One question we are often asked is “Can Probiotics Improve Mental Health?” Let’s start with the facts. The gut brain connection is powerful. Specifically, 70% of our immune system lives in the gut and 90% of the neurotransmitter Serotonin is made in the digestive tract. Other important neurotransmitters such as GABA and acetylcholine can also be produced by gut bacteria. These neurotransmitters are related to gut motility and too much or too little of them can be responsible for issues like constipation or diarrhea. Outside exposure to medications, processed foods, smoke, stress, and infections can cause a disruption in the balance of bacteria internally.
The Brain is Affected by the Gut
Since our brain is affected by our gut, it would make sense that the beneficial bacteria found in probiotics would play a role in our mood.
Researchers are now finding that it’s possible to treat stress, anxiety, poor sleep and depression by altering the gut bacteria through use of Psychobiotics (a class of probiotics used to activate the body’s stress response system that offers mental health benefits).
Uses for Psychobiotics – a class of probiotics
When You’re Stressed
Psychobiotics involve the brain and adrenal glands. When the body is stressed out, the adrenals are on overdrive and can cause an overproduction of cortisol, putting us in a state of Fight-or-Flight and then other hormones subsequently become out of balance. This can lead to many health problems and cognitive issues.
Psychobiotics can also help to decrease inflammation. Elevated levels of inflammation are known to be a factor related to illness and mood disorders. Supplementing with these types of specific probiotics can soothe inflammation stemming from the gut and have a positive effect on the brain.
Helping Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Large populations of those suffering from IBS also suffer from anxiety and depression – which is directly correlated to decreased gut microbial diversity. Using probiotics and increasing gut microbial diversity can improve mental health and positively impact quality of life.
So, Can Probiotics Improve Mental Health?
The idea of extracting probiotics from fermented foods for mental health, immunity and better digestion is not a new concept. Probiotics have been used widely for centuries in Asia in the form of foods. Traditional items such as Kefir, Kimchi, Kombucha, Miso and Yogurt all have healing properties.
Since we don’t always get enough of this type of nutrition through our everyday diet, one of the best ways to reap the benefits is through supplementation.