gut-brain axis

Can Yogurt Treat Depression?

Yogurt is a delicious and nutritional treat people often confuse as a remedy for all sorts of health conditions (often with the sneaky help of science).

But can yogurt treat depression, one of the most pervasive, frustrating and common health problems affecting more than 16 million adults in America annually?

A recent study appearing in Scientific Reports concluded feeding mice a proprietary strain of Lactobacillus reuteri in yogurt made from live cultures was enough on its own to reverse depressive symptoms in stressed out mice.

A team of scientists at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine came to that finding after studying the gut health of tiny mice and discovering the depletion of Lactobacillus reuteri triggered the onset of depression.

To take it a step further, that loss of Lactobacillus reuteri was responsible for spiking levels of kynurenine (a metabolite in blood) that bring on depressive symptoms. Once mice were fed Lactobacillus reuteri with their food, however, their stress levels returned to nearly normal, scientists said.

This research does represent evidence that the gut-brain axis – the link between your brain, emotions and intestines – is very much a reality, and maintaining a healthy balance among all three is critical for good physical and mental health.

University of Virginia scientists were so pleased with these results on mice, they plan to turn their attention to human subjects, specifically with multiple sclerosis patients who struggle with depression too.

However, one probiotic strain may not be enough to do the trick. Other studies have found probiotics formulated with Bifidobacterium longum may have a similar beneficial effect on treating depression.

What’s more, there’s no guarantees the yogurt you’ll find in a grocery store will contain exactly the right amounts or combinations of beneficial bacteria that make much of a difference on balancing your emotions.

But, there is growing evidence that a probiotic containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria – think EndoMune Advanced Probiotic — may be a more effective solution for treating depression and a safer one given all of the side effects associated with antidepressants.

Smarter Babies, Better Gut Health

For the longest time, we’ve discussed the connection between the brain and gut, better known as the gut-brain axis, and how it affects an array of human health variables from emotions to protecting your baby’s brain.

That connection may also be responsible for higher levels of cognitive development in young babies, depending on the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, according to research featured recently in Biological Psychiatry.

Smelly diapers

To assess the relationship between the gut and brain development, researchers at the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) School of Medicine studied fecal samples from 1-year-old babies. Those samples were analyzed then separated into one of three microbial communities.

A year later, that same group of infants was given a series of cognitive tests that measured their language, perception and motor skills.

Overall, babies with higher concentrations of the Bacteroides bacterial genus did the best on cognitive tests. Interestingly, babies with more diverse gut microbiomes didn’t perform as well, a big surprise to UNC scientists.

“We had originally predicted that children with highly diverse microbiomes would perform better – since other studies have shown that low diversity in infancy is associated with negative health outcomes, including type 1 diabetes and asthma,” says Dr. Rebecca Knickmeyer, a member of UNC’s Department of Psychiatry, according to a press release.

“Our work suggests that an ‘optimal’ microbiome for cognitive and psychiatric outcomes may be different than an ‘optimal’ microbiome for other outcomes.”

Gut-brain communication

Another interesting aspect of this study is the realization that the guts and the developing brains of babies may be communicating in very unique ways we’re just learning about every day, Dr. Knickmeyer says.

“That’s something that we are working on now, so we’re looking at some signaling pathways that might be involved. Another possibility is that the bacterial community is acting as a proxy for some other process that influences brain development – for example, variation in certain dietary nutrients.”

Another huge takeaway from this study in measuring the microbiomes of infants: Adult-like gut microbiome communities emerging at such an early age, implying that the ideal age in which to intervene would happen before age 1, says UNC grad student Alexander Carlson.

“Big picture: these results suggest you may be able to guide the development of the microbiome to optimize cognitive development or reduce the risk for disorders like autism which can include problems with cognition and language,” says Dr. Knickmeyer.

Although researchers were hesitant to speculate how probiotics may play a role, a severe imbalance of gut bacteria — specifically Lactobacillus reuteri — may be a trigger for autism, based on a recent study conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine.

