Are Probiotics a Natural Way to Improve Brain and Cognitive Health?
6 minute read
Probiotics are well known for boosting gut health and efficient digestion. Because your gut hosts trillions of helpful bacteria that work to support additional areas of health, probiotics can also boost immunity and brain health.
Your gut and your brain communicate directly via the gut-brain axis, and this means a healthy gut community can boost cognitive health as well as mood. Here is how the gut-brain axis works, and how you can use it to benefit your own health.
Gut Health and Brain Health
There is a host of research and literature that supports the role of the immune system in mental health. Uncontrolled inflammation that can result from an imbalanced gut can impact brain health. Inflammation has been associated with several mental issues, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression. Inflammation also changes your mood when left uncontrolled, but probiotics and gut health can help.
The gut-brain axis is a two-way communication tract between the enteric nervous system in your gut and your central nervous system (brain). The vagus nerve is the main link between the two systems and delivers signals back and forth, which has led to the stomach being considered a “second brain.” It was also dubbed this because it is responsible for releasing neurotransmitters that affect brain health and mood.
With the majority of neurotransmitters coming from the gut, what affects your gut will ultimately affect your brain. When you feel stressed or nervous, your stomach can be queasy or feel like it is tied up in knots.
In the same way, an upset stomach can cause you to feel a little blue. In more extreme cases, conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease can cause anxiety and depression.
In addition to impacting mood, your gut also signals to the brain when you are full. Sending signals that regulate appetite can help you from overeating.
Your gut bacteria produce proteins about twenty minutes after you start eating, and these proteins work to suppress your appetite. If you are eating too quickly and not giving your stomach time to digest, you will end up eating too much before the proteins are released to stop you.
Studies have found that probiotics help to regulate and boost gut health, which in turn boost brain function and health. Even patients with Alzheimer’s who took probiotic supplements experienced reduced cognitive impairment.
Additional studies found that individuals reported calmer moods and less stress and anxiety after taking probiotics. The more diverse the probiotics are, the more improvement seems to be noted.
The Inflammatory Link
Research is ongoing as to the specific mechanisms through which probiotics boost brain health, but it is largely accepted that the brain-gut axis communication channel plays a major role.
The role of inflammation also is important as it can start in the gut and impact other areas of the body, including the brain. When controlled, inflammation response is a natural and effective response of your immune system, but when uncontrolled, your health is in danger.
The gut bacterial balance can become disrupted as a result of poor diet, stress, lack of exercise, food allergies, exposure to pesticides, and antibiotic use. Antibiotics are beneficial. but because they are unable to discriminate between bacteria, they kill your beneficial ones while they kill the problematic ones.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Harmful bacteria can take over and colonize, increasing inflammation in the gut. As a result, the gut walls can be damaged.
The tight junctions in your intestinal wall, which regulate the passage of nutrients, become loose, and toxic materials or undigested food that would have previously been stopped are now able to get through.
This is known as leaky gut syndrome. As these particles travel through the blood, your immune system targets them. Along the way, healthy tissues are also attacked by inflammation.
The brain, in particular, is affected by inflammation both cognitively and with regards to mood. Brain health and mood can be helped with medications, but you can also address the issue at the source. If gut health is fueling the inflammation that is affecting your brain, you can try probiotics instead.
Probiotics work to reduce inflammation by restoring balance to your gut microbiome. With fewer harmful pathogens present, your gut can heal and your intestinal wall can strengthen. This prevents leaky gut and widespread inflammation.
Probiotics also support your immunity by protecting against exposure to harmful bacteria, which have been known to cause anxiety, depression, and chronic fatigue.
A high-quality probiotic supplement is a great way to keep your gut microbiome balanced and your brain happy and healthy. Be sure to choose a high-quality and clinically proven supplement that contains a variety of bacterial strains.
It also helps to add prebiotics to your diet as these feed the probiotics and gut bacteria, allowing them to thrive. Prebiotic fibers include garlic, onions, bananas, apples, and oats.
| Related: The Top 11 Probiotic Strains and Their Importance |
In addition to a probiotic supplement, you can also add probiotic foods to your diet. The best probiotics food sources include:
The Bottom Line
The trillions of bacteria that live in your gut do more than promote effective and healthy digestion. They help regulate your immune system, specifically in controlling inflammation.
An unbalanced gut can trigger inflammation and gut damage, which leads to inflammation throughout the body. When this reaches your brain, mental health can be affected. Start taking probiotics today for a healthier, balanced gut and improved brain function.