Benefits From Probiotics – How Microbes Influence Mood
By Dr. Lam
The Gut As the Second Brain
The gut is called “the second brain” for good reason, though it’s only in the last few decades that the importance of the gut in overall health has taken center stage in conventional medical science, which is now catching up to ancient wisdom from Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, as well as other ancient medical traditions.
As we now know, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract contains around 100 trillion microbes, and the microbes present in the human body outweigh the number of human cells by tenfold. This makes maximizing the benefits from probiotics a very intelligent health decision so that you can maintain an alliance with the good bugs in your body and keep the bad ones at bay.
The gut’s microbiome contains both healthy and unhealthy bacteria, and the presence of healthy bacteria is what keeps the unhealthy bacteria in check. Using probiotics, which are supplements that contain live healthy bacteria, can help maintain or bring back that balance. This is especially important for those who have had issues with their GI tract.
An imbalance in the gut bacteria is called dysbiosis, and it is a trigger for many other problems, including inflammation, food and drug sensitivities, autoimmunity, gastrointestinal disorders, Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), dysregulation of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response, depression, malabsorption, skin disorders, neurological issues, and more.
That’s because, with dysbiosis, you are at a greater risk for developing leaks in the gut’s lining, which can let into the bloodstream substances that shouldn’t be there, such as food particles, pathogens, and toxins. As soon as these substances enter the bloodstream, your immune system will launch an attack on them, kicking off your NEM’s inflammation response.
That’s why we say inflammation always begins in the gut.
And as long as these leaks are not sealed, this chain reaction will continue, and the inflammation can spread to other parts of the body, such as the joints (causing pain and swelling), or the brain and nervous system (causing mood disturbances such as anxiety and depression).
Your adrenal glands are your body’s first line of defense against stress, and inflammation and dysbiosis are powerful physical stressors. Your adrenals secrete the main anti-stress hormone, cortisol, in order to deal with these issues, as two of its main functions are to suppress the immune system and neutralize inflammation.
But, again, if the leaks are persistent, your adrenals will have to keep pumping out more and more cortisol as the inflammation and immune response keep getting triggered. At some point, your adrenals will get so overworked that they will dysregulate, leading to AFS. And as the adrenals are the NEM’s most important defense mechanism, the rest of the NEM will have to compensate for their weakening, putting it at risk of dysregulating too.
That’s why it is really important to do your best to bring back balance to your microbiome, seal up the leaks in your gut, and bring down the inflammation as quickly as possible. And those are some of the benefits from probiotics that you can get.
Mental Health Benefits From Probiotics
The connection between the gut and the brain is referred to as the gut-brain axis. You can probably recall times when you have experienced this connection first hand. Have you ever been really nervous about something and you could barely eat? Or maybe you were really distressed about a situation in your life and you found your digestion wasn’t working smoothly?
On the other hand, have you ever eaten a heavy meal and experienced brain fog afterward? Or you consumed a lot of sugar and caffeine and then started to feel irritable?
This is the gut-brain axis in action, and the connection is very strong, mainly due to the fact that your gut contains around three-quarters of your neurotransmitters, including key players like serotonin and dopamine. The production and balance of these neurotransmitters are highly influenced by the gut’s microbiome, and how healthy it is.
This is what led to scientific studies looking at whether benefits from probiotics extended to the mental health arena, and the results were quite interesting.
For example, researchers at the University College Cork in Ireland reviewed different studies conducted on probiotics to determine whether taking a probiotic supplement can be part of the treatment plan for depression and stress-related disorders. Although they found that not all probiotics could produce mental health benefits, certain strains, which were termed “psychobiotics,” did indeed help.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, volunteers that were given a combination of L. helveticus R0052 and B. longum experienced a significant reduction in their psychological stress levels.
Several studies showed that the probiotic B. infantis helps improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which is a condition that is connected to depression and anxiety. On the other hand, another probiotic, L. salivarius, had very little effect on IBS.
Most researchers believe that the mental health benefits from probiotics come from their ability to reduce inflammation as they balance the gut’s bacteria and bring harmony to the microbiome. These benefits are also helpful if you have AFS, as the adrenal glands are given a break when inflammation goes down, giving the rest of your NEM a chance to strengthen and rebalance as well.
And, of course, as the adrenals and NEM heal and get stronger, the more they are capable of handling stress, which will also give a boost to your mental health.
How To Get Benefits From Probiotics
First of all, you should try to avoid things that cause dysbiosis in the first place, as it’s difficult to sustain the benefits from probiotics if you keep damaging your microbiome.
These things include:
- Taking antibiotics frequently
- Consumption of alcohol or drugs
- Frequent use of certain medications (such as painkillers)
- Eating a bad diet (such as the Standard American Diet)
- Eating gluten, dairy, and other allergenic foods
- Not eating enough fiber
- Consuming too much sugar
- Exposure to toxins
- Chronic stress
You can choose to take a probiotic supplement, but make sure that you get the okay from your doctor first, especially if you have a health condition that needs care. If you suffer from constipation, probiotics can make it worse. Some people with AFS get constipation, while others experience diarrhea, so keep that in mind.
The other thing you can do is to include probiotic-rich foods in your diet. Those include kombucha tea, plain yogurt, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and pickles. If you have AFS, you should be following an adrenal fatigue diet, which is also anti-inflammatory. Adding a few of these items to it can give your gut that extra support, but make sure that you stay aware of your health and your body’s reaction when trying them out.
Some of these items are heavy on salt and may impact your sodium-potassium balance, which is affected by AFS. When in doubt, it’s better to consult a professional. All in all, however, eating these foods is a healthy and safe way to get benefits from probiotics.
Learn which foods are best for your gut microbiome. Improve your mood through your gut. Get tested with Ombre and decide which probiotics are ideal for your mental wellness and the foods that agree with your system best.
Dr. Lam is a western trained physician specializing in nutritional and anti-aging medicine. Dr. Lam is a pioneer in using nontoxic, natural compounds to promote the healing of many age-related degenerative conditions. He utilizes optimum blends of nutritional supplementation that manipulate food, vitamins, natural hormones, herbs, enzymes, and minerals into specific protocols to rejuvenate cellular function. He is an international best-selling author and has written seven books: Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome – Reclaim Your Energy and Vitality with Clinically Proven Natural Programs, Advanced Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome Cookbook, Estrogen Dominance, Beating Cancer with Natural Medicine, The Five Proven Secrets to Longevity, and How to Stay Young and Live Longer. He serves as senior health and nutritional coach at DrLam.com, where his personal, telephone-based coaching services have enabled many around the world to regain control of their health using natural therapies.Michael Lam, M.D., M.P.H., A.B.A.A.M