The Mind-Gut Connection: Probiotics

 

Do you ever feel so nauseous you think it’s something you ate but it’s just anxiety talking? Or you can’t go to the bathroom for days and you feel stressed and tired all the time? 

The Gut- Brain Axis, including the central nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, immune system, HPA axis, autonomic nervous system (which is directly involved in fight-or-flight) etc.,  has been closely studied by researches for years. It has been proven that mental health is closely linked to the gut.

For example, anxiety and depression have been closely linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), with symptoms such as abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements which can have a direct effect on one’s quality of life.

Although there is no specific treatment for IBS, probiotics, counselling and dietary changes have all been shown to improve the gut-brain axis.

Probiotics

For a couple of years now, the role of gut flora, or gastrointestinal microbiota, has been shown to be very essential in regards to our immune system, fighting bad bacteria and influencing mood (preventing depression).

One approach to strengthen your gut flora and prevent IBS or leaky gut syndrome, is to increase your probiotic intake, by eating fermented foods like yogurt or kimchi, or taking probiotic supplements.

Now which probiotic supplements should you take?

The most commonly used probiotics in studies on brain health include: Bifidobacterium (B. longum, B. breve, B. infantis, and Lactobacillus (L. helveticus and L. rhamnosus) (1).

Doses between 10^8 and 10^10 CFUs (colony forming units) daily for 4 weeks have shown to improve symptoms of: anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and memory abilities, including spatial and non-spatial memory (1).

Interestingly, a study specifically using Bifidobacterium infantis has shown to significantly improve depression due to its possible antidepressant properties (2), .

Specifically, Bifidobacterium infantis has been proven to:

  • attenuate pro-inflammatory immune responses and,
  • elevate the serotonergic precursor, tryptophan (2).

It has also proven to lower levels of inflammation in patients with psoriasis, chronic fatigue syndrome and ulcerative colitis.

On another note, eating prebiotic-rich foods, such as onions, garlic and bananas will help healthy bacteria grow and increase the amount of Bifidobacteria in your system.

Overall, probiotics significantly improve your mind-gut connection, by regulating your bowels and improving your mood symptoms.

Is this is something you are considering, you can pick up some probiotics at a local drugstore.

Please talk to your doctor first before taking any probiotics, especially when using antibiotics or are pregnant.

 

Do Plants Improve Mood?

Not only do they filter your air but they also reduce psychological and physiological stress: plants, yes, plants.

Since I began living in the concrete jungle my mood has drastically changed from okay to worse. I could not help but notice that there was one thing missing in my life that I never appreciated when I lived outside of the city: greenery!

Plants play a big role in our environment both physically and mentally. They have a way of cleaning our air by taking out toxins and providing us with oxygen.

As summer is right around the corner, I can’t help but notice the smell of blooming trees and grass. I realize how much of an impact greenery has on air purifying especially in a city filled with pollutants and toxins.

Especially with anxiety, senses are so strong that it is essential that we have clean and fresh air to breath, and why I strongly encourage having plants in your home and in your workspace where you spend the most of your days.

Benefits of Plants on Mood

Recent literature has shown how plants can improve mood by creating a more relaxed state both psychologically and physiologically. Looking at plants with large leaves even just for a short period of time does not only made your body more relaxed but also induces positive emotions. In many ways then, plants have shown to decrease depressive symptoms overall and create anti-anxiety, calming effects!

Not only do plants decrease stress on both your lungs, body and mind, they also improve your cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that plants improve task performance and attention. In turn, doing better cognitively actually improves certain mood symptoms.

Overall, foliage plants have a way of reducing and restoring your mental fatigue since being around nature has a way of inducing positive emotions in which reduces stress.

Now, I’m not saying this is a treatment for depression or anxiety, but if research suggests it helps even a little bit, why not give it a try?

So come hop on the aesthetic bandwagon with me and let’s fill our life with more plants! And remember – the bigger the leaf the better your mood 😉

 

8 Ways to Calm the Sunday Scaries

Ever experience the blues or feeling of impending doom the day before real life starts again? This anxiety is usually set off by the dread of starting a new work/school week and is especially accompanied by a booze filled weekend.

