Have you ever had a “gut feeling” about something? It turns out that the connection between the gut and the brain goes beyond just intuition. Research has shown that the health of our gut can affect our mental well-being.
The gut and brain are connected by the enteric nervous system, which is sometimes referred to as the “second brain.” This complex system of nerves and neurotransmitters controls the gastrointestinal tract and sends signals to the brain. This means that changes in the gut can affect the brain, and vice versa.
One way that the gut can influence mental health is through the microbiome, which is the collection of microorganisms that live in our gut. Studies have shown that an imbalance in the gut microbiome, known as dysbiosis, is linked to conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress.
Researchers have found that certain strains of bacteria can have a positive impact on mental health. For example, a study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that supplementing with galacto oligosaccharides, a type of prebiotic that promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, reduced anxiety and depression-like behaviors in mice.
Probiotics, which are live microorganisms that can provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts, have also been found to have a positive effect on mental health. A study published in the journal Neurogastroenterology & Motility found that a strain of probiotic called Lactobacillus casei Shirota reduced symptoms of stress and anxiety in both humans and animals.
In addition to probiotics and prebiotics, dietary changes can also have an impact on the gut-brain connection. A study published in BMC Medicine found that following a Mediterranean-style diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, reduced the risk of depression.
On the other hand, a diet high in sugar has been linked to an increased risk of depression. A study published in Scientific Reports found that participants who consumed more sugar from sweet foods and beverages were more likely to develop common mental disorders.
The gut-brain connection is a complex and evolving field of research, but there is no denying that the health of our gut can impact our mental well-being. By prioritizing gut health through diet and supplementation, we may be able to improve our mental health and overall quality of life.
- Foster, J. A., & McVey Neufeld, K. A. (2013). Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in neurosciences, 36(5), 305-312.
- Yang, H., Zhao, X., Tang, S., Huang, H., Zhao, X., Ning, Z., … & Zhang, H. (2018). Galactooligosaccharides alleviate stress-induced anxiety and depression-like behaviors via gut microbiota-mediated pathways. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 73, 7-24.
- Messaoudi, M., Lalonde, R., Violle, N., Javelot, H., Desor, D., Nejdi, A., … & Cazaubiel, M. (2011). Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects. British Journal of Nutrition, 105(5), 755-764.
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