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Probiotics and mental health

I know we've been getting hints of this lately in the news, but the evidence is becoming stronger with each new study, that the bacteria (probiotics) in our guts have an awful lot to do with our mental state.  How can this be?

Well, it seems that the microbes in our guts actually churn out the mood-influencing neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.  It seems the gut and brain speak the same language. 

Does this mean that the microbes in our gutsdetermine our moods?  Not exactly, because it works the other way around as well:  Stress can actually change the gut bacteria (in a bad way) and mindful meditation can change it in the other direction. So we are not totally victims of the bacterial populations in our gut but there truly is a conversation going on between gut and brain!

Most of the studies to date have been done on mice and rats and they have found that by performing fecal transplants of gut bacteria (from the feces, yes!) from depressed people  into lab animals, the animals quickly become depressed. Science fiction, right?

Fecal transplants have been used for several years now for persons suffering from severe gut infections (by putting fecal material directly into the dying person) with tremendous success.  Bacteria are just now being used to treat certain brain malfunctions, mainly anxiety and depression so far.  The dream is that someday pharmaceuticals used to treat mental illness might be specific concoctions of bacteria! 

In the meantime, how can we be "pro-active" in getting or keeping our gut bacteria healthy?  First and foremost, of course, is diet.  What diet?  One that includes lots of vegetables (for these serve as pre-biotics, meaning substances that are needed before we can manufacture the good guys.)  You could also include (plain, white, non-flavored, full-fat yogurt that has the live probiotics added after manufacture.  Garlic, onion, asparagus, and fiber, in general, help the body make the good guys, too. And JuicePlus+, being a combination of 28 different fruits and vegetables is also an excellent pre-biotic.

Taking a very high quality probiotic combo (such as metagenics, ortho molecular, or Dr Ohhira) will also strengthen the population of the healthy bacteria.  One advantage of Dr Ohhira is that this one actually implants in the gut so that you don't have to take it every day once the healthy population has been established.  Dr Ohhira is great for travelling b/c it has a shelf life of 2 - 3 years and is in bubble packs so they don't pick up moisture.  Also heat-resistant. (I stock all three of these brands.)

Once again, the old adage:  "Let medicine be your food and food be your medicine" is proven to be true!

This info was summarized from the April 2, 2016 publication of Science News.

Mary Anne Robinson, MS Bio-Nutrition
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