Yogurt is a breakfast staple or mid morning snack. Most people eat yogurt because they know it will keep their digestive system regular, due to the probiotics in it. Probiotics are healthy bacteria. The gut is full of bacterial cells which help break down food and process it.
Newer research has shown that the probiotic in yogurt can actually affect brain function. With more studies, scientists may be able to come up with treatments for a number of conditions like depression, anxiety, eating disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.
Connection between the Brain and the Gut
UCLA researchers have confirmed that the probiotics in the gut affect the way an individual’s brain functions. There were 36 female participants in the study, ranging from ages of 18 to 55. The participants were split into 3 groups. The first group ate probiotic yogurt twice a day. The second group ate a similar product but without probiotics. The third group ate no probiotics. The study went on for 4 weeks. The researchers created images of the women’s brains before and after the study period and found that the women who had been eating yogurt with probiotics showed changes in certain regions of the brain relating to emotion and sensation. These changes were not seen in any of the women in the other two groups.
There is still no understanding of why there is a connection between the brain and the gut or how it works. While it was already known that there was a connection between the two, but it was only known that it went from the brain to the gut, for example, stress and other negative emotions are known to cause digestive issues. But now it is proven that the gut can also send information to the brain.
What are the Implications for Mental Health?
So what does this mean? It means that what an individual eats can affect their brain, particularly that part of the brain that is related to emotion. This also means that food can help in treating disorders of the brain.
More research needs to be conducted to show whether taking probiotic supplements or eating more yogurt could lead to feeling less stress, anxiety and depression.
Probiotics are known to help those individuals who suffer from digestive issues, irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease. These digestive disorders often lead to the individual feeling depressed, stressed and anxious, therefore treating them with probiotics could possibly help treat both the digestive symptoms as well as the mental health symptoms simultaneously.
One concern that needs to be brought up here, is the overuse of antibiotics. When an individual takes a course of antibiotics for an infection, it kills bacteria in the body, be it good or bad. Taking antibiotics for a longer period of time can kill a lot of good bacteria in the gut, and new research has confirmed that it could affect the individual’s mental health.
Due to the fact that a lot of this information about bacteria in the gut and its effects on the brain is in early stages, it is clear that more research, experiments and time is needed to find out exactly how what the relationship is between the gut and the brain, and how it can be used as an effective treatment method.
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