Effects of Probiotics On Your Mood and Cognitive function

Probiotics have been used traditionally to improve gut health. Probiotics are a special type of bacteria which have been shown to positively impact your health and wellbeing by improving the health of your gut.

New research completed by Harvard Medical School demonstrates an important link between probiotics, better gut health and improved mood and cognitive function.

Gut – Brain Connection

The relationship between your gut and brain is called the gut-brain axis.  The two are linked via the biochemical signalling between the nervous system in your digestive tract (known as the enteric nervous system) and your central nervous system which includes your brain.

Information between your gut and brain is predominantly connected via the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in your body.

The gut is now being referred to as the ‘second brain’.  This is because your gut produces the same neurotransmitters as your brain.

Image Source; Harvard Health

Some of these neurotransmitters include serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, all of which play a key role in regulating your mood.

It is estimated that 90% of serotonin produced in your body is in fact produced in your gut.    As such, your gut has a major influence on your brain.

Consider a situation which brings on a high level of stress.  Your ‘fight or flight’ response is triggered via your brain’s perception of danger.  With this stressful event you might also experience digestive problems or an upset stomach.

Conversely episodes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease have been shown to trigger depression and anxiety.

Probiotics Research Studies

In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology, a group of women were given a yogurt mixed with probiotics twice daily over a four-week period.

The study showed the women given probiotics demonstrated lower activity in the insula when shown images of angry and frightened faces (compared with the control subjects).  The insula is the part of the brain that processes internal body sensations like those emanating from the gut.

The brain -gut link has been well established in the scientific literature.  In practice the medical community have been slow to apply these principles by making limited recommendations for patients to change their nutritional intake when addressing brain related symptoms of ill-health.

These brain related symptoms include the more complex illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease; to the less severe but debilitating symptoms of ‘foggy brain’ and poor mood states.

Our Exercise Physiologists at Inspire Fitness take a holistic approach to working with your health.  Strategies to improve your gut health are vital to ensure we change your health at its foundation – your gut!