How Probiotics Can Help Boost Mental Health

June 02, 2020

How Probiotics Can Help Boost Mental Health

Your body is full of both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics (the good guys!) have seen a recent rise in popularity, and for good reason. Probiotics are live microorganisms that you can consume through fermented food like yogurt, kimchi and miso. Various studies have proven that probiotics promote a healthy gut, which can support weight loss, good digestive health and an efficient immune system. We think of them as teeny-tiny, real-life superheroes. Read on to learn more about the many health benefits of probiotics!

Probiotics are not only good for your body, but they have a major impact on your mental wellbeing. A Baltimore Sheppard Pratt Health System study found that probiotic supplements may ease the symptoms of bipolar disorders, which are tied to inflammation of the gut. Probiotics decrease inflammation and therefore ease bipolar symptoms. Previous studies have explored the relationship between a healthy gut and a healthy mind. Experts named this relationship the “gut-brain axis”. Recent evidence also shows that microbial imbalances in the gut can lead to autoimmune disorders, allergies and psychiatric mood disorders. Little bacteria, huge effect!

In Men's Health, Dr. Emeran Mayer shares his discoveries from his residency at the digestive division at Mass General Hospital in Boston in 1973. He found that changes in gut bacteria levels actually alter the immune system, nervous system and mind. Mayer describes that “Your gut also talks to your brain via hormones that are stored in specialized gut cells, immune molecules, and nerve signals”. Psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor Glenn Treisman also noted how an abundance of healthy gut bacteria can help produce serotonin and dopamine, which both play an important role in mood regulation. You’ve heard of ‘feel-good food’, but how about feel-good bacteria?! Game changer.

Medical experts are now exploring the possibility of prescribing prebiotic and probiotic supplements. Prebiotics are special forms of fiber that your good-guy gut microbes feed on. They are necessary ingredients for your body to be able to produce its own healthy bacteria. We are learning more and more about the power of the symbiotic prebiotic-probiotic relationship. Although we are still learning, experts are already seeing amazing results. Once a direct link is found between certain strains of bacteria and mental health concerns, doctors may be able to prescribe specialized microbiomes to patients.

Aside from helping with mood disorders, probiotics also have the potential to improve cognitive skills. 
APC Microbiome Institute researchers found that feeding certain bacteria at least once a day for 11 weeks could improve a person’s ability to learn, memorize, process information and react to events. This type of research could vastly expand our understanding of the human brain. Institutes are investing heavily to study this in greater depth. Maryville University’s breakdown of how psychology applies to real world situations details how psychologists found a correlation between mental health and learning. If probiotics can indeed improve one’s mental health and learning abilities, then they will likely be used instead of other harsher prescription options. This could have a positive impact on those who struggle in their early years of education.

A healthy gut can also help regulate your weight. Certain probiotics can inhibit the absorption of dietary fat. 
Healthline notes that probiotics can also affect the hormones related to appetite and fat storage, helping you lose weight and belly fat over a period of time. Additionally, this could help those who gained weight due to depression. Probiotics can improve how your body absorbs protein and other nutrients. 

The best way to ensure that your gut is balanced is to consume food sources that are high in probiotic content. Try adding yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and kimchi to your diet to increase your intake of healthy bacteria. To increase your intake of prebiotic fiber, try adding garlic, onion, leeks, asparagus and bananas to your diet. This will ensure that the probiotics in your gut are fed so that they can flourish.  
Earnest Eats Protein + Probiotic Oatmeal has 15+ grams of protein and 1 billion CFU probiotics in each serving. It can easily incorporated into your breakfast instead of regular oats! Adding hot water to the oatmeal during cooking activates the probiotics so that they may be absorbed in your gut. Along with the other benefits we have discussed, probiotics also help your body absorb more protein during digestion! Start your day by being kind to your tummy AND your muscles! Your body will surely thank you.

Probiotics are beneficial to many aspects of your health. Yay for bacteria! If you create a healthy gut environment, you can absorb more vitamins and protein, digest food easier, feel more regular and sustain your mental wellbeing. So why not start adding probiotics to your diet today?


Article written for

By Hannah Therese