Dr. Kassam Probiotics and Mood Support

Probiotics & Mood Support

     Statistics Canada estimates that 1 in 5 Canadians lives with a mental illness, affecting people of all ages, genders, and cultures. With mental health being such a huge part of one’s overall health and wellness, finding ways to support it has become a priority. The Gut-Brain Connection is a hot research topic when it comes to optimizing mental health. CRAZY isn’t it? To even think that our body has so many wonderful mechanisms in place to make sure we are all functioning at our best!

Let’s take a closer look at how the brain and gut communicate and how we can optimize their connection. Information is sent between the brain and gut through the Vagus nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body. So, if one is not functioning well, it can impact the other. They can talk to each other in a couple of different ways:

  1. The gut is often referred to as our “second brain”. This is because the bacteria in our gut produce many of the same hormones that our brain does, like Serotonin (makes you feel happy) and GABA (makes you feel calm and relaxed).  In fact, about 90% of our serotonin is made in our gut. 
  2. Inflammation in the gut can lead to the walls of the gut becoming leaky. This allows toxins to enter our circulation and reach the brain, which can affect mental health.
  3. When the brain is under immediate stress it sends signals to the gut. This is why a stressful situation and/or anxiety can often trigger an upset stomach and other digestive issues. On the flip side, GI issues like constipation or IBS can trigger mental health conditions as well.

Now the hope is, if we can optimize the gut environment we can influence that gut-brain connection and ultimately manage mental health illnesses.  There is lots of research looking at the impact of diet and increasing specific vitamins and minerals on mental health. Making sure to incorporate enough fiber, protein and healthy fats in the diet can help to provide the body with what it needs to carry out its daily functions. While a healthy microbiome can contribute to a good mood, an unhealthy one that is full of Candida (yeast) can contribute to mental health conditions. We know that certain comfort foods like; ice cream can make us feel good in the moment. This is completely behavioural. In fact, these foods only make it harder on our GI tract to do their job of making the right hormones. There is also research that probiotics may boost mood and cognitive function while lowering stress and anxiety.1

 

Probiotics are able to improve mental health in a couple of ways:

  • Reduces inflammation & reduces the ability of toxins to leak into the bloodstream
  • Positive changes in the gut microbiota can help in the production of Serotonin and GABA, our "feel good" hormones
  • Specifically, the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species have been shown to affect the gut-brain connection. Below are some examples2:
    • Lactobacillus Rhamnosus & Lactobacillus Casei – Can lower stress-induced anxiety and improve GABA function
    • Lactobacillus Plantarum - Shown to increase serotonin - “ the happy hormone”
    • Bifidobacterium Longum – Can reduce cortisol levels
  • Finding a probiotic supplement that contains one or more of the above-listed species can be helpful in various mental health conditions. In some cases, it is important to find a probiotic supplement that does not contain FOS or inulin (prebiotic) as these indigestible carbohydrates can lead to increased bloating or digestive upset, especially in IBS patients
  • The probiotic dosage used to support mental health conditions range from 6.5-24 billion CFU and remember to always take probiotics with food!

 

So the moral of the story is the brain and the gut to talk to each other! Several studies show evidence for reduced feelings of anxiety and depression after supplementing with probiotics, thus confirming the link between the digestive tract and the brain1,2. A daily good quality probiotic can help to replenish your gut with the bacteria it needs to thrive so it can carry out its daily actions. Probiotics can do more than just improve our gut, vaginal and urinary health, they can also enhance brain health!

 

 

 

References:

  1. Wallace, C. & Milev R. (2017). The effects of probiotics on depressive symptoms in humans: a systematic review. Ann Gen Psychiatry. 16:14.
  2. Clapp, M. (2017). Gut microbiota on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clin Pract. 15;7(4): 987.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician. 

 

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