Here are a few simple steps to help overcome your Sunday Scaries:

Self-Care Everyone has their own version of self-care whether it’s getting a blow-out or talking to a therapist. Research has shown that self-care is fundamental to maintenance of both physical and mental health. Although it is defined differently across domains, it has one core concept: a naturalistic decision making process in which individuals engage in ways to maintain good health.

My Version: taking a candle-lit bubble bath using one of  Lush’s bubble bars. (No bath tub? Try a hot shower using Lush’s shower bombs)

Keep it Moving Exercise has been a HUGE relief for my Sunday Scaries. Although it is super hard to motivate yourself to get up and get going, especially with a hangover, it will feel so much better and rewarding when you’re done. A mix of both high-intensity strength training and moderate-intensity aerobic exercise provide optimal positive effects. So get up and get moving!

My Version: On the not so bad Sundays I do a 20 minute cardio session whether it’s just an elliptical, biking or rowing. If I feel up to it I’ll do some strength training. On the pretty bad days I like to go outside and walk around the block, or to my local park even if it’s just for 15 minutes or do a nice yoga session in my living room.

Try Aromatherapy Your senses are super heightened when anxious and/or hungover. A good way to help ground you is to diffuse some essential oils containing lavender, rosemary, bergamot, sandalwood and/or orange. For better outcomes, do some deep breathing exercises or a grounding technique!

My Version: I love to use Saje’s Stress Release Mist and Diffuser Blend.  If I am feeling extra anxious, I make sure to do this deep breathing exercise.

Hydrate It is so important to keep hydrated, especially if you’re drinking. I am telling you this is the CURE for hangovers. All jokes aside, keeping hydrated is an easy way to stabilize your mood by thinking more clearly. Although the determining mechanisms behind hydration and mood are still unclear, drinking water has shown to improve cognitive function (thinking clearer and being more attentive) in which helps improve your mood. If you absolutely despise water, try some chamomile tea to help soothe your soul.

My Version: Right when I wake up I like to drink a full glass of water to get my day started. I always carry around a water bottle to ensure that I am drinking around 11 ounces of water (8 full glasses) a day.

Meal Prep Distract yourself by getting some groceries and cooking up a few healthy meals you enjoy for the next couple of days. Not only will this make sure your body is filled with nutrients but it will also make you look forward to tomorrow if it’s a meal you are excited to eat.

My Version: I like to watch some YouTube videos of easy and healthy meal prep ideas and go to the local market to pick up some ingredients. Key: I always make all of my meals for Monday so I can look forward to try them the next day.

Stay Busy The best way to handle the scaries is to use distraction techniques. Ensure you are keeping busy by engaging in hobbies and interests that you love throughout the day whether it is dog walking or simply watching Netflix.

My Version: I always love picking up new hobbies and trying new things like Geocaching. Try something new and fun by doing a hobby quiz!

Getting To The Root (1) This may feel a bit overwhelming but the best way to get rid of the anxiety is to find out what is truly triggering it. Is it the weekend full of alcohol that is the cause…

My Version: Cut down on the drinking (whether it is replacing a night out with a board game night with your friends, OR, challenge yourself to drink 1-2 drinks on a night out).

Getting To The Root (2)  OR  is it dreading the things you need to do at work/school? If you just simply hate your job try: scheduling lunch with a friend or a fun yoga class for Monday to look forward to something.

My Version: Get all the daunting tasks that you need to do for Monday on Friday, and if you can’t,  leave a schedule of tasks to do on your desk (from most to least important) so you can walk in with a clear and organized mind on Monday.

How do you deal with your Sunday Scaries?

 

 

(1)The Feeling

Words cannot describe the feeling. The feeling from the pit of your stomach. The feeling of the heat on your tongue from all the air being sucked out of you, not being able to breathe back in. The feeling of wetness on your cheeks, salty lips and dripping on your chin. The drooping sensation of your shoulders and back hunched over. The numbness in your feet from being trapped in one spot since the clock started ticking. The longer the ticking the more aware you are to the sensation and the worse it feels.

I begin to think about how I got to this place of immense sadness and imprisonment of my body and mind. Why am I so unhappy? Maybe my mind isn’t the reason for it after all… Maybe it is the place in which I keep hearing this ongoing ticking sound…

Two years ago today I found myself questioning my purpose and my sanity. I felt almost stuck in molasses and unable to get out of my constant ruminating cycle. I hope this page will be a space where many of you can share similar experiences and a helping guide towards achieving fulfilled mental health.