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.
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.