Probiotics are most well known for their use as a digestive health nutrient. They help balance the good and bad bacteria in the gut which dictate the effectiveness of your bowel movements. They also help eliminate uncomfortable gas, bloating and constipation by keeping everything moving along.
In addition to this all too important function, probiotics also have been showing a lot of promise as a natural antidepressant. Multiple studies have shown a link between those with healthy levels of the probiotics “the good flora” and mental health recently, prompting further interest in the link between these organisms and mood function.
One such theory hypothesizes that major depressive disorder has much more of a connection to nutrition than we originally thought. It theorizes that the enhanced ability of the digestive tract to absorb nutrients when probiotics are taken contributes to healthy mental function.
Stress actually lowers the healthy probiotic flora called lactobacilli and bifidobacterium, which inhibits the absorption of nutrients capable of elevating mood and regulating the facilities which alleviate stress and anxiety. At the very least, this means that probiotics have an indirect effect on mood.
Eating yogurt with active cultures reduces pain and emotional response triggers
Another intriguing study shows that those who eat active culture yogurt daily exhibited a reduced reaction in the areas of the brain the control the senses of pain and strong emotion. At the same time, the areas that govern decision making were exhibiting an enhanced level of activity.
This makes for a much more even mood, better feelings of control over one’s life and also for more of a sense of calm and well-being. Researchers have made the link that bacteria in the gut actually has the ability to communicate with several areas of the brain, which may explain why those who have beefed up on probiotics enjoy better overall mental health.
Not suprisingly, these same studies showed that the typical western diet full of processed foods, fat, sugar and salt, do not promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Rather, this type of diet actually promotes the growth of bacteria which are destructive to digestive health.
People who eat food high in natural probiotics such as yogurt and fermented foods may also tend to eat a healthier diet in general, which delivers a double benefit to your digestive health. The specific strains of probiotics found in yogurt actually may have more of an effect on emotional balance, mood and focus when they are eaten over time. So if you haven’t jumped on the yogurt bandwagon yet, now may be the time to do so.
This explains why a healthy diet means a healthy mental state. It also explains why we tend to feel so much better when we are eating a healthy, plant based diet versus a processed diet full of these other flora-unfriendly foods.
Researchers also noted that this whole theory of a healthy flora balance promoting mental health helps to explain why people tend to start feeling bad emotionally when they are eating improperly. It really does add a whole new level to the meaning of the “mind-body connection”.
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<b>Sources for this article include:</b> http://www.medical-hypotheses.com/article/S0306-9877(04)00496-7/abstract