You are already likely aware of the things you should be doing to maintain your brain health. A diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, brain games and puzzles, plus daily exercise top the list. But have you ever considered taking probiotics to keep your mind in shape?
Probiotics, also known as the helpful or “good” bacteria do a lot more than just keeping our gut and digestive processes in order. They can also play a huge role in enhancing mental health, brainpower, behavior and even mood. That’s because your gut and your brain are actually connected.
If you’ve ever had a “gut feeling” about something or felt your “stomach drop” when you’re upset, you already know there is a connection between brain and gut. This is because our bodies actually have two nervous systems.
The central nervous system, directed by the brain and spinal cord is the first. The second is the intrinsic or enteric nervous system, present in the GI tract. Both are formed by the same kind of tissue and connect through the vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that runs from the brain stem to the abdomen.
The bacteria in your gut use this nerve to send data to your brain and vice versa, which is what causes your stomach to feel unsettled when you’re angry, nervous, stressed or afraid. More importantly, it can lead to mental health issues and behavioral changes when your gut is out of balance.
There are various strains of probiotics and several have been found particularly successful in addressing various aspects of brain health. Studies have found that the B. longum strain of bacteria may help reduce anxiety by normalizing the activity of neurons in the pathways of the vagus nerve.
L. rhamnosus may help improve behavioral issues caused by anxiety and depression by lowering corticosterone, a hormone produced in response to stress. Scientists have recently concluded that there are actually greater concentrations of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that controls depression, aggression and mood) found in your gut than in your brain. Antidepressants only raise serotonin levels in your brain, and studies on the link between probiotics and depression are very promising thus far.
If you’re looking to improve your brain health, consider the use of probiotics. There is clearly a connection between the gut and brain and maintaining the health of one could positively impact the health of the other.