These deficits, along with the exploding growth of babies being delivered via Cesarean section in America, puts the health of our most vulnerable at risk from the very beginning of their lives.

A targeted, non-drug solution like a probiotic, like EndoMune Junior Probiotic, may be a safe way to promote better gut health and smarter brains.

 

Probiotics: A drug-free way to treat Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most devastating health problems facing America today. Not only does this mind-robbing condition affect more than 5 million Americans today, with the Baby Boomer generation heading to retirement, that number is expected to triple by 2050.

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, just a handful of FDA-approved drugs relieve symptoms, but only for the short-term. What’s more, they come with an array of side effects, including headaches, nausea, weight loss, diarrhea and constipation.

Fortunately, modern medicine has begun to embrace the gut-brain axis — the connection that links your brain to your intestines and emotions. Over time, probiotics have proven their value as a non-drug tool ideally equipped to maintain that important balance, and treat problems like depression.

One day very soon, neurologists may be using probiotics to treat Alzheimer’s, based on a recent clinical trial featured in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

 

Neurological testing

Over the course of the 12-week, double-blind clinical trial, Iranian researchers split 52 Alzheimer’s patients (between ages 60-95) into two groups. One received 200 milliliters of milk enriched with three strains of Lactobacillus (acidophilus, casei and fermentum) and Bifidobacterium bifidum, while a control group was given milk without beneficial bacteria.

(Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium bifidum are three important ingredients of EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.)

At the beginning and end of the trial, blood samples were taken and all patients were given Mini-Mental State Exams (MMSEs) that measured their cognitive ability on specific tasks like remembering dates, copying pictures, counting backwards and naming objects.

No surprise, patients who received the probiotic mixture improved on their previous MMSE results after 12 weeks, while those in the control group had lower scores.

Patients in the probiotic group also benefitted in other measurable ways, with lower levels of trigylcerides, high-sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP) and Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL) as well as drops in two common measures used to gauge insulin resistance and the production of insulin in the pancreas.

“These findings indicate that change in the metabolic adjustments might be a mechanism by which probiotics affect Alzheimer’s and possibly other neurological disorders,” said senior study author Dr. Mahmoud Salami, according to a press release.

 

Multi-species power

Arguably, the real benefits Alzheimer’s patients received in improved cognitive skills and healthier blood levels may stem from the multiple species of bacteria, not just one.

In fact, it’s possible giving Alzheimer’s patients a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic with 10 proven strains of bacteria every day may have yielded even greater results.

The gut-brain axis even works between mice and men

The importance of a healthy gut-brain axis — the connection that links your brain, intestines and emotions — is critical to protect your cognitive and physical well-being.

That connection seems pretty clear, considering as much as 90 percent of your body’s serotonin, a chemical neurotransmitter that sends message from one part of your brain to another, may be produced in your gut.

A recent study appearing in Science Translational Medicine takes the gut-brain axis connection to the next level, literally between mice and men, with the help of fecal transplants.

IBS and the gut-brain axis

Curious about the effect irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has on behavior and intestinal health, researchers from McMaster University and the University of Waterloo took an unconventional approach: Transplanting fecal samples from eight patients suffering from IBS with diarrhea for at least two years and five healthy people into germ-free mice.

Three weeks later, compared to mice that received healthy samples, animals that were given IBS-laced transplants experienced increased gut permeability, low-grade inflammation and faster gastrointestinal transit (how long it takes food to travel from the stomach and through the intestine).

Then, scientists tested anxiety-associated behaviors by measuring the time mice spent in the dark and how long it took them to step down from a platform to explore their environments, according to The Scientist.

Mice that were given fecal samples from human IBS patients who reported anxieties experienced similar emotional difficulties, compared to animals given fecal samples from healthy patients and those with IBS who reported no problems with anxieties.

Probiotics to the rescue

Researcher Dr. Giada De Palma called these findings a landmark “because it moves the field beyond a simple association and toward evidence that changes in the microbiota impact both intestinal and behavioral responses in IBS.”

