Can Probiotics Improve Your Mood?
With the vast array of yogurt commercials, celebrity endorsements, and health-market hype, most people are generally aware that probiotics are digestion-boosting powerhouses. But did you know that probiotics also might be able to turn your frown upside-down by improving your mood?
Emerging research in this area suggests that probiotics have the ability to improve mood and mental wellbeing by boosting the overall health of the gut. To understand how probiotics make the jump from the digestive tract to the brain, let’s take a step back to where it all begins – the gut.
Superheroes of Gut Health
Probiotics are microorganisms contained in food or supplements that, when ingested, take up residence in the digestive system. These probiotic microorganisms are typically bacteria. While we often associate bacteria with negative health implications, our bodies actually rely on a number of different types of healthy bacteria to function properly.
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that live in our guts and support our digestive and immune health. They function by targeting our microbiome – the community of bacteria in our guts – to make sure that we are properly digesting the food we eat, fighting off “bad” bacteria, and absorbing nutrients. In essence, we can think of probiotics as the health-boosting superheroes of the gut.
How the Gut and the Brain Connect
Since probiotics live in the gut, their digestive and immune benefits are easy to study and understand. But how is it that probiotics can actually boost our moods and benefit our mental health? Well, it all starts with connection between the gut and the brain.
A multitude of studies have found that the digestive system and the brain are connected through what is termed the “gut-brain axis.” Through this axis, the brain and the gut are able to send messages back and forth by passing them through the vagus nerve. And, believe it or not, the gut has a lot to say to the brain about how you should feel emotionally, based on the status of the gut itself.
In fact, our digestive tracts are the second largest part of our neurological system. Like the brain, the gut produces a number of neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, which are all important factors in mental health and mood. You may be surprised to learn that, of the serotonin created in our bodies, 95% is produced in the gut. This has major implications for the way that our gut’s health interacts and affects our mental health and the way our brain functions.
Boost Your Mental Wellbeing
As evidence continues to build regarding this powerful intestinal-neuro highway known as the gut-brain axis, we are beginning to understand how probiotics fit into the equation and the tremendous benefit they can have to our mental wellbeing.
Many researchers have found that by introducing probiotics to the digestive system, and thereby improving the overall health and balance of bacteria in the gut, we can experience improvements in mood and mental health through the gut-brain axis connection. In other words, probiotics lead to a healthy gut, and a healthy gut equals a healthy mind.
Another reason that probiotics benefit our mental health is through their ability to lower inflammation. Studies have shown that chronic inflammation can lead to a multitude of health problems, including depression and other cognitive disorders. Probiotics reduce inflammation by boosting the body’s immune response and by destroying unwanted, inflammation-causing bacteria in the gut. Thus, by reducing inflammation, probiotics may be able to provide some relief to those who suffer from depression or other cognitive disorders.
Show Me the Studies
Multiple studies have shown how probiotics can benefit our mental health.
In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers gave test subjects a probiotic that contained the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains. After 30 days, the researchers found that the test subjects who took the probiotic had lower levels of depression, anger, hostility and anxiety than the individuals who did not receive the probiotic supplement. The researchers concluded that “oral intake of probiotics may have beneficial consequences on mood and psychological distress.”
In another study, published in the Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers conducted various tests on women who ate probiotic yogurt twice a day over a four-week period against a control group. The researchers found that, when exposed to images of angry and frightened faces, the individuals who had been regularly taking probiotics were calmer than those in the control group.
In a 2015 study published in the pier-reviewed journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, researchers concluded that “intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood.” In the study, researchers provided test-subjects with a multispecies probiotic supplement over a four-week period. At the end of the test period, researchers found that the four-week probiotic supplement reduced self-reported cognitive reactivity to sad mood.
These tests provide a glimpse into the potential impact that probiotics may have on our mental health and wellbeing. Although research is still ongoing, the case is continuing to build for probiotics as a solution, not just for the gut, but for the brain too.
How to Obtain these Mood-Boosting Benefits
Probiotics can be found in a number of fermented and cultured foods, including yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and miso. However, because many modern-day foods have lost their probiotic-boosting benefits as a result of refrigeration and sanitation practices, many nutritionists recommend taking a probiotic supplement to ensure that you are getting the right amount, and the right type, of probiotics.
It is important to understand that there are different strains and types of probiotics, and that each type serves a different function. When searching for a probiotic supplement that will improve your mood and mental wellbeing, you should look for a broad spectrum supplement that contains multiple species of probiotics, including those that have been found to provide mood-boosting benefits. Probiotic strains that have been tested and found to improve mental wellbeing include: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Bifidobacterium infantis.
AMRAP Nutrition offers a probiotic supplement that contains an all-natural blend of 12 potent probiotic strains, including those listed above. Each AMRAP Nutrition Probiotics capsule is formulated to provide five billion colony forming units (CFUs) and is time-released to ensure that these live microorganisms are not released until they reach your intestinal tract.