If you’re feeling down, anxious or stressed, you might think it’s “all in your head.” Turns out, your gut plays a key role in your overall mental health. Read on to learn how your gut is affecting your mood — and what you can do it improve it.
What We Know of the Mood-Gut Connection From Studying Mice
It wasn’t until within the last five years that the science community began to identify the connection between the gut and feelings of well-being. Studies are now focusing on how the microbiome — the bacterial ecosystem comprised of 100 trillion microbes that lives in your gut — regulates thinking and feelings.
In fact, it extends just beyond feeling blue once in a while. We now know there is a direct connection between the microbiome and autism, as well as other mental and behavioral health disorders.
When it comes to autism, researchers found that those with the disease have a smaller amount of Bacteroides fragilis. When they increased the level in mice that had a lower amount of this beneficial gut bacteria, the mice demonstrated less repetitive actions, communicated more with other mice and were less anxious.
While we’re not exactly sure how the gut and brain are connected, we do know gut bacteria produce a chemical called 4-ethylphenylsulphate (4EPS). Mice showing signs of autism had blood levels of the chemical that were 40 times higher than other mice. For mice with normal levels, they developed symptoms mirroring autism when they were injected with 4EPS.
In addition to the chemicals the bad gut bacteria produce, two strains of bacteria — lactobacillus and bifidobacterium — have shown to help control anxiety-like behavior in mice.
Human Studies Have Shown Similar Results
While the studies have been mainly limited to mice, there have been a few promising human studies as well. In one, subjects ingested galactooligosaccharide (GOS), which fertilizes lactobacillus and bifidobacterium — the two strains that were responsible for improving anxiety-like behavior in mice. Others in the study had a placebo. For the subjects who ingested GOS, they showed lower levels of cortisol, a key stress hormone, as well as lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Another study involved half the subjects eating a cup of yogurt twice a day. The yogurt, which is commercially available, contains bifidobacterium, lactobacillus, lactococcus and streptococcus. Prior to and after the study, the subjects were shown a series of facial expressions, and their brains were scanned for their responses to the images. After 12 weeks of eating the yogurt, the subjects were calmer when shown the images than the control group.
Somehow, the good bacteria created compounds that modified brain chemistry for the better.
How Do Good Bacteria Improve Mental Well-Being?
The scientific community is still trying to answer the question of how good gut bacteria can improve mood, thinking and mental health disorders, but they have a few ideas. They believe it is a combination of:
- Neurotransmitters — We know beneficial bacteria produce neurotransmitters including GABA, serotonin and dopamine, which improve mood.
- Metabolizing the neurotransmitters — Some good gut bacteria help improve how the body metabolizes these mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.
- Neuroactive chemicals — Beneficial bacteria in the gut also produce other chemicals that cause good changes in the brain, such as butyrate, which has shown to improve anxiety and depression.
- The vagus nerve — The line that transfers signals between the brain and the gut, called the vagus nerve, can be activated by good gut bacteria.
- The immune system — The immune system, in addition to keeping us healthy, also influences behavior and mood. The microbiome is connected to the performance of the immune system. When you have a good bacteria balance in your gut, you have a better-functioning immune system.
An Easy Way to Improve Your Mental Health
Growing your good bacteria is easy with Prebiotin. Prebiotin contains prebiotic fibers, which are fertilizers for good gut bacteria. What makes Prebiotin unique, is that it contains both oligofructose and inulin.
Together they stimulate the good bacteria throughout the entire colon. That’s why Prebiotin is a full-spectrum prebiotic.
Simply sprinkle this low-calorie, all-natural powder on your food or drink, to encourage the mood-boosting, beneficial bacteria to outnumber the unhealthy ones. You may enjoy a range of health benefits, including fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress and other mental-health disorders.