In this day and age, our overall well-being extends beyond physical health. It is also about mental health. In fact, our mental and physical health are inextricably linked. A mind clogged with anxiety, stress, or fatigue will struggle to maintain a healthy body. Physical health issues, particularly digestive issues, have the potential to increase the risk of developing mental health disorders.
Role of probiotics in mental health
Our bodies, the digestive system specifically, produce probiotics. A healthy gut contains a high concentration of probiotics, which aids the body’s digestive function along with boosting immunity. Check out 7 probiotics for gut health!
An imbalance in the same often referred to as gut dysbiosis, can cause a variety of health problems, including mental health. Several studies have linked the potential benefits of probiotics to mental health as well.
The use of probiotics for mental health is known as psychobiotics. It aims to help treat a variety of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. When a body is stressed, it has a tendency to affect other parts of the body as well, putting a lot of pressure on muscles and the brain.
Understanding the connection with gut and brain
According to experts, there is a connection between the gut and the brain, also known as the gut-brain axis (GBA). It is the link that connects our brain, spinal cord and nervous system to the gastrointestinal tract in our body. It is believed that our gut influences brain activity, thus our mood.
The Vagus nerve, the main nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system, is connected with the brain and is responsible for heart rate, digestion, immune function, and mood swings. Probiotics and other microorganisms present in our digestive system or the gut act by producing and expressing neurotransmitters, chemical messengers our body cannot function without. These neurotransmitters are critical to mental health and influence our sleep patterns, moods, and appetite. They also help reduce inflammation in our body, minimizing symptoms of depression while also influencing cognitive function and stress response.
Probiotics to include in your diet
There are two most common types of probiotics, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. They are present in different parts of the body, with multiple strains or types under them. Therefore, they function differently. Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 promotes regularity and relieves constipation, whereas Lactobacillus rhamnosus regulates neurotransmitters in the brain, which can reduce stress-related symptoms.
It is advisable to choose a probiotic that can target the condition one is attempting to treat. Probiotic supplements and fermented foods rich in probiotics, such as yoghurt, cheese, tempeh, kimchi, pickled vegetables, miso, sauerkraut, among others are excellent ways to include probiotics in one’s diet.
Without a doubt, including probiotics in our diet has several health benefits that extend beyond physical health. The studies so far have been encouraging, and it is expected that psychobiotics will play a larger role in our overall health, not just mental health, in the coming years.