It seems as if information about the benefits of Probiotics is everywhere in the media just now. There are little bottles of probiotic health drinks and tubs of ‘live culture’ yogurts on our supermarket shelves promising a multitude of health benefits – but do probiotics really work? If so, is there a better way of getting them than in these (often) sugar-laden and processed products?
According to the team at Eastland Family Chiropractic, the answer is yes – and yes! Many health problems can benefit from including probiotic-rich foods to the diet and supplementation with specific bacterial strains – as there are many different types – and not all work the same within the body.
The Enteric Nervous System
Before we begin talking about the benefits of probiotics, let’s take a step back for a moment and understand why they are needed.
Have you ever had a ‘sinking feeling’ in the pit of your stomach when you checked the balance on your credit card, or experienced butterflies in your stomach when nervous, stressed or excited? If so, you will have discovered that the brain has a symbiotic connection to the gut via a network of hundreds of millions of neurons that comprise the enteric nervous system. This acts as a ‘second brain’ that keeps monitoring the digestive system 24/7 from where it begins at the oesophagus to where it ends, at the anus!
Scientists have been fascinated by this ‘second brain’ and there has been a lot of research into why the gut should need its own ‘brain’. The enteric nervous system regulates the speed of digestive transit, the production of the mucus that lines the intestines and the secretion of acid in our stomachs. It also monitors the activity of the trillions of bacterial microbes that reside in our digestive tract and which, it is becoming increasingly evident, are not only vital for our physical health and immune system functioning, but also for our mental health and well-being too.
The Health Benefits of Probiotics
Because we usually associate bacteria with illness and infection that needs treating with antibiotics, it can be hard to understand that there are also ‘good’ bacteria that have positive health benefits. Probiotics fall into this ‘good bacteria’ category and help with both our physical and mental health.
There is a constant balancing act going on within our bodies between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria. When everything is in balance, the conditions are right for optimal health. When things go out of balance, a dysbiosis occurs that been linked to digestive problems such as IBS, Crohn’s, Ulcerative colitis and Celiac disease as well as obesity and diabetes.
Recent research has been examining the link between the gut microbiome and mood; sad feelings linked to depression and anxiety and particularly, social anxiety in young adults.
- A Netherlands study conducted over four weeks among a group of 40 young adults with mood disorders, gave half the participants a placebo and the other half, a probiotic mix of eight different beneficial bacterial strains. The results showed that the probiotic group not only had lower levels of anxiety and depression but also had lower levels of the stress hormone Cortisol in saliva samples taken on waking.
- A study at William and Mary College, Williamsburgh, VA, showed that participants who ate fermented foods, high in probiotics, had lower social anxiety levels than those who did not and that the effect was stronger in those students with the highest levels of neuroticism. Interestingly, this study also highlighted the benefits of exercise in reducing social anxiety.
Not All Probiotics Are The Same!
With the bewildering array of Probiotic supplements and dietary products on the market, it is difficult to know which to choose and which will be of most benefit.
- What if you cannot eat yogurt (which is the most common source of ‘good bacteria’) because you have a problem with lactose?
- How do you know whether the probiotics in the supplement you take will reach the gut alive – which is vital if they are going to do any good?
- Which of the many different strains (or combination of strains) will be most beneficial to your particular health problem?
This is where the team at Eastland Family Chiropractic can help in providing helpful advice on diet and nutrition for all the family. Children, young adults and the elderly may especially benefit from supplementation. Find out whether adding probiotics to your diet may be beneficial to you and call Eastland Family Chiropractic now on 03 9095 7990 to arrange an appointment today.Leave a reply →