Probiotics for a Beautiful Mind

Probiotics and Our Microbiome

Why do we keep talking about our microbiome and the importance of probiotics in our quest for health and beauty.

What is the Microbiome?

The term microbiome refers to the bacteria that lives synergistically in our gastrointestinal tract. There are more than 150 times as many microbes as there are genes in our bodies and 90% of our genes are microbial in origin. Research indicates that microbiota, through a bottom-up effect can influence brain development, brain function and behaviour via immune, endocrine and neural pathways.

The explosion of research into the fascinating world of the gut-brain connection is showing us that you can alter your gut bacteria in a way that positively affects your mood and brain function. One of the primary ways you can do this is by taking probiotics (also now being referred to as psychobiotics).

Why Probiotics?

Anyone suffering from chronic stress, low mood, or anxiety-like symptoms can benefit from taking certain probiotics which have the ability to produce various biologically active compounds such as neurotransmitters.

Several molecules with neuroactive functions such as GABA, serotonin, catecholamines and acetylcholine can be produced by gut bacteria. These can then be secreted within the gut and trigger cells within the gut’s lining to release molecules that signal brain function and affect behaviour.

The second way these probiotics work is to influence the body’s stress response system, which involves the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis which is affected by stress resulting in the release of cortisol and other stress related hormones being disrupted which is believed to contribute to mood disorders and cognitive problems.

The third way that certain probiotics may have an effect on the brain is through their anti-inflammatory actions. High inflammation levels in the body which may stem from the gut are major underlying causes of depression and other mood and cognitive disorders.

Proibiotic Research

In their book The Psychobiotic Revolution, Scott Anderson (a medical journalist), John F Cryan (a neuroscientist) and Ted Dinan (a psychiatrist) have done an extensive literary review on research conducted on the gut-brain connection in recent years.

A brief summary of that research as it applies to mood and mental health is highlighted below. This is of course not an exhaustive list and every day more and more research and information is being added to this field. It is this type of research that informs our product development and nature of the results. This list pertains to the gut-mind axis component – the use of probiotics. In later articles we will look at the gut-skin axis and the brain-skin axis more specifically.

  • Bifidobacterium longum or Bifidobacterium infantis

    Via the neuro-endocrine system and the vagus nerve, B longum reduces anxiety and cortisol levels. Through it’s effects on hippocampal growth factors, it can reduce depression as well. It also has an effect on improving cognition. Under stress it can improve coping skills. B.Longum boosts the amount of available tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, which can have anti-depressive effects.

  • Bifidobacterium breve

    B. breve shows similar results to B.longum but has a greater effect on anxiety than depression.

  • Bifidobacterium animalis lactis

    B.lactis has been shown to improve mood when used in combination with L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus and L. lactis.

  • Bifidobacterium bifidum

    B.bifidum in combination with Lacidophilus and L.casei has been shown to help people with major depressive disorder.

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus

    A potent fighter against Campylobacter jejuni a pathogen that causes gastroenteritis and anxiety.

  • Lactobacillus delbreuckii (bulgaricus) or Lactobacillus helveticus

    Has been shown to improve mood when used in a mix of other milk fermenters. It improves immune function and moderates the response to emotional stimuli. It has been shown to reduce blood pressure as well as depression and anxiety. Its main mode of action is to lower inflammation and enhance serotonin signalling.

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus

    Useful in treating diarrhea, dermatitis and obesity and reduce depression and anxiety, possible by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter GABA.

  • Lactobacillus reuteri

    Produces antibiotics against pathogenic bacteria, yeast and protozoans, making it a potent probiotic and anti-inflammatory. It improves skin tone lowers inflammation and increases oxytocin. It increases levels of leptin (the satiety hormone) and decreases levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone).

  • Lactobacillus plantarum

    Improves memory and fights inflammation. Often used in IBS treatments for pain relief from cramps.

  • Lactobacillus casei

    Found to prevent anti-biotic induced diarrhea and infections, both which are strongly associated with anxiety. Studies in humans with depression show improvement in mood after 10 days of consuming yogurt containing L.casei.

  • Lactobacillus paracasei

    Lowers levels of pain in intestinal distress caused by antibiotics. Reduces oxidative stress associated with intense physical activity and helps to reduce liver damage from chronic alcohol consumption.

  • Streptococcus thermophilus

    Provides folic acid to the Lactobacillus bulgaricus, so improving the numbers of that probiotic resulting in improved response to negative emotional stimulation which is used as a rough determinant of anxiety.

Prebiotics, like probiotics, can also act as important regulators of mood and brain function. In a recent study, prebiotics were found to decrease the secretion of the stress hormone, cortisol, and improve emotional processing in healthy volunteers.

So when we develop products, this research is what informs us, what guides our decisions on what to include in our formulations and motivates us to keep innovating.

On that note, get your Jenicoh mocktail (see our Facebook posts) and lets toast to a healthy, happy and beautiful life. Cheers!

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