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Psychobiotics are probiotic bacteria that have a beneficial effect on mental he alth. It turns out that the efficiency of the brain depends largely on the intestines. Psychobiotics give hope to many psychiatrists for support in the treatment of mental diseases, such as depression. The intestinal microorganisms also affect the plasticity of the brain, which may be of use in the fight against the epidemic of neurodegenerative diseases. What other properties do psychobiotics have?

Psychobiotics is a new scientific term, created as a result of research on the role of the microbiome, i.e. the total number of microorganisms that we carry inside us. Psychobioticsare probiotic bacteria that are believed to act on the gut-gut axis and therefore have a beneficial effect on mental he alth.

Psychobiotics -the role of the microbiome in the body

There are over one hundred million microbes in the human intestine. This means that the inhabitants of the intestines occupy two kilograms of our weight.

Imagine a computer that you are constantly expanding - you can add more RAM to it, faster motherboard, better cooling. You're expanding it on an unimaginable scale. You are creating a supercomputer. It is similar with the human body and the microorganisms that inhabit it - scientists call it a superorganism.

Microorganisms are involved in digestion by fermenting nutrients. Polyamines, B vitamins and vitamin K are formed, which are involved in many biochemical cellular processes and mediate:

  • DNA replication processes
  • stress responses
  • aging of the body
  • carcinogenesis
  • regulation of cell growth and division

Microflora also affects the complex processes of energy transformation - the composition of the microflora in the intestines differs between slim and obese people.

In addition, it affects bone mineralization, ensures the efficient functioning of the immune system and adequate permeability of the intestinal barrier.

The microflora living in us has a number of additional functions that our basic package would not fulfill. It affects not only a well-functioning digestive system, but also the he alth of the entire body, including the brain.

Worth knowing

Among many hypothesesconcerning the origin of life, scientists agree that the first organism was a cell with a structure similar to contemporary bacteria. She wasn't equipped with a brain. However, in order to live, she had to eat.

The taken food was digested intracellularly (the oldest and the simplest way of digestion). So the first nervous systems developed in the early digestive system.

It wasn't until much later, in the next stages of development, that the brain gradually developed from the digestive nervous system. Traces of this process are found in our intestines, which are equipped with approximately one hundred million nerve cells.

Psychobiotics - how do they affect the brain?

The microbes inhabiting the gut send a myriad of signals, such as responding to pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory ingredients. They give signals about whether there is a threat that needs to be fought or not.

This information enters the hypothalamic - pituitary - adrenal axis, which is responsible for the response to stressful situations. Stress triggers a fight or flight mechanism, and the gut is involved. Who of us did not experience a stomach cramp before an important interview or exam?

Every second, countless information is exchanged between the gut and the brain.

Additionally, intestinal bacteria - by producing neurotransmitters such as serotonin, melatonin, GABA, catecholamines, histamine and acetylcholine - affect brain functions and our behavior.

Your well-being depends on whether you have the right amount of a given strain of bacteria that will produce a given neurotransmitter. This, in turn, will affect your behavior, e.g. it will make a reprimand from your boss at work not upset you at all.

Strains of intestinal bacteria producing neurotransmitters:

Gut bacteria strainProduced neurotransmitter
  • Lactobacillus
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Escherichia
  • Bacillus
  • Saccharomyces
  • Candida
  • Streptococcus
  • Escherichia
  • Enterococcus
  • Bacillus
  • Serratia
  • Lactobacillus

In addition, the intestines are connected directly to the brain via the vagus nerve, which enables efficient communication in both directions.

Comore,psychobioticsinfluence directly or indirectly on the modulation of neuronal, endocrine and immune mechanisms. They contribute to the development of the brain and increase its plasticity, which has been scientifically proven.

It used to be said that the gut is our second brain. What if I told you it's our first brain?

One study showed that the administration of appropriate strains of intestinal bacteria contributed to faster reconstruction of brain tissue after a stroke. They also reduced inflammation in the brain. And that reduced the degree of brain damage from severe stroke by up to 60 percent.

In addition, in sterile mice without microflora, normal brain development was impaired. Among these mice, the microglia that are responsible for "cleaning" in the brain has not fully developed. Cells differed in size and immature phenotype.

Microglia is responsible for inflammatory reactions, removes debris and toxins. He is the keeper and cleaner rolled into one. It is found in every nerve cell. The elimination of the bacterial flora has damaged this vital tissue of the brain. Deformed and undeveloped microglial cells did not respond properly to inflammatory responses in the brain.

Psychobiotics - what influences their action?

The intestinal microflora is a bit like a forest or even a jungle. Everything is in a continuous process here. Two new trees grow in place of the fallen trees. We have an influence on whether it will be a forest full of colorful flowers or weeds.

By taking care of diet, physical activity, adequate sleep, and the regulation of stress levels, we influence the intestinal biosystem. Our original genotype, age and even… gender are also important. All these factors contribute to the he alth of the microbes, and she - to he alth.

  • Obesity

Remember when I mentioned that there are differences between the microflora of lean people and obese people? This is because highly processed foods, fast food, large amounts of sugar and artificial ingredients increase the permeability of the intestines. The line of defense is very thin.

Some nutrients are metabolized less well. This, in turn, translates into a sugar-free economy. The intestinal permeability also contributes to the more frequent presence of depression symptoms. And this is reflected in practice because obese people much more often suffer from depression.

  • Antibiotics

The microflora is also influenced by antibiotics. If we compare the intestinal microflora to a lush forest or jungle, then antibiotic therapy can be compared to a forest fire. Imagine a fire going onas much as the time of antibiotic therapy. Burning forest for 3, 5 or 7 days. You can probably guess that after so many days, only ashes will remain from the forest.

