The holiday season is upon us. For most people this time of year is stressful, and for good reason. Between planning family get-togethers, shopping, and trying to keep day-to-day life running throughout, quite a bit of stress and anxiety can build up.
You need every bit of help you can get to fight the harmful effects of that stress.
Today I have rounded up some support from a place you might not have expected. Your own gut. To be more specific, the probiotic bacteria in your gut that have a positive impact on your health, provided you get enough of them.
We’re going to look at three studies that confirm and expand the importance of probiotics on your mood and stress-levels. As Savers know, there’s a very real connection between mood and bone health. So let’s dive in.
Positive Changes In GABA Receptors And The Gut-Brain Connection
It may at first seem surprising that what’s happening in your gut has a direct causal relationship to what’s happening in your brain chemistry, but more and more studies are showing that this is decidedly true.
A study in which mice ingested Lactobacillus rhamnosus is a prime example. By using several different control groups the scientists performing the experiment were able to determine not just what was changing in the mice as a result of the ingestion of this particular strain of probiotic bacteria, but also via what channels the gut was communicating with the brain.
It turns out the gut microbiota had various positive changes in GABA receptors that were mediated by the vagus nerve.1
Calming You Down To Keep You Healthy
GABA stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for calming down your body by suppressing nerve activity. Positive changes in GABA receptors indicate reduced stress and a more calm and balanced physical state, which is closely related to the function of the vagus nerve as a whole.
The vagus nerve is incredibly important to bone (and whole body) health. It’s the most important overarching component of the autonomic nervous system, working to keep your body functioning without you having to be consciously aware of it.
The vagus nerve is an essential line of communication with your organs and abdominal cavity as well as a regulator of involuntary systems like mood, stress response and digestion.
This explains why probiotics like Lactobacillus rhamnosus could have a positive effect on GABA receptors. There’s a very literal pathway connecting your gut to the rest of your nervous system!
To be specific, this gut connection is to your parasympathetic nervous system, or PNS. The PNS maintains homeostasis in many of your body’s systems, decreasing heart rate, relaxing muscles and increasing the secretion of digestive juices and saliva. All of these systems are important to your bone health, and the vagus nerve is the axis of mediation.
The Gut-Brain Axis Demonstrated
In this study, mice in which the vagus nerve had been removed did not see the same result, which is how we know the impact of the bacteria was occurring via that particular nerve. The mice with an intact vagus nerve experienced reduced stress-induced corticosterone and anxiety- and depression-related behavior. Here is the study quote:
“These findings highlight the important role of bacteria in the bidirectional communication of the gut-brain axis and suggest that certain organisms may prove to be useful therapeutic adjuncts in stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression.”1
The “certain organisms” in question are probiotic bacteria, and the positive changes to mood they create are beneficial for your well-being and your bones. This is in part because when your body is under duress the vagus nerve triggers the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that damages bones.
By reducing stress and anxiety via the vagus nerve, the probiotic L. rhamnosus helps you build stronger bones and feel more relaxed.
Probiotics are Pro-Memory
It turns out that probiotics actually improve your memory.
There have been lots of studies about the gastrointestinal benefits of probiotic bacteria, and still others about mood enhancement and other neurological effects. But how does this relate to the mysterious world of memory?
Studies with rats show that distress is linked to memory loss. In this study rats were subjected to a stress test and their memory creation abilities evaluated. One group of rats were deprived of their natural gut bacteria before taking the test. Those rats displayed memory dysfunction while rats with normal intestinal microbiota did not.
Remarkably, when the rats who showed cognitive impairment were then given a probiotic, it improved their memories. This demonstrates that the bacteria in your gut affects your ability to form memory.2
Gut Stress, Anxiety & Memory Dysfunction
Related studies with rats show that gastrointestinal distress is linked to anxiety. In this study rats were subjected to a forced swim test and their responses evaluated. A group of the tested mice were given probiotics, which resulted in neurochemical changes in addition to the expected reduction in inflammatory response. These neurochemical changes indicated an antidepressant capability for the administered probiotic.3
These are both linked to human patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome reporting that they have memory problems. Typically patients attribute a bout of forgetfulness, or a temporary lack of mental clarity with the pain and discomfort of a flare-up.
However, the research suggests that the microbial condition of the gut, and the relationship (via the vagus nerve) of the gut to the brain may be playing a larger role than they realize. The experiment carried out on mice indicates that the best way to address these issues is the dietary inclusion of probiotics.3
Memory And Bones
The importance of memory for bone health goes beyond just remembering to get the right exercise, or eat the right foods. Difficulties with memory are incredibly stressful, and can turn otherwise calm moments into churning spirals of doubt about what you might be forgetting.
