A common statistic that most people aren’t aware of is the fact, they have two “brain” sources. If you’ve followed your “gut feeling” in making a decision or developed “butterflies in your stomach” whenever you spoke to your crush, then chances are your body was responding to signals from an unexpected source, your second brain.
There’s a little “brain in your gut” that’s hiding in the walls of your digestive system. Scientist call this brain the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS contains more than two fragile layers with more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract. But the truly fascinating thing is how knowledge of the ENS is starting to revolutionize modern medicine. Scientists have discovered that there’s a link between digestion (gut health) and your emotional health (brain health).
The Brain & Gut Connection
A healthy gut impacts your overall health and mental function positively. Hundreds of types of bacteria reside within your intestinal tract, and these bacteria are essential to good health. Stress, the foods we eat, and antibiotics we take can influence the critical balance between the “good” and the “bad” bacteria in your gut. Recent discoveries have also shown that it also affects your brain.
If you’re not as energetic, healthy, or mentally balanced as you normally would, chances are the situation going on in your gut is to blame. Whenever there’s an imbalance in the probiotics in your gut, it can adversely affect your moods and overall mental health.
Probiotics – What Are They?
The word probiotic was derived from the Latin word pro which means for, and the Greek word “biotic” that means life. Probiotics – as defined by the World Health Organization – refers to live microorganisms that provide a health benefit on the host when given in adequate amounts. Probiotics can come in the form of a supplement or as food that contains beneficial bacteria.
The typical healthy gut should contain approximately 85% good bacteria to 15% bad bacteria. When this ratio is out of balance, it results in a condition called dysbiosis. Eating foods rich in probiotics together with probiotic supplements can help restore this balance.
Modern Lifestyle Patterns That Destroy Good Bacteria
One of the leading causes of dysbioses is the use of antibiotics. They kill indiscriminately, reducing both the good together with the bad bacteria. Avoiding antibiotics entirely is sadly not possible since a good number of livestock are raised with antibiotics.
Additionally, manure from this livestock gets into the soil and from there to the plants we eat. Other factors that lead to the destruction of good bacteria include sugar, poor diet, stress, parasites, chlorinated tap water, and the widespread application of hand sanitizers and antibacterial soap.
How Probiotics Help to Protect the Brain
As weird as this may sound, the brain in your head isn’t the only brain you have. Your intestine houses a second brain containing over 100,000 neurons. This “second brain” is sometimes called the “backup brain.” The bacteria in your gut has the responsibility of making over 30 neurotransmitters including the molecule serotonin that generates happiness.
Studies have shown that a dysfunctional micro biome can be a leading cause of several brain related conditions like anxiety, autism, depression, memory loss, ADHD, concentration problems, carvings and much more. Probiotics protect your brain health in several ways. One of those ways is by producing antioxidants that protect brain cells from damage caused by free radicals. They also reduce cytokines (a chemical linked to mood disorder, anxiety and depression) and keep lipopolysaccharides in check.
Benefits of Probiotics
It is important that you keep your micro flora levels balanced at all times to enhance your overall health. Healthy levels of probiotics are, of course, necessary for improving gut health, but more important is the benefit to your mood health and the brain. You can promote a healthier micro biome by eating fermented foods and minimizing the lifestyle that destroys good bacteria.