Gut Bacteria: Probiotics and Their Effects on Your Brain and Aging*
How gut bacteria connects to your brain and influences how you age while sitting in your gut.
Ever felt butterflies in your stomach when something important is just about to happen? That’s because you’re nervous! But WAIT! What does nervousness has to do with your stomach? Because last time I checked, panic was something that came from emotional processes in your brain! Well, that’s true but there’s something exciting I need to add here. Your gut is connected to your brain and in fact it has a kind of second brain too in the form of Enteric Nervous System. That’s exactly how all the processes in your gut is controlled and coordinated by your brain. But there’s something else to this story. It’s about PROBIOTICS that live in your gut! They also have an access to your brain and they impact it a lot and that too in many positive ways.
So, let’s dig into the detail of gut bacteria, what it is, what probiotics are and what do they have in store for your brain. What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are the little tiny healthy things, or healthy bacteria, that reside in capsules of bottles, or live in food and drinks, that you buy in the refrigerator section of the health food store.
These friendly bacteria, or micro-organisms, reside in your gut and are important for digestion, healthy skin, a robust immune system, weight loss and oh so much more.
I know we have always known microbes as being bad boys which invade your body and cause troubles but let me break it you: MANY OF THEM ARE BENEFICIAL FOR YOU! Heck, for all of us!
And a bunch (100 trillion actually!) of such gut bacteria resides in your intestines. They are responsible for healthy function of your gut and anything that put them in a vulnerable position affects your digestive system badly. This is exactly why antibiotics upset your stomach because they kill good bacteria along with the bad ones. How they are connected to your brain? Now, this article is about something that Probiotics do besides digestion —their impact on your brain and aging! But before I get to it, I need to tell you how they connect to your brain while still residing in your gut.
Your digestive system has a network of trillions of neurons embedded in it and is called as enteric nervous system. It’s responsible for coordination of activities in your gastrointestinal tract.
Along with it, Vagus nerve is there to give a hand! Vagus nerve, also called ‘wandering nerve’ is one of the nerves in your body and it runs all the way from brain to your abdomen. But interestingly, most of the fibers in this nerve go in upward direction —from gut to your brain. This orientation of nerve fibers allows the bacteria residing in your gut to send massages to your brain and help it in functioning properly. So, now you have the whole rationale for why Probiotics have a say in your brain’s activities. How they affect your brain? First I would like to put a more crucial question here: Do Probiotics improve your brain health? And the answer to this is an enthusiastic YES!! And this has been proven by research as well. Yes, research says that Probiotics enhance the function of your brain and its well-being. Now the question is how do they help your brain? There are many ways and I’m listing some of them below: - They improve your moods!
Hold your breath! Because finally you’re going to get an answer for that “gut feeling”! Your gut bacteria do that to you. They are capable of affecting your emotional processes. Moreover, they elevate your mood by countering sad thoughts. Research shows that Probiotics are involved in easing anxiety and depression. So, if you feel stressed and have food cravings, satisfy them with yogurt because it has plenty of Probiotics that will fade away the depressing feelings. - They improve your memory and learning! Role of Probiotics as being memory enhancers is unbelievable. They improve signaling between your brain and gut and stimulate areas related to learning and memorizing. Research has also proven that Probiotics improve your memory. So, these little buddies residing in your gut are the reason you keep passing your exams. They make you smarter! - They develop neurons
Probiotics are involved in the growth and development of neurons (your brain cells). In fact, during pregnancy many bacteria pass from maternal body to the amniotic fluid (fluid that holds the baby inside the mother) and eventually the baby. There they help in neurogenesis and brain development of the fetus. So, the process of mutual benefit (you give them home to live!) starts before birth. How they aid in anti-aging? Believe it or not, Probiotics help in maintaining your anti-aging lifestyle. It’s an elixir for your body that unwinds the aging clock by specifically targeting it at two points. IMMUNE SYSTEM and SKIN! Your immune system determines your defenses against diseases inflicted on you by aging. And Probiotics help it in keeping up your defenses. Research shows that Probiotics are involved in boosting your immune system and protecting you against damage done by free radicals and various other diseases.
They also protect your skin against damage done by aging. Your skin is first organ to manifest signs of aging and you need to fix it! Your intestinal Microbiota can help you with it. With aging, your skin sags because it loses its elasticity. It occurs due to the lack of proteins like elastin and collagen. This damage is done by free radicals and Probiotics make sure this doesn’t happen. They help in boosting defenses of your skin. This leads to prevention in wrinkles by reducing damage to collagen. Probiotics help in absorbing nutrients and vitamins from food you eat. A large chunk of these nutrients are supplied to your skin and they keep it healthy and supple. With your skin well-nourished, it stays youthful and well-protected.
Probiotics also help in keeping your skin moisturized and well-hydrated. They limit the damage done to skin by UV rays. All these protective mechanisms provided by Probiotics keep aging away from you. So, with your little pals residing in your intestines you can not only stay younger but also smarter for a long time!
You can get Probiotics by eating yogurt, sauerkraut or Kim-chi, kefir, or supplements available in the market. They are readily available and come at reasonable prices. I recommend Garden of Life, Dr. Formulated Probiotics.
Hope you have enjoyed this article. I know I enjoyed researching and writing it.
Till next time
Growing Younger Everyday
Reference:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894461/  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159115000884  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3696313/  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24499072