis) is clear, concise, and connected. Ever notice when you have a stomach ache your mental well-being takes a dive? I know I have and with a healthy gut, you're more likely to experience more clarity and less of that brain fog.
When consuming enough of these microorganisms they will provide specific health benefits to the gut which may help eliminate some of these issues below:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
H. pylori (the cause of ulcers)
Urinary tract infections
Recurrence of bladder cancer
Infection of the digestive tract caused by Clostridium difficile
Pouchitis (a possible side effect of surgery that removes the colon)
Eczema in children
Other health benefits probiotics promote:
Enhanced immune function
Reduced risk of some diseases
Probiotics and How They Affect Our Mental Health (Psychobiotics)
For decades, mental health was studied only in relation to the brain, not the rest of the body. Recently, scientists and doctors have discovered that mental health is tied to the health of our entire body, more specifically, our digestive health. Here are just a few of the findings:
They’re particularly helpful in improving mood in depression.
Probiotics can reduce stress and anxiety.
Probiotics support the creation of neurotransmitters and decrease neuroinflammation (brain inflammation).
Be mindful of the fact that probiotics are a great addition to mental health treatment plans, but they are not a stand-alone replacement for a treatment plan.
A healthy gut-brain connection and the benefits of probiotics have also been shown to improve the mood of some people with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions. This is due in part to the fact that they help support a healthy balance of bacteria and microbes that live in your gut. In other words, a healthy microbiome.
In fact, one study involving students facing exam stress found that those who took a multi-strain probiotic had lower scores on the perceived-stress scale, depression/anxiety stress scale, and state-trait anxiety inventory, as well as lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels than those in the placebo group.
It is also hypothesized that probiotics in the GI tract improve central nervous system symptoms associated with Major Depression Disease (MDD) by increasing the production of free tryptophan, and in turn, increasing serotonin availability.
This could shed some light on known connections between GI conditions and mental illness. For example, a higher-than-average number of people with irritable bowel syndrome also develop depression and anxiety. If we have a healthy gut microbiome, the symptoms of IBS may decrease and so may depression and anxiety.
Though probiotics and mental health are not inextricably linked, there are promising reasons to believe that a healthy gut can be the building block for a healthier mind.
If you're thinking about adding probiotics to your diet to improve your mental health, here are some things to keep in mind:
Start with the basics. These are the fermented foods listed in the body of this post.
Use probiotics with an anti-inflammatory diet to help improve the gut microbiome.
Do not change your current treatment plan without consulting your doctor. Probiotics are not a replacement for any other forms of treatment.
I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe even learned a thing or two about probiotics. When properly introduced, they have the potential to safely and effectively kickstart and be the backbone of a healthy body and mind.
High Potency & Strain Diversity. Our formula has a whopping 30 billion CFU of 15 strains of the best probiotics, including Lactobacillus Reuteri, Lactobacillus Gasseri, & Lactobacillus Acidophilus.
Patented Vegetarian Acid Resistant Capsules. Specially designed to resist stomach acid and ensure the proper delivery of the probiotics & prebiotic to your intestinal tract
Supports Immune System & Digestive Function. Since 80% of the immune system is in your gut, adding more good bacteria helps support a healthy bacterial balance in your digestive tract.
No Refrigeration is Necessary. Shelf-stable to maintain live probiotics & prebiotic at varying temperatures.