These results also offer more evidence that human gut health may play a larger role in the range of brain disorders ranging from the emotional (mood or anxieties) to more serious problems, like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and autism, according to a press release.

The good news: Scientists believe treatments such as probiotics and prebiotics could be beneficial in treating, not only the physical aspects of IBS but the behavioral issues associated with it too.

Protecting the health of your gut by taking a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic is certainly much safer and more effective than taking a drug like mesalazine that merely treats symptoms but not the root cause of IBS: Restoring the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

gut brain

What you eat may harm your gut-brain axis

There may be a problem with your gut-brain axis — the biological connection linking the gut, emotions and brain as one — when eating a diet rich in fats and sugars. These chemicals may cause shifts in mood and cognitive behaviors.

A recent study by Oregon State University (OSU) featured in the medical journal Neuroscience, linking gut health changes caused by following poor diets to serious problems related to cognitive flexibility, the ability to adapt quickly to new and unexpected situations.

“The impairment of cognitive flexibility in this study was pretty strong,” says Dr. Kathy Magnusson of the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU in a press release. “Think about driving home on a route that’s very familiar to you, something you’re used to doing. Then one day that road is closed and you suddenly have to find a new way home.”

Researchers came to that conclusion after feeding mice either high-fat or high-sugar diets, then monitoring their physical and mental performances with an array of physical tests alongside their gut health.

Compared to mice that ate a normal diet, animals that were prescribed high-fat or high-sugar diets began to perform poorly on physical tests after only four weeks. The lack of cognitive flexibility stood out to researchers as one of the most obvious problems.

Young mice with physically stronger and healthier bodies were used in the study because they had more dynamic biological systems. In theory, the stronger mice could better resist the effects of a poor diet, Magnusson says.

On its own merit, the study provided more evidence of how Western diets — high in saturated fats, carbohydrates, refined sugars, processed foods and red meat — forced the gut to adapt by reducing the diversity of bacteria, leaving our bodies vulnerable to many diseases, most of which are preventable.

“We’ve known for a while, too much fat and sugar are not good for you,” Magnusson says. “This work suggests fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and it is one of the reasons those foods aren’t good for you. It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes.”

One easy way to give your gut microbiota a healthy, natural boost and assist in preventing damage to your gut-brain axis is to take a probiotic with multiple species of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria can treat a variety of conditions related to your gut health.

Unlike many probiotics you’ll find at your health food shop or grocery store, EndoMune Advanced Probiotic contains 10 strains of beneficial bacteria, plus the prebiotic fructooligosaccharide that feeds the good gut bacteria already living in your gut.

Could a high-fat diet harm your gut-brain axis?

Choosing high-fat foods impacts your physical health, making you more vulnerable to obesity, diabetes and a host of other issues related to metabolic syndrome. The biological connection that links your intestines, brain and emotions as one — better known as the gut-brain axis — may be harmed too.

Although researchers at Louisiana State University didn’t specifically mention the gut-brain axis in their recently published study in Biological Psychiatry, the implication was certainly present in the results. They concluded that eating a high-fat diet may increase your risks for behavioral problems, including depression.

Scientists tested their theory by transplanting gut bacteria of mice, fed either a high-fat diet or a control diet, into non-obese adult mice. The mice were then evaluated for signs of behavioral changes.

The mice exposed to gut bacteria fed by a high-fat diet displayed numerous changes, both mentally and physically.

On the mental health side, the mice experienced impaired memory, greater anxiety and repetitive behaviors. Physically, the mice displayed signs of inflammation and increased intestinal permeability.

According to researchers, the connection between the gut-brain axis, behavioral disruptions, and high-fat diets could also indicate inflammation in the brain.

“This paper suggests that high-fat diets impair brain health, in part, by disrupting the symbiotic relationship between humans and the microorganisms that occupy our gastrointestinal tracts,” Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry, commented in a press release.

Fortunately, probiotics can help prevent the negative effect of a high-fat diet.

How probiotics can help

Unfortunately, high-fat diets are just one variable that disrupts the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut. Relying too often on antibiotics can be a big problem, leaving you vulnerable to hazardous infections like Clostridium difficile, which can be severe and, on occasion, deadly.

Protecting the diversity of your gut bacteria can be tricky with our hectic lifestyles that encourage us to eat high-fat, high-calorie meals because they are quick and simple.

Spending a little more time every day to eat a healthier diet richer in fiber and cutting out extra calories does your body a world of good.

Taking a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic that contains 10 different strains of beneficial bacteria plus the prebiotic FOS (fructooligosaccharide) can be the boost your health needs to protect your gut and brain.

Boost Your Serotonin without Medication

Protecting your body’s gut-brain axis—the connection linking your brain, emotions and intestines—is very important to your good physical and emotional well-being.

Taking a multi-strain probiotic can serve as a vital step to enhance the diversity of beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Guarding that diversity and your gut-brain axis is critical for your body’s production of serotonin, a chemical that works as a neurotransmitter to send messages from one part of the brain to another. In fact, scientists estimate that 80-90 percent of the body’s serotonin may be produced in the gut.

Important research by Caltech scientists, published in the medical journal Cell, has linked the production of peripheral serotonin in the gut by enterochromaffin (EC) cells to specific bacteria.

Specific gut bacteria connected to serotonin production

First, researchers investigated whether gut bacteria affected serotonin by comparing its production in normal and germ-free mice. No surprise, EC cells from germ-free animals produced some 60 percent less serotonin versus normal mice.

When gut bacteria was taken from normal mice and transplanted into germ-free mice, serotonin levels of germ-free animals rebounded.

Then, scientists tested gut bacteria (single species and groups) to determine which species work with EC cells to produce serotonin. They identified some 20 species of spore-forming bacteria that boosted levels of serotonin in germ-free mice.

Also, normal mice treated with these species experienced improved gastrointestinal motility and alterations in the activation of blood platelets (they use serotonin to promote clotting too).

“EC cells are rich sources of serotonin in the gut. What we saw in this experiment is that they appear to depend on microbes to make serotonin, or at least a large portion of it,” said Jessica Yano, one of the study’s authors in a press release.

Previously, research has concluded some strains of bacteria were solely responsible for producing serotonin, but this study saw things differently. Instead, specific bacteria normally present in the gut interact with intestinal cells to generate serotonin, said Yano.

These interactions between gut bacteria and intestinal cells may not be limited to producing serotonin, said Dr. Elaine Hsiao, research assistant professor of biology and biological engineering and senior author of the study.

“We identified a group of bacteria that, aside from increasing serotonin, likely has other effects yet to be explored. Also, there are conditions where an excess of peripheral serotonin appears to be detrimental.”

More natural serotonin boosters

Boost your levels of serotonin without depression medication, here’s four steps that can help without taking a drug:

  1. Exposing your body to bright light every day, a treatment for seasonal affective disorder in the winter, may be a worthwhile alternative to treat depression year-round.
  2. Get your body moving with daily exercise.
  3. Modify your diet by cutting back on caffeine and foods made of simple carbs (white bread, white rice and sweets), and eating more protein and brightly colored veggies every day.
  4. A recent University of Michigan study cited probiotics as a way to reduce stress by reversing intestinal inflammation.

That “gut feeling” linked to psychobiotics of the gut-brain axis

Probiotics do wonders to preserve, protect and enhance the balance of the gut-brain axis, the proven connection between your brain, emotions and intestines. A recent report is shedding light on the role of gut microbes play on those proverbial gut feelings and our overall state of mind.

A review article, recently featured in the medical journal Biological Psychiatry, referred to a probiotic as a psychobiotic, “a live organism that, when ingested in adequate amounts, produces a health benefit in patients suffering from psychiatric illness.

As a class of probiotic, these bacteria are capable of producing and delivering neuroactive substances such as gamma-aminobutyric acid and serotonin, which act on the brain-gut axis.”

While the psychobiotic appears to be no more than a superficial name-change, apparently, researchers looked at this as a way to expand how science looks at probiotics.

Works like a probiotic

Out of all of the studies reviewed by researchers from University College Cork in Ireland, one that stood out measured the potential benefits from B. infantis in young rats displaying depressive behaviors due to maternal separation.

Early life stressors, like maternal separation, have been found to affect the microbiomes of animals for the long term. No surprise, giving those test animals a probiotic improved their compromised immune systems as well as normalized their behaviors.

The report also cited the anti-inflammatory properties of psychobiotics/probiotics, a key benefit since inflammation in the body is linked to stress and depression.

“The intestinal microbial balance may alter the regulation of inflammatory responses and, in so doing, may be involved in the modulation of mood and behavior,” researchers said.

Acts like a probiotic

Cork researchers concluded emotional problems linked to the dysfunction of the gut-brain axis could affect other health problems linked to immune deficiencies ranging from syphilis to Lyme disease. What’s more, they believe, as a growing number of health professionals do, improving immune functioning with the help of probiotics/psychobiotics may alleviate them.

In fact, Dr. Mark Lyte, director of translational research at Texas Tech University, says probiotics/psychobiotics may do much more than modulate the immune system. Gut microbes could be producing microtransmitters than communicate with the brain.

“I’m actually seeing new neurochemicals that have not been described before being produced by certain bacteria,” Dr. Lyte told NPR. “These bacteria are, in effect, mind-altering microorganisms.”

Are probiotics/psychobiotics the ultimate anti-stress pill? No matter what you call them, the surge of interest and data being generated in medical research certainly demonstrates their benefits in protecting and improving the gut-brain axis safely, without a drug. And, the benefits of probiotics or psychobiotics could go far beyond that axis, and may be a gentler replacement down the road for depression medication.

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.

10 Reasons Everyone Should Take a Probiotic

With 100 trillion bacteria and many different species of microflora floating around in our intestinal tract, a balance of good and bad bacteria is necessary to maintain the normal functioning of our immune system and intestines, as well as to promote optimal health.

Considering the recent attention being paid to probiotics—many positive medical studies have been reported in the mainstream media—more people are asking why they need to take a probiotic to protect and improve their overall health.

Here are 10 reasons to take a probiotic for your good health:

1. Your body is under constant attack externally (from exposure to bad bacteria) and internally (our go-go lifestyles hinder our eating habits). Taking a good probiotic, ideally with multiple strains of good bacteria, is the safest, easiest and most effective way to maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria in your body.

2. The human body cannot replenish the various strains of live and beneficial bacteria your body needs every day to stay healthy just by eating foods like yogurt, miso soup, pickles and sauerkraut that usually contain limited amounts of a single strain of bacteria. This is especially true if you’re using probiotics to treat a specific health problem.

3. Probiotics containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria are more effective in treating a range of health-based problems, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, immune function and respiratory tract infections, according to a 2011 analysis of studies.

4. A growing number of studies are showing how taking a probiotic can be beneficial for patients when they are prescribed a broad spectrum antibiotic. Antibiotics can often disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in patients’ bodies, causing unwelcome side effects like diarrhea.

5. Taking a good probiotic boosts patients’ natural defenses, protecting them from traveler’s diarrhea, too.

6. New moms can sidestep the prolonged crying and discomfort from their babies suffering infantile colic by giving them a high-quality probiotic.

7. Recent studies have been linked with taking a high-quality probiotic to beneficial effects on the gut-brain axis that may positively affect your emotions and help you beat depression.

8. The healthy bacteria contained in a good probiotic help maintain normal intestinal motility and lessen the problems of constipation.

9. Reducing your risks of colon cancer is as simple as taking a good probiotic.

10. Probiotics are a newfound weapon that may assist in lowering elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels that contribute to cardiovascular disease.

Scroll to Top