This is very well illustrated by the changes taking place in the intestines during long-term antibiotic therapy. The period of vegetation restoration may take even several months, and its appearance and operation will never return to its initial state. That is why it is especially important to take probiotics not only during but also after the antibiotic treatment.

It is important to sow and develop various vegetation in the newly born forest (bacterial strains having a positive effect on the body). The more so as harmful weeds (pathogenic bacteria and fungi) are waiting for a free space. In the intestine sterilized by antibiotics, it is much easier to develop especially dangerous strains of fungi from the Candida albicans family.

  • He althy diet

Thanks to a he althy diet - rich in fish, fruit, vegetables containing large amounts of fiber, which is a natural breeding ground for microorganisms - you can significantly reduce the risk of developing diseases caused by e.g. Candida albicans.

Knowledge of the relationship between the diet and the microflora allows for the appropriate modification of nutrients to obtain a specific effect in the form of mental he alth.

An interesting fact is that many of the products you use every day directly affect your mood. Let's take a look at nightshade vegetables like potato, tomato and eggplant.

They contain solanine and alfachaconine that can have a slightly narcotic effect on the body. And this is due to the enhancement of the action of the acetylcholine neurotransmitter, affecting, inter alia, on the ability to remember.

On the other hand, broad bean seeds contain L dopa, which is the source of dopamine - one of the most important neurotransmitters. It influences, among other things, emotions and motivation to act. If we don't feel like anything, maybe the broad bean salad will stimulate us to act.

If we are already at the level of dopamine, then chocolate deserves special attention here, which is known for its mood-enhancing properties. This effect may be due to the content of two particularly interesting ingredients, i.e. phenethylamine and anandamine.

The first one stimulates the same areas of the brain as amphetamines, which can raise dopamine levels several hundred times. The second ingredient acts on cannabinoid receptors, the same as marijuana, causing a blissful mood.

Worth knowing

Life in the gut is a continuous process - changes happen every minute. Let me give you an example: if we drink a sweetened drinkartificial sweetener for the first time, it is a completely new substance for microorganisms and they cannot fully cope with it.

They don't know how to metabolize it properly. However, after a few days, they will perfectly digest and absorb these compounds. This is because the intestinal microflora has adapted to the new conditions.

Another example: eating legume seeds regularly, you will notice a much smaller jump in sugar level in subsequent meals. This effect lasts even for the next day after eating, for example, a portion of lentils.

Eating legumes at least every other day is an effective method of improving the sugar economy. It is used, for example, by the MIND diet model, diets for the brain.

Psychobiotics - the meaning of prebiotics

Prebiotics are substances contained in food that act as a nutrient for the intestinal microflora. They allow microorganisms that have a positive effect on the body to reproduce. If we don't want to starve our gut friends, they need to be delivered regularly.

Remember that the intestines are constantly fighting for a place to live. If the balance is disturbed, unwanted pathogens and fungi may appear in the place of positive microbes, triggering substances that poison the body.

Fiber can be a real breeding ground for Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus (the gut's most numerous friends). The prebiotic fiber includes:

  • cellulose (e.g. whole grains, flax seeds or hemp seeds)
  • hemicellulose (e.g. legume seeds, bran)
  • pectins (all fruits and vegetables)
  • resistant starches (e.g. potatoes, rice, pasta or stale bread eaten cold)
  • inulins (e.g. chicory, onion, leek, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, tomatoes)
  • soy saccharides (soy products)
  • lactulose
  • rubber

Psychobiotics - the meaning of probiotics

Probiotics are foods rich in one or more strains of microorganisms. The most common are lactic acid fermentation bacteria.

It was these bacteria that were first discovered in Bulgarian peasants. By regularly drinking kefir containing the appropriate strains, they ensured themselves good immunity and he alth.

Probably in those communities the phenomenon of depression was minimal. Current scientific knowledge clearly shows the influence of probiotic bacteria in counteracting not only depression. They also protect against significant mood drops. It is worth emphasizing that people suffering from depression do not use their full potentialmental he alth.

Let's take a look at what products are worth eating regularly to keep the intestines working efficiently, and thus also the brain:

  • silage like (cabbage, cucumbers, beets)
  • sourdough (borscht, sour rye soup)
  • bread (sourdough)
  • fermented milk products

It is worth knowing that many products are fermented in Asian cultures. The traditional food is kombucha, tofu, soy sauce, fermented fruits and vegetables. An interesting fact is natto, or fermented soybeans - rich in phytoestrogens consumed on a regular basis can affect the hormonal balance of the body, and therefore the proper functioning of the brain. By fermentation, bacteria break down most of the anti-nutritional substances.

Asian communities attach great importance to a proper diet. Proper composing of dishes and dishes is passed down from generation to generation. This is especially visible when maintaining a he althy body weight. Those areas have not yet been directly affected by the Western lifestyle - poor in probiotics and rich in frequently appearing mental problems.

Worth knowing

Current discoveries show that not only does the lifestyle affect the intestinal microflora, but the microflora also affects the way of life! This is a double-edged reaction. By properly caring for the organisms that live with us, we ensure he alth at every level - physical, mental and social. We support or make their work difficult with our daily decisions. Also the one performed for brain cells. This will, however, translate into well-being and motivation to act.

About the authorMikołaj Choroszyński, nutritionist and gastrocoach Master of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Psycho-dietician, Youtuber. Author of the first book on the Polish market about a diet counteracting neurodegenerative diseases "MIND Diet. A Way for a Long Life". He fulfills himself professionally, running his Bdieta diet clinic, because nutrition has always been his passion. She helps her patients by telling them what to eat to stay he althy and look good.

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