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In recent years, a field of study called 'microbial endocrinology', in which the fields of microbiology, endocrinology and neurophysiology intersect, has provided some important insights into the relationship between these bacteria in our guts and our moods. Studies have shown that GI microbes like probiotics regulate the endocrine system, the system that controls the release of certain hormones in to our blood, in its most critical moments.
The nature of the GI microbe and endocrine connection was revealed as a result of an unusual side-effect in those that suffer irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This common condition can cause those that suffer from it to experience feelings of anxiety and depression, which in turn further exacerbate the IBS symptoms. Yet when many of those that suffer from IBS began to consume more probiotics, they saw an encouraging change in their digestive symptoms and their mood.
According to Audrey Anne Sukacz of Baltimore, Maryland, "I noticed an elevated mood...a general lift," after she began to consume more probiotics. Indeed the probiotics seem to promote the production of positive brain chemical like GABA that ease the feelings of depression and anxiety. It is believed that this occurs when the bacteria send messages to the brain through the vagus nerve, the nerve that links the gut to the brain, to release the GABA chemical.
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In one of the studies on the topic conducted by Dr. Kirsten Tillisch of the University of California showed that those who had consumed probiotic yogurt twice a day for a month showed a much milder response to images of angry faces than those who hadn't eaten the yogurt. These findings concur with another study on mice that found that mice became bolder or more fearful depending on the balance of good or bad bacteria in their guts.
However, before you go out and buy yogurt instead of purchasing anti-depressants, it is important to know that probiotics can have different effects on each person. Also, just as anti-depressants won't magically begin to work, it often takes time to see the effects of probiotics in our lives, if there are at all. What is certain is that if you suffer from IBS or know someone who does, you should look into the benefits of probiotic yogurt for treating uncomfortable symptoms of the condition.
So on top of yogurt, where can you get probiotics? Foods like miso and tempeh are rich in probiotics, but if you aren't a fan, there is another bacteria that is worth giving a try called 'prebiotics'. Some of the foods that have this vital bacteria are:
-Slightly green bananas
-Durum pasta or egg noodles
-Onions, leeks and garlic (raw or cooked)
-Raw chicory root
-Cooked dried beans (pinto and black)
If you are feeling down in the dumps, or experience signs of IBS, try consuming probiotic and prebiotic foods that will improve your mood and your IBS symptoms. Maybe happiness does lie in a cup of yogurt...
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