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Mental Wellbeing

Good Bacteria and the Brain

Good Bacteria and the Brain
Writer and expert2 years ago
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By now most of us know about the ‘good’ bacteria that live in our gut. Trillions of the little things, some of which that are working hard to keep us in healthy balance, fighting off those bacterial baddies and helping our digestive system to stay in shape.

But it is not just the digestive system that your colony of bacteria is there to support.

While supplementing with good bacteria is often top of mind for those suffering from common digestive complaints, we can consider this when looking at other areas of our health.

In fact, experts are particularly interested in what friendly bacteria can do for our brain, and how gut health is connected to mental health.

Bacteria for mental health: the gut-brain axis

It might sound like something made up by a marketing company, but the improbably named gut-brain axis is a very real thing.

Referring to the link between these two very different parts of our body, the gut-brain axis underlines just how important a healthy gut is for our mental health and cognitive abilities.

In recent years, clinicians and scientists have increasingly recognised the strong link between poor digestive health and depression, anxiety and stress, with studies backing up this claim.

In fact, it is increasingly apparent that this works both ways, the brain affecting the gut in just the same way that the gut can affect the brain.

It is certainly something that anyone who has had butterflies before a big presentation or suffered with nervous tummy troubles can attest to.

Gut and brain: what is the connection?

The gut and the brain are two completely different parts of our body and ostensibly involved in completely different functions, so how do we figure that they are so intrinsically linked?

Well, first and foremost, there is the vagus nerve, which sends signals between intestines and brain.

And then there are gut microbes, the trillions of bacteria that reside in your gut and communicate directly with your brain via neurotransmitters, short-chain fatty acids and amino acids.

The bacteria in your gut also talks to your central nervous system via and hormone production.

Why gut microbes are important for your brain

Studies have shown time and again that a healthy gut microbiome – the balance of microscopic bacteria, yeasts, viruses and protozoa residing in your intestinal system – is essential for good mental, as well as physical, health.

Those with certain mental health conditions, including stress and depression, are often seen to have a gut bacteria population that is different from that seen in healthy people, which suggests that a balanced and resilient gut microbiome may be important for good mental wellbeing.

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Writer and expert
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