A new probiotic perspective on neuroscience is emerging which places a strong emphasis on the statement: ‘you are what you eat.’ As John Cryan describes in the video below, the bacteria in your gut are far more important for your mental health than you may realize!
The majority of these bacteria reside in our guts, as that is where they get a steady supply of nutrients from the food we eat.
Science is becoming aware that we are not feeding ourselves in the way we think. Instead, we are feeding these bacteria in our gut, which release by-products in the form of fats and acids. Not only are these by-products readily absorbed by our bodies, but they also contain a wealth of nutrients, antioxidants, trace minerals, and healthy fats that replenish our bodily reserves.
For example, it was discovered that more serotonin and melatonin get manufactured in our guts than in our brains!
In this respect, our gut microbiome aught to be viewed as our selective laboratory, whereby probiotic bacteria produce some of the best foods and medicines for us to enjoy.
The only problem, however, is that most people do not consume enough genuinely probiotic foods to maintain a healthy gut. The probiotic foods available are made using heat and pressure, resulting in sterile products that lack the bacteria that we need to keep our intestines sufficiently populated.
This results in anxiety, depression, a weakened immune system, increased pain perception and could be one of the underlying reasons for the rampant disease and malnutrition conditions we see today.
Furthermore, many eat diets which do not promote these bacteria to flourish, yielding gut inflammation and an unbalanced pH – a favorable environment for pathogenic bacteria!
For these reasons and more, it is vital to replenish the bacteria in our guts.
Let’s take a look at how probiotics benefits mental health and boosts brain power.
Rats that were supplemented with a specific probiotic strain showed a major reduction in stress-induced neuroinflammationIngestion of Lactobacillus strain reduces anxiety and improves cognitive function in the hyperammonemia rat.
This is not news to the scientific community. It has long been known that probiotics have a very positive effect on reversing overall bodily inflammation.
The reason is that many of their by-products have a significant antioxidant ability, which protects us from the effects of inflammation as well as modulating our immune function and preventing the release of inflammatory cytokines.
Many who use probiotics report a reduction in sweet food cravings and more of an urge to eat healthier foods – specifically prebiotic foods! Prebiotics are foods that help probiotic bacteria to grow, whereas junk food tends not to.
There is a growing body of research which suggests that our gut bacteria control the way we think and feel, because they produce nutrients that are vital for creating hormones and neurotransmitters as well as the actual compounds themselvesGut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience.
In this regard, it makes sense then that probiotic bacteria produce more feel-good chemicals when fed the correct prebiotic foods and other inflammation-causing foods (like sugar) will detract from that process.
Thus eating probiotic foods will not only help to reduce inflammation, but it will help you to curb those cravings and feel motivated to be healthy!
Serotonin, dopamine, and GABA are three of the main neurotransmitters that are either created or co-created by the probiotic bacteria in our guts.
In depressed people, these neurotransmitters are usually deficient, or the receptors for picking them up are. Probiotics can help to increase the amounts of them found naturally in the body. They have also been shown to help induce neurogenesis thanks to the antioxidant compounds they give off.
Understanding this, it’s simple to see how probiotics may be the ultimate remedy for clinical depression!
In modified rats that have entirely no bacteria in their guts, it is a well-known fact that they are far more timid, cowardly, anxious and even anti-social compared to rats who have a gut microbiome. Administering probiotics to these rats reversed these symptoms.
The results have been replicated in children with Autism. Probiotics appear to make these children less socially awkward, stressed out and anxious!
This includes the neurotransmitters mentioned above (such as serotonin and dopamine) as well as brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF’s). BDNF’s stimulate the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis), which naturally boosts cognitive function from problem-solving to better memory quality.
These beneficial microbes also emit many nutrients in the form of short-chain fatty acids. Nutrients are very easily absorbed in this form, as well as forming a great source of energy. It has been proven that short-chain fatty acids are the best food for boosting cognition and keeping a consistent mental focus.
Since probiotics are the manufacturers of copious amounts of BDNF’s, it figures that repopulating and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome would improve neuroplasticity. This has far-reaching implications, as those who have suffered from severe brain damage or neurodegenerative disorders can benefit immensely.
This includes not only our sex hormones but also hormones like ghrelin and insulin which are responsible for when we feel hungry and our sugar metabolism. Regulating these hormones with probiotics have shown to keep blood pressure down, reverse hypertension, improve cholesterol and help to prevent rapid weight gain.
All these factors are associated with the onset of mental health or neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Probiotics appear to be an effective tool in helping us to fight against these age-related conditions!
They say it takes up to 6 months to fully repopulate your microbiome, but many people experience benefits after just two weeks! Once you have firmly established a healthy microbiome, pre- and probiotic foods should be more than enough to sustain it.
If you have to take a course of antibiotics, it is recommended to use one of these probiotic supplements for about 10-14 days afterward. This is because antibiotics kill all bacteria in your gut, not making a distinction between the good guys and the bad guys.
These fermented foods are different than what you will find at your local grocery store. Most mass-produced “probiotic” foods have been heat-treated or are loaded with preservatives which kill off the beneficial bacteria and defeat the purpose.
The best way to ensure you are getting healthy doses of probiotic foods in your diet is to make your own fermentations. We have briefly outlined how to do that in the sections below!
Doing it yourself is the best way to ensure the best results. However, you can also find a few of these foods being sold online if you don’t fancy the idea yourself.
Thinly slice your chosen vegetable/s, place them in your jar, add a tablespoon or less of salt and press them to extract the juices. Then add your whey, herbs and spices, and top up with water until the contents are covered – make sure to leave an inch of space between the liquid and lid. You may want to air them briefly on a daily basis to prevent pressure build-up unless you have the right container.
Leaving milk aside in a jar for a week and straining the contents will result in having your own liquid whey as well as delicious probiotic cream cheese!
One can also experiment with different starter cultures in their milk and attempt to make kefir or other yoghurt products.
This involves brewing a batch of green tea with quite a bit of sugar. When the tea is room temperature, add a SCOBY (a kombucha starter culture) or two, cover the jar in a cloth and wait 7-10 days to strain (21 days in cold weather). The result is a tasty semi-fizzy drink that is rich in probiotic by-products!
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