That anxiety is only exceeded by moments of actually forgetting to do something important, like picking up a grandchild from soccer practice, or going to an important doctor’s appointment. Just the idea of these happening can make you feel anxious!
This stress is damaging to your bones, so improving your memory is an important part of overall health that has a real impact on your body’s ability to maintain bone density. Supplementing healthy levels of probiotics on a daily basis is an important part of helping your brain stay strong!
In addition to mental health practices like getting adequate sun, exercising, and eating foods that contain cognitive performance enhancing compounds, probiotics can make a positive impact on your brain-health.
Be Happier And Have Less Anxiety
The third and last study has some of the most incredible results of all.
In this study, conducted by a group of prominent Dutch cognitive scientists, twenty participants were given probiotics over the course of four weeks, while a control group of twenty more participants were given a placebo. At the end of the four weeks both groups filled out a questionnaire that assessed each individual’s sensitivity to depression.
The results showed that the group who had the probiotics experienced less rumination (thinking about negative aspects of one’s life and how things could have gone differently) and less aggressive thoughts. Both of these mental activities are established precursors to and predictors of depression.4
Quoting from the study:
“These results provide the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood. Probiotics supplementation warrants further research as a potential preventive strategy for depression.”4
I couldn’t say it better than that! Probiotics make you happier by reducing the negative thoughts that make you feel sad. This provides a useful tool for fending off depression, and that’s good for way more than just enjoying a holiday party.
Feelings of sadness, anxiety and hopelessness are detrimental to your health in many ways, beyond the obvious negative impact on your daily quality of life. Additionally, stressors and anxiety increase bone-damaging cortisol secretion.
A Brief Recap On Cortisol And Your Bones
I’ve mentioned several times that stress is deleterious to your bones because of cortisol secretion. Let’s take a moment to review why that happens.
When you are anxious your body engages in a stress response, the sort of fight or flight reflex that is meant to protect you in a dangerous situation. But when this response is triggered repeatedly, releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into your system, your body is unable to properly restore to its normal state of calm.
The cortisol that your body releases when stressed is to facilitate the production of emergency glucose energy through a process in your liver called endogenous glucose production (EGP) or gluconeogenesis. That cortisol, once released, inhibits osteoblast formation and proliferation on the outer layer of bone. It also causes a decrease in an amino acid called proline that is essential to the remodeling of your bones.
In these ways high cortisol levels reduce your bone density. So less anxiety and better mood supports and builds bone health, and as you’ve learned today, probiotics are a scientifically proven way to do just that.
Avoid Unnecessary Stress: Get The Probiotics You Need Before The Holidays
As mentioned earlier, the holiday season is a particularly stressful time, bringing about situations that raise stress levels and their attendant health risks. So you need every natural tool available to fight them.
Bolstering diet with natural supplements, including probiotics, is an important addition to your bone-healthy diet. However, there are a lot of probiotic supplements out there, and it can be confusing to pick the right one.
Many low quality probiotic supplements fail to actually provide an adequate dose of live cultures, or aren’t manufactured to effectively keep the cultures alive until they make it to your digestive system, where their benefits are unlocked. You might as well be taking a placebo.
TrueLife PB™ is a superior supplement that provides everything you need in a probiotic at the highest quality available. Their capsules each contain 30 billion live cultures, composed of six essential strains of probiotic bacteria including Lactobacillus rhamnosus, referenced in some of the studies above.
NatureCity, the manufacturer of TrueLife PB™, offers an exclusive coupon for Savers only: 20% off your first order.
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So this holiday season fight stress, bolster your health and your mood, and keep building younger, stronger bones with the help of probiotics.
Till next time,
1 Bravo JA, et al. “Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Sep 20;108(38):16050-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1102999108. Epub 2011 Aug 29. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21876150
2 Gareau MG, Wine E, Rodrigues DM, Cho JH, Whary MT, Philpott DJ, Macqueen G, Sherman PM. “Bacterial infection causes stress-induced memory dysfunction in mice.” Gut. 2011 Mar;60(3):307-17. doi: 10.1136/gut.2009.202515. Epub 2010 Oct 21. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20966022
3 Shubham Misra and Bikash Medhi. “Role of probiotics as memory enhancer” Indian J Pharmacol. 2013 May-Jun; 45(3): 311–312. doi: 10.4103/0253-7613.111917. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3696313/
4 Laura Steenbergen, Roberta Sellaro, Saskia van Hemert, Jos A. Bosch, Lorenza S. Colzato. “A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. Volume 48, August 2015, Pages 258–264 Web: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159115000884