In today's modern world, society has become more and more aware of the importance of mental health. We now know that taking care of yourself mentally and emotionally is absolutely essential to your overall well being. Most people are aware of common methods to maintain good mental health including therapy, healthy lifestyle and even pharmaceutical treatments, but one of the biggest factors affecting your brain and how it feels is in your gut!
The gut-brain connection is no myth, it can link anxiety and mental issues to stomach problems and vice versa. Have you ever had a "gut-wrenching" experience? Do certain situations make you "feel nauseous"? Have you ever felt "butterflies" in your stomach? We use these expressions for a reason. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation — all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut.
According to research published by the Harvard Medical School, “The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines. For example, the very thought of eating can release the stomach's juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person's stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That's because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected.”
So why is the gut so important and why does the environment in our bellies make such an impact on our brains? It has a lot to do with our tiny little friends called bacteria! There are around 40 trillion bacteria in your body, most of which are found in your gut. Collectively, they are known as your gut microbiome, and they’re incredibly important for overall health. However, certain types of bacteria in your intestines can also contribute to many diseases including mental distress. So how does someone manage their microbiome and make sure the healthy bacteria are winning the battle inside your belly? I decided to put together a list of some clinically proven, effective strategies.
First, you want to make sure you are eating a diverse array of foods. According to a 2015 study byt the National Institutes of Health, a diverse microbiome is considered a healthy one. This is because the more species of bacteria you have, the more health benefits they may be able to contribute to. Therefore a diet consisting of different food types can lead to a more diverse microbiome, which is ultimately beneficial for your health.
Second, and this one might seem more obvious, but you want to eat lots of vegetables, legumes, beans and fruit. Not only is this practice delicious but these diverse, high fiber foods will stimulate growth of certain healthy bacteria in your gut that digest these fibers. The
increased population of fiber-hungry “buddy” bacteria are considered beneficial to your gut and have been linked to the prevention of intestinal inflammation and enhanced gut health (according to a 2017 study by the NIH). But where can people turn when they are trying their best to eat a diverse, fiber-rich diet of healthy fruits and veggies and are still suffering from a myriad of uncomfortable digestive issues and the subsequent mental anguish?! Don’t worry my friends, I have asked that question before many times myself and the answer is probiotics.
There are many strains and claims in the world of the probiotics market so where do you start? Through my many years as a pro athlete, I suffered from some severe gastrointestinal issues and the inevitable mental struggles that came along with it so I dedicated myself to find only the best, most clinically proven effective strains to formulate my probiotic.
Here is a rundown of some of my findings. The first strain I found is one of our very own “buddy” bacteria known as Bifidobacterium Longum. This little powerhouse has not only been clinically proven (Vitellio 2019) to improve conditions in the gut microbiome of individuals with persisting GI symptoms but also was proven (Allen 2016) to reduce depression scores and positively alter brain activity. Another powerful strain I found is called Lactobacillus Acidophilus, another powerhouse “buddy” bacteria that can influence better gastrointestinal and mental health. In a 2019 study by Juli Choi, it was proven that the presence of certain levels of Lactobacillus Acidophilus not only caused increased BDNF Expression in subjects' hippocampus (super nerdy way of explaining that the bacteria helped with memory and learning!) but it also was shown to produce antidepressant-like effects!
In conclusion, the gut-brain connection is not only real, it is a vital part of what makes us tick. Maintaining a proper bacterial balance in your gut is essential to maintaining a proper emotional balance in your brain. So try your best to eat diverse and healthy foods, and try your hand at taking a fully dosed, powerful probiotic with the proper strains to balance your gut and see what amazing effects it can have on your mental health!
Stay well my friends, until next time.
Scott Solomon is a former collegiate and NFL athlete and the co-founder and CEO of BrainTree Nutrition. He is passionate about helping people live their happiest and healthiest lives. Through meticulous research and an unwavering commitment to transparency, quality and honesty, he and the entire team at BrainTree believe they have created some of the best and most effective supplements on the market. Please visit braintreenutrition.com to learn more.