Scientists have found the gut and the mind are linked, and that we can become more focused, less anxious and happier by taking probiotic supplements.
That seems pretty surprising on the surface, but if you understand why looking after the gut helps to look after the mind too then it becomes a powerful way of becoming more productive and generally feeling better.
Here, Built for Athletes explains how probiotics impact the brain and some practical steps you can take to start benefiting from the connection.
The Vagus Nerve Connects Your Brain To Your Gut
The vagus nerve is a long nerve that runs from the brainstem all the way down into the gut. Scientists have long observed that the brain sends signals down the vagus nerve and that things like stress can have an impact on the digestive system.
They also have observed that signals are sent in both directions and that when we have a good balance of bacteria in our guts, people tend to be calmer and happier.
One reason for this could be that an imbalanced gut with a small diversity of good bacteria can cause an immune response which results in increased inflammation. Inflammation has been shown to contribute to depression.
Research Shows Probiotics Can Help Adults With Anxiety Or Depression
A review published last year looked at 71 studies that examined the link between probiotics and adults suffering from anxiety and depression.
All of the studies that matched their criteria found taking probiotics or prebiotics (specialised plant fibres that act as food for good bacteria) resulted in improvements compared to no treatment or taking a placebo.
How To Look After Your Gut Health
Simply picking up a probiotic supplement that can be taken in tablet or capsule form may be the easiest way to improve your get health. Try to look for probiotics that have the highest number of strains of bacteria because diversity is key.
You can also add prebiotics to your diet to nurture these bacteria in the gut. Foods like garlic, mushroom, onions and berries all contain prebiotic fibres.