17 Feb Probiotic and Brain Health, Why Fermented Foods Makes Us Feel So Good!
We have all heard about how probiotics help with immunity and digestion. And most of us remember our first time trying a quality fermented food, that first spoonful of delicious live-culture kraut, or first swig of a gourmet kombucha, and the immediate feeling of “WOW! I feel great!” that followed. Why do we feel so good when we eat quality fermented foods? Well, science has been busy lately proving the connection between our mood and our microbes, the connection between our brains and our bacteria.
Growing Our Internal Microbe Garden
Our bodies are like coral, an assemblage of life forms all living together. As adults we all carry around two to five pounds of bacteria, ten times more microbial cells than human cells, also known as our “microbiota”. Since we are the homes for these microbes, wether or not we know or care we are the owners of our “microbiome”, defined as our microorganisms, the genomes they contain, and the interactions between these microbes and our human physiology.
Most of these bacteria live in our gut, which is also home to our second brain, the enteric nervous system. “What, we have a second brain?” you may ask? Yes we do, and it turns out that the enteric brain and the microbes it interacts with may be the ones really running most of the show when it comes to our mood and dietary choices.
Our second brain, which is home to our “gut” feelings, operates separately from our primary brain. It consists hundreds of millions of neurons contained in our intestines that are intricately connected to our mood and our microbes; the integrating center of our entire central nervous system. Science is now showing the type of microbes you contain -or do not contain- may be influencing the way you process stress and emotions and can be the difference between an even-keeled calm, happy, and centered mood, and one of depression, anxiety, and hyper-reactivity.
Our internal microbe garden contains thousands of microbe species, and new research indicates the right combinations can affect our mental health. Previous studies have revealed that in mice, changes in gut microbe colonies appear to ease feelings of anxiousness and help control the levels of cortisol -a potent stress hormone related to inflammation- from coursing through the body. In general, the more cortisol you have, the more stressed out and unhealthy you are. Conversely, the less cortisol we produce, the more human growth hormone we produce, the “anti-aging/good mood” hormone attributed to longevity and disease-free living. New human studies are being conducted all over the world that are showing the connection between probiotics and increased ability to handle stress and retain a good mood.
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