In 2004 a study was done involving two groups of mice, which lead to thinking around the Gut Brain Axis.
One group of mice had the germs in their stomach artificially removed, while the other had theirs left intact. Both groups were wired up and exposed to a stressful experience. The germ-free mice had a measurably exaggerated response, which sparked interest in a concept called ‘The Gut Brain Axis’.
The Gut Brain Axis is the idea that microbes in your intestines vastly affect the way your brain and nervous system function. The link had not previously been made, but the next question was “Could this have an application for humans?”
It turns out it does.
The Gut Brain Axis — Good Bacteria vs Bad Bacteria
You may not know it, but there is a war going on in your gut. ‘Good Bacteria’ are pitted against ‘Bad Bacteria’ and who’s winning the fight, is of great importance.
These bacteria can affect everything from mood to obesity levels, with both bacteria controlling important levers in the Enteric Nervous System, which in turn causes chemical cascades that affect all parts of your body, right up to your brain.
- An overabundance of ‘Bad Guy Baceria’ causes an imbalance that can result in common psychological problems such as Depression, Anxiety or OCD.
- The ‘Good Guy Bacteria’ on the other hand can help keep us relaxed and our mood buoyant, by releasing GABA. GABA inhibits nerve transmission in the brain and helps calm nervous activity.
In stimulating the Vagus Nerve (amongst other things) this collective of gut bacteria are known as ‘The Microbiome’. They live inside you in symbiosis (meaning you need them and they need you).
But just like you, they need to be fed in the right way.
You are what you eat
A familiar expression, but closer to the truth than we might think. The food you put into your gut encourages the growth of good or bad bacteria which in turn affects any number of the aforementioned ailments or benefits.
Given these advances scientists have identified certain foods that encourage the ‘Good Guy’ bacteria and called them Probiotics — you might be thinking this is a scientific breakthrough.
Well not quite — these have been known for thousands of years by many cultures:
- Seven to eight thousand years ago, men of the Thracian Culture (a warrior race) drank sour milk before going to battle
- Marco Polo the Explorer hailed the magical qualities of an ancient drink known as Kefir
- One version of the Bible says Abraham owed his long life to the consumption of sour milk
This is not new knowledge, but medical science can be slow to catch up and is now only beginning to realise the connection.
Remarkably many health professionals don’t make much of this connection.
Could this be an issue?
Mental health rates and mental illness at an all-time high.
Around 9% of people in the UK are on depressants and the USA on over 10%. There are now more than 50 million prescriptions of antidepressants annually in the UK and when these diagnoses and prescriptions are made diet is usually not part of the protocol.
This not only ignores our ancestral knowledge, it is actually unscientific.
The nervous system like any organ is highly sensitive to the environment and is shaped by what you eat. The probiotics of yesteryear have been removed from the modern diet in favour of fast foods and no prizes for guessing what kind of bacteria fast foods encourage.
While probiotic foods, such as live yoghurt, might encourage more ‘good bacteria’ to grow, a specialised gut health supplement like, Symprove would be an even better choice. Symprove is water based, meaning it doesn’t trigger digestion and therefore survives and thrives the hostile environment of your stomach to help restore the balance of healthy bacteria.
So ask yourself this — could your diet be a major factor in your mental health wellbeing?
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