The Key to Happiness Could be Inside Your Gut
Latest findings suggest Psychobiotics, the mind-altering probiotics can make you happy, help you sleep better and ease your stress.
Psychobiotics refer to friendly gut bacteria that can alter your mood, sleep, and may play a role in mental illnesses.
It is increasingly becoming clear that probiotics offer a myriad of health benefits to the recipients. These include better digestion, competent immune function, reduced inflammation and the list goes on.
Of recently, studies have attempted to look at the role of probiotics in mental health. Interestingly, many studies have found that the gut-brain connection is real. That being said, the friendly bacteria in your gut can influence your mood and stress can alter the balance of bacteria in the gut.
Read this article to learn how psychobiotics work to promote mental well-being and what are its best sources.
How Mental Illness is Wreaking Havoc on Americans and How Psychobiotics Can Help
Unfortunately, US mental health stats are scary, at least when you consider the number of Americans living with mental illnesses.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 1 in 5 adults in the US—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. Likewise, nearly 50 percent of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. Depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia are the most common mental illnesses that cripple the lives of millions of Americans.
In a very recent study, scientists found that patients who took a cocktail of friendly bacteria Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum had lower levels of stress hormone cortisol in the blood. There is a well-known link between chronic high levels of cortisol and depression and other mood disorders.
3 Ways Psychobiotics Work to Enhance Mental Health
Yes, I repeat the gut-brain connection is real. In fact, this has been proven by numerous studies. This unique connection holds the key to mental well-being and luckily you can alter this connection by taking right psychobiotic supplements.
Given below are 3 ways how psychobiotics can help you attain an optimal mental well-being.
- Psychobiotics alter brain chemicals that regulate mood, memory, and sleep. For an optimal mental function, the brain cells need to communicate with each other effectively. This cell-to-cell communication in the brain is facilitated by a number of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), acetylcholine, serotonin, noradrenaline, and glutamate are some common neurotransmitters. High or low levels of neurotransmitters negatively impact your memory, mood, behavior and stress response. For this reason, an imbalance in neurotransmitter levels has been linked to mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Numerous studies have shown that patients who took probiotics had an optimal level of neurotransmitters in the brain. Interestingly, other studies show that probiotics can reduce symptoms of stress and depression.
- Psychobiotics “switch on” your body’s own happiness machine. Did you know you create your own happiness? Your body has a complex system of mood-enhancing and stress-lowering chemicals. This is known as endocannabinoid system (ECS). One of the indispensable parts of ECS is a chemical known as anandamide. This cannabis-like chemical gives you euphoric feelings. No wonder, why some people call it “bliss molecule”. However, to show its effect on your mood, anandamide first needs to bind with specific sites in the brain called endocannabinoid receptors. Researchers have found that psychobiotics can significantly increase the number of these receptors. As a result, you can feel relaxed and cool in stressful situations.
- Psychobiotics produce mood-enhancing chemicals. A 2014 study suggests that psychobiotics can actually produce neurotransmitters. This study was published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. During the study, scientists found that the “friendly” bacteria in the gut produced several key neurotransmitters. For example, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin, catecholamines, and acetylcholine. These mind-altering molecules in the gut can signal the brain to alter mood, behavior and mental function.
Know the Best Sources of Psychobiotics
Experts suggest taking foods like yogurt and sauerkraut can provide an effective dose of psychobiotics. If you think you need a supplement, make sure to choose high-quality products that contain most of the beneficial types of bacteria.
The Bottom Line
Psychobiotics are a great way to enhance your mental well-being as well as reduce the risk of mental illnesses. In fact, numerous studies, both in animal and human models, have shown promising results.
Thus, psychobiotics are an innovative approach to treating or even preventing common mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. At a time when conventional treatments for mental illnesses are showing subpar results in many patients, psychobiotics are surely something to cherish. Moreover, psychobiotics are convenient to take and cause fewer side effects than the mainstream medications.
However, never replace prescribed medications with psychobiotics. Doing so can worsen your condition. Always consult your doctor before taking supplements.
Want to Know More?
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- Zhou, L and Foster, JA. “Psychobiotics and the gut–brain axis: in the pursuit of happiness”. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2015; 11: 715–723.
- Sarkar, A., et al. “Psychobiotics and the Manipulation of Bacteria–Gut–Brain Signals”. Trends in Neurosciences. 2016 Nov; 39(11): 763–781.
- Cell Press. “The current state of psychobiotics.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2016.
- Gnanavel, S. “Psychobiotics: The Latest Psychotropics”. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. 2015 Jan-Mar; 37(1): 110.
- Wall, R., et al. “Bacterial neuroactive compounds produced by psychobiotics.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 2014;817:221-39.