Probiotics and Mental Health: Nourish your Gut for a Happy Life
September 19, 20233 min read
Emotions—both positive and negative—enrich our lives each and every day. Our gut is sensitive to emotions like anger, anxiety, sadness, and joy – and our brain reacts to signals from our stomach. Surprisingly, 75% to 95% of serotonin, the 'happy hormone' that makes you feel good, is produced in the gut. This fascinating connection between our gut and mental health is what we'll explore in this blog.
The Gut-Brain Axis
The chemical messages that pass between the gut and the brain can be affected by the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in the gut, collectively known as the "gut microbiome." All of these microbes communicate with the rest of your body via the enteric nervous system, also known as the gut-brain axis. This axis has a profound influence on your day-to-day thoughts and feelings.
Neurotransmitters and Gut Health
The food we eat is digested by the diverse microbes in our gut, and what they excrete is used to create neurotransmitters like serotonin. If the balance of bacteria that provides serotonin gets disrupted, it can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. So, you can see why supporting your gut and nurturing your gut microbiome is a crucial aspect of maintaining mental wellness.
Probiotics: The Gut's Best Friend
Probiotics play a significant role in positively affecting the gut. They decrease stress signalling in the body and may increase the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan to serotonin in the brain. Whether your goal is to reduce anxiety, stress, mood swings, or brain fog, or to enhance cognition, probiotics can be a valuable ally in promoting mental clarity and gut health.
Nutrition and Gut Health
Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet alongside a daily probiotic is essential for building a more resilient, calm, healthy, and happy mind and body. Your gut health is closely linked to the production of serotonin, a natural mood stabilizer. As the gut is often referred to as our second brain, maintaining a high-performing digestive system is essential for experiencing happiness and improved sleep.
Depression and Gut Inflammation
Recent research indicates a strong connection between depression and inflammation in the gut. Since the gut houses our "second brain" and plays a vital role in serotonin production, it's not surprising that negative bacteria in the gut can trigger immune responses, leading to inflammation, leaky gut, and an ongoing inflammation-depression cycle. The link between gut health, depression, and stress-related disorders is closely tied to inflammation, reinforcing the connection between gut and mental health.
IBS and Mental Health
Research has revealed that over 50% of people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) also experience depression or anxiety. Recent studies continue to provide strong evidence of a direct connection between certain gut bacteria and mental health, emphasizing the importance of maintaining gut health for mental well-being.
Happiness Starts in Your Gut
To add more happiness to your life, consider the role of serotonin, the "feel good hormone," which is predominantly found in the gut. Serotonin is produced from the essential amino acid tryptophan, primarily obtained through your diet. Maintaining a diet rich in tryptophan sources like nuts, cheese, and red meat is crucial for optimal serotonin levels. This chemical not only stabilizes mood but also regulates anxiety, promotes healing, and contributes to overall well-being. Ultimately, the production of serotonin relies on a healthy gut, reinforcing the importance of maintaining good digestive health for a happier life.
Seeking Professional Help
If you're struggling with mental health issues, it's crucial to seek professional help as your first step. However, if you've already established a primary course of treatment, there are lifestyle changes you can make to support the beneficial microbes in your gut. Research has shown a link between depression and processed foods, while a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, seafood, and olive oil has been associated with improved mood due to its positive impact on the gut microbiome.
Probiotic Foods and Supplements
While specific probiotic organisms for certain mental health conditions have not been pinpointed, improving your overall gut health can make a positive difference. Incorporating probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir can help reduce inflammation. Additionally, prebiotic-rich foods like garlic, onions, leeks, and dandelion greens nurture good gut bacteria. For those with busy lifestyles, adding a convenient option with multiple strains of good bacteria-rich fermented foods can support a healthy gut, immune system and mind.
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