June 10, 2013
Much has been written about the physical benefits of probiotics. We know that they are great for aiding digestion, helping keep your body in balance, and even for nourishing the outside of the body too. But what about the mind? Can probiotics also be good for your emotional wellbeing?
Well, it turns out that they can help. A study by the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles was recently published in the journal Gastroenterology. In the 4-week study, 36 women were split into 3 random groups. One group was given regular milk products twice daily. The second group was given a similar milk product containing probiotics, and the third group was given no milk products at all. All three groups were examined before and after the four-week period, using MRI scans to assess their brain activity, and also underwent various tests to measure their brain response to emotionally-related stimulus.
The result: The group given the twice-daily serving of probiotics showed a significant increase in task responsiveness and mid-brain activity. It is the mid-brain that is the center of our emotions, and acts as a relay for our audio and visual processing. Higher mid-brain function is generally associated with greater alertness, responsiveness and motivation.
It’s great to have this confirmed by a study, but it should not be all that surprising. Our bodies are a complex set of interconnected organs that do not operate in isolation, and the better each organ functions individually; the better we function as a whole. The connection between the gut and the brain has always been a strong one – after all, we have all had a “gut feeling” about something.
This was also demonstrated in a 2011 study where probiotics were shown to reduce stress reactions in rodents. This study showed a tremendous connection between the brain and the gut – to the point where the gut can almost be considered the “second brain”.
There is a general health and wellness angle associated with this topic. People who are aware of their health, how their bodies work, and who make an effort to take care of their body through good diet and exercise will generally live happier lives and feel a better sense of physical and emotion balance. The UCLA study is great validation of this – not only are probiotics great for your physical health, they boost your overall emotional happiness too!
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