There are about 100 trillion microorganisms and 500 different bacteria residing in our guts, meaning that there is 10 times more bacteria cells in the body than human cells.
Gut bacteria have an impact on the immune, nervous, and hormonal system and play an important role in numerous bodily functions, such as production of vitamins and digestion. Therefore, the fact that the makeup of these bacteria affects both physical and mental health doesn’t come as surprise.
What Causes Bad Gut Bacteria Overgrowth
The modern lifestyle is not beneficial for our gut bacteria whatsoever! In fact, medications, poor diet, and stress all reduce good bacteria in the gut and increase the bad ones.
Many people these days have out-of-balance and unregulated gut bacteria. To retain optimal brain and mental health, supporting good bacteria in the gut is the key. Read on to learn how to increase good bacteria and reduce bad ones!
The Gut-Brain Connection
Recent research suggests that there is a strong link between the brain and the digestive tract and that the bacteria in the gut have a tremendous impact on our mood, thoughts, and behavior.
There is mounting evidence showing that gut bacteria produces neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, which affect pain, cognition, and mood. Stephen Collins, a gastroenterology researcher at McMaster University, has found that unhealthy gut bacteria play an important role in causing anxiety, depression, and other forms of abnormal behavior. On the other hand, good bacteria reduce anxiety and stress hormones.
Gut Health is More than Just Physical
In one research, Collins took gut bacteria of anxious mice and put them into calm ones. After the transplant, the calm mice begin acting nervously. The same results were seen with humans too.
According to studies by Dr. John Cryan, a neuropharmacologist and microbiome expert at the University College Cork, gut bacteria can change brain chemistry. He discovered that after removing the good bacteria in mice, they act in ways similar to human depression, anxiety, and autism.
How to Heal Your Gut to Improve Gut Health and Mental Health
There are three simple ways to nourish your good bacteria and get rid of the bad ones. By adhering to these steps, you will feel better both physically and mentally.
1. Consume Probiotics In Food and Supplement Form
Increasing the number of good bacteria in the gut is one of the best things you can do for you mental health. Probiotic supplements add good germs to your digestive system and provide the system with a wide range of beneficial bacteria that can reduce your susceptibility to stress. It has been scientifically shown that mice are less anxious when they are given probiotics. Many other studies show that humans feel less anxious, less depressed, and less stressed out when supplementing with probiotics.
One study has found that probiotics stimulate the production of more GABA, an amino acid and neurotransmitter. The same study suggested that probiotics not only stimulate the production of this relaxing amino acid, but they improve sensitivity of the GABA receptors in the brain too. Other probiotics have also exhibited an ability to reduce stress hormones and increase serotonin, tryptophan, and omega-3 fats in the brain.
Eating probiotic good is a good idea, as it promotes proliferation of friendly bacteria in the gut and support the brain. One study has found that young adults experience less anxiety of they eat fermented food.
2. Feed The Good Guys With Prebiotics and Resistant Starch
Probiotics in the gut need to be nurtured and supported by eating or supplementing prebiotics. Prebiotics cannot be digested by humans, so they pass through the gastrointestinal tract and stimulate the growth of many strains of good bacteria.
According to a 2015 paper published by Dr. Phil Burnet, a neurobiologist at Oxford University, people who ate probiotics have lower cortisol levels, the major stress hormone. A research by Burnet found that prebiotics promote brain health in humans and accelerate the growth of probiotics in mice, leading to increased levels of neurotransmitters and reduce anxiety. Feeding the good bacteria promotes overall health, both physical and mental. Probiotic- rich foods include squash, onions, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
3. Avoid Antibiotics (unless absolutely necessary)
Antibiotics don’t make a difference between good and bad bacteria, meaning that they destroy them both. Any antibiotic treatment is likely to wipe out the good bacteria in your gut, worsening symptoms of asthma, deteriorating mental health, and many more.
So, as much as antibiotics save lives, they destroy your health if they are not necessary. It has been shown that antibiotic use leads to changes and loss of diversity in the composition of gut bacteria, causing chronic health complications. Improper and excessive use can lead to serious long-term effects, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
According to an article published in Nature, antibiotics case notable changes in gut bacteria, and babies delivered via caesarean section or by a mother given antibiotics during pregnancy will have a low and insufficient level of friendly bacteria.