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Protecting your gut-brain axis with probiotics

Do you realize how strong the connection between your brain and intestines, which is better known as the gut-brain axis, really is?

For example, you may feel that connection painfully or positively when you’re feeling anxious about an event out of your control, experiencing a fender-bender, taking a pop test, going on a first date or making an important presentation at your job.

The physical feelings you’re experiencing in your gut are the direct result of your brain releasing chemicals traveling through the bloodstream or the major nerve pathways. Those messages could be painful (no second date) or positive (you aced the presentation) depending on how your individual gut-brain axis reacts to the outcome.

Some health experts believe the dysfunction of the gut-brain axis may explain several health problems, ranging from fatigue and brain fog to something as simple as toenail fungus.

One of the best and simplest ways to maintain a healthy, balanced gut-brain axis—taking a multi-species probiotic—is at the heart of a recent University of Michigan study about the connection between stress and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) on mice.

Researchers discovered mice produced chemicals called inflammasomes to maintain good gut health. However, when stressed, a corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) produced by mice blocked the benefits of those inflammasomes, while changing the composition of their guts, leading to intestinal inflammation. The good news: Mice pretreated with probiotics experienced reduced intestinal inflammation, by reversing the inhibition of inflammasomes.

So, how do these positive results affect folks dealing with IBS? Although researchers say that stress doesn’t cause IBS, it alters gut-brain interactions that lead to diarrhea, problems with appetite and chronic or severe gut pain.

“The effect of stress could be protected with probiotics which reverse the inflammation of the inflammasomes,” says John Kao, senior study author and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan. “This study reveals an important mechanism for explaining why treating IBS patients with probiotics makes sense.”

The important takeaway from this study regarding probiotics: Your body is under constant attack externally (bad bacteria is lurking everywhere) and internally (too many things to do and not enough time to do them). Taking a probiotic is the safest, most effective way to maintain the balance that protects and preserves a healthy gut-brain axis.

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