Probiotics have a long history of improving digestive and immune health, but every day researchers are uncovering more about how probiotics can improve other aspects of life outside the gut, including skin health, women’s health, muscle health and brain health. Gut bacteria can not only affect the gut, but also the mind. The gut microbiome can influence neural development, brain chemistry and emotional behavior. Gut bacteria produce neurochemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine that the brain uses to regulate memory, learning and mood. Psychological stress from tests, exams, an important office meeting, public speaking or even the weekend game of a person’s favorite sports team can create gastric discomfort resulting in diarrhea in some people, while others become constipated. While the gut bacteria affect the brain, the brain can also profoundly impact the gut microbiome. It’s a two-way street, the gut-brain-axis.
A lack of sleep can have massive negative effects on physical and mental well-being. Different strategies can help ensure good sleep patterns; the top five are to:
1) Have a bedtime routine (yes, what worked great as a child works as well in adulthood),
2) Reduce stress levels,
3) Cut back on stimulants, such as caffeine, that can lead to insomnia,
4) Avoid screen time at least one hour before bed, as the light from a cell phone or TV reduces the production of melatonin, the hormone which controls the sleep/wake cycle, and
5) