We have all heard the saying, “use your gut instinct”, right? Well, there may well be much truth behind this adage! I didn’t used to believe in the power of probiotics and their connection with our 2 brains, but now I am convinced.
Previous research has shown a definite connection between the belly and the brain and even newer studies have suggested that the food we eat and the bacteria residing within our gut may be powerful enough to alter our behavior. (1) According to the main author and associate professor of Medicine at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine, Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, “Our findings indicate that some of the contents of yogurt may actually change the way our brain responds to the environment. When we consider the implications of this work, the old sayings, ‘You are what you eat’ and ‘gut feelings’ take on new meaning.”
Wow, now that’s intriguing! Let’s take a deeper look…
(2) The study involved 36 women between the ages of 18 and 55. Researchers divided the women into three groups: one group ate a specific yogurt containing a mix of several probiotics – bacteria thought to have a positive effect on the intestines – twice a day for four weeks; another group consumed a dairy product that looked and tasted like the yogurt but contained no probiotics; and a third group that ate no product at all.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging ( fMRI) scans performed before and after the four-week study period evaluated the women’s brains in a state of rest and in response to an emotion-recognition task in which they viewed a series of pictures of people with angry or frightened faces and matched them to other faces showing the same emotions. Researchers found that those women who did eat the probiotic yogurt showed decrease in activity in certain areas of the brain ( the insula and somato-sensory cortex) which processes and integrates internal body sensations, like those from the gut.
According to senior author, Dr. Emeran Mayer, “There are studies showing that what we eat can alter the composition and products of the gut flora – in particular, that people with high-vegetable diets have a different composition of their microbiota, or gut environments, than people who eat the more typical Western diet high in fat and carbohydrates. Now we know that this has an effect not only on the metabolism but also affects brain function.
Did you know that we have two nervous systems?
1) Central nervous system : composed of brain and spinal cord
2) Enteric (gastro-intestinal) nervous systems – the nervous system in our gut.
Interestingly, for those embryology aficionados in the group reading this, these two systems are created from the same identical tissue during fetal development – one becomes your central nervous system while the other develops into your enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain-stem down to your abdomen. Many studies have shown that the vagus nerve is the primary route that your gut uses to transmit information to your brain.
It is a two-way street!
Did you know that the gastrointestinal tract sends far more information to your brain than your brain to your gut?
How many of you have experienced butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous? Or upset stomach when you were angry or stressed? Well, the flip side is also true. Problems in your gut can directly impact your mental health, leading to such conditions as anxiety and depression.
Do we need more evidence that processed foods are harmful to our brains and our guts?
I don’t think so. As I do more and more research into this connection, it is becoming increasingly evident that our gut bacteria are both vulnerable to our diets and our lifestyle. If we eat a lot of sugar, refined grains, and genetically modified foods ( usually loaded with high fructose corn syrup), our gut bacteria will be compromised because processed foods destroy healthy microflora and feed the bad bacteria and yeast.
3 Ways to Optimize Our Gut Flora
1) Avoid processed, refined foods in your diet. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
2) Eat traditionally fermented, unpasteurized foods – the beneficial bacteria in fermented foods are excellent chelators of heavy metals and pesticides which reduce our toxic load.
- Examples: Yogurts, sour cream, beer, vanilla, vinegar, bread, kombucha, cheese, coffee.
3) Take a high quality probiotic supplement: if you do not eat fermented foods on a regular basis or take anti-biotics on a routine basis, taking a probiotic supplement will help maintain healthy gut flora.
My two favorites are:
Orenda Eaze– Orenda EazeTM is a blend of 31 of the most advanced and comprehensive digestive enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotics on the market today. The digestive enzymes in Orenda EazeTM can support nutrient absorption, energy, and overall health, while the probiotics and prebiotics support and encourage healthy bacteria in the lower digestive system. Orenda EazeTM brings all of these components together to ease occasional digestive discomfort and encourage natural, healthy digestion. To learn more about Orenda Eaze TM, click here.
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Ortho Molecular: Ortho Biotic Capsules– Includes Saccharomyces boulardii. Ortho Biotic is formulated with Saccharomyces boulardii, a potentiator for good gastrointestinal microflora. This action enables an effective probiotic presence, encouraging a healthy environment for vitamin uptake and immune support.
For more information regarding Gut Microbes and your health, please read Dr. Joe Mercola’s article at the following link: