Your gut health and your mental health are intimately related, primarily due to the trillions of bacteria in your gut – your microbiome. You might’ve heard about “good” bacteria versus “bad” bacteria, but did you know that some strains have unique roles in mental health? These “psychobiotic” strains are key, and are just one more piece of evidence why working with your gut microbiome is one of the best ways to improve your gut and brain health. So, how do we actually do that?
Essentially, the best way to promote these psychobiotic strains is by making sure our microbiome is balanced and diverse. Referring to bacteria as “good” or “bad” isn’t entirely accurate, as each of them has an important role, but we do know that the ones typically referred to as “bad” tend to be bossy. They can cause an overgrowth, and throw our whole microbiome out of balance. This overgrowth can literally crowd out our brain-friendly psychobiotics! Additionally, an out-of-balance gut microbiome is associated with a number of diseases.
There are a few things we can do to restore and maintain this balance, the most important of which is reducing sugar intake. Why? Why sugar!? Well, sugar just happens to be the “bad” bacteria’s favorite food. The less you feed them, the happier your “good” bacteria will be! As long as you get plenty of healthful prebiotics like garlic, onions, and chicory, those “good” bacteria will naturally take the place of the sugar-deprived bad guys.
Another important step towards a happy microbiome is increasing microbial diversity. Research shows that beyond a balanced microbiome, having more diverse gut bacteria can have many positive health effects. You can increase your microbial diversity by introducing new strains into your body through fermented foods, taking a probiotic, and making friends with all the great bacteria in our environment! That’s right – playing in the dirt, gardening, going barefoot. Our modern life keeps us sanitized and separated from nature, making it even more important that we have dirt as a regular part of our gut health improvement interventions.
Now that we know how to balance and diversify our microbiome, it’s time to think about what strains we specifically want to have. This is where our psychobiotics come in. We’ve learned that several different strains can reduce anxiety, including L. helveticus and B. longum. Other strains, like B. bifidum and L. acidophilus play a role in the production and absorption of vitamins and minerals that are essential to mental health. L. plantarum even significantly increased serotonin and dopamine in mice. Pretty neat that bacteria can do all of that, huh?
If you’re looking for a probiotic and are working on your mental health, you’ll want to find one that has the above strains. We’ve found that this one is a good option, and is what I personally use. Remember, if you add these new psychobiotic strains to a gut microbiome that is out of balance, they won’t survive. Restore harmony, increase variety, and remember that a happy gut is a balanced and diverse gut.
Looking for some one-on-one support in managing your microbiome with mental health in mind? Book a Free 15min Phone Consultation to learn how we can help!