The human gut has a massive impact on the health and functionality of our brains. Simplified, when the gut is happy, the mood is elevated, health parameters have a better chance of being in balance, and cognitive function can be off the charts. Similarly, the opposite is true; when things are off in the tummy department, it can hurt overall health and brain function.
With this concept in mind, researchers have looked at the impact gut health has on cognition and thus, in which ways taking regular probiotics could improve cognitive function and overall brain health.
1. Reduce Stress and Depression and Improve Mood
Stress is a genuine killer, and unfortunately, it can also wreak havoc on one’s memory. For those who are constantly stressed out and worried about things, there will be increased issues when it comes to focusing on tasks that require higher cognitive processing and working memory. Some strains of probiotics in the gut have been shown to reduce stress levels by triggering serotonin release in the brain. This influx of serotonin allows for better mood, increased blood flow, and improved oxygen supply to the brain, ultimately increasing mental sharpness.
Depression is a significant mental health illness that affects millions of people worldwide, characterized by low mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in eating habits and sleep patterns, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors. While this may seem overwhelming, a study found that probiotics could help improve depression by increasing neurotrophic factors, which are responsible for maintaining the integrity and function of the brain.
Our moods are closely linked to our cognitive function. In addition to triggering serotonin release in the brain, some strains of probiotics in the gut have been shown to improve mood by triggering the release of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. The GABA neurotransmitter is naturally found in the brain and is responsible for promoting relaxation, another necessary condition for a good night’s rest.
2. Improve Sleep
A good night’s sleep is vital to improving cognitive function since the brain needs proper rest to restore or replenish energy sources. Lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk of depression and the development of neurodegenerative disorders. Some strains of probiotics in the gut have been found to help reduce inflammation and improve sleep quality, directly linked to the release of a hormone called melatonin. Not only is proper release of melatonin essential for maintaining an adequate sleep cycle, melatonin has also been shown to enhance cognitive function by promoting relaxation and restoration, two necessary conditions for a good night’s rest.
3. Improve Focus, Concentration, and Decision-Making Skills
The term “brain fog” refers to a lack of focus or concentration. People with brain fog tend to have problems retaining new information, multitasking, and performing at their peak levels of cognitive function. Studies find that by improving gut health, one can also improve cognitive function by promoting better memory formation and increasing neuroplasticity.
Not only is learning and memory a key part of brain functionality but the brain is key to any decision-making. While the gut is the center of the physical body, the brain is the center of the mind, so it only makes sense that the brain impacts the body. Some probiotic strains have been shown to improve decision-making by stimulating the amygdala and hippocampus, two parts of the brain associated with reward, making us more likely to make sound decisions.
4. Improve Memory and Protect from Disease
As mentioned above, certain strains of probiotics can have a positive impact on serotonin production. In addition to aiding in mood regulation, serotonin is vital for transmitting messages from one cell to another and helps the brain learn and remember things. One study determined that low serotonin levels in the brain could slow down that process, making it harder to memorize or recall information. Hence, it has been found that probiotics can enhance memory and learning skills.
Along the line of memory improvement and brain function, probiotics have also been shown to indirectly protect the brain from neurodegenerative disorders. A study conducted on mice found that probiotics helped reduce anxiety, stress, depression, and cognitive decline. Other studies have shown that those who adhere to a healthy diet rich in fermented foods are less likely to suffer from neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
As you can see, there are many ways that probiotics can improve the brain. Taking a daily probiotic supplement and incorporating high probiotic foods into the diet can help support gut health, not only leaving you feeling mentally and emotionally healthier, but promoting greater physical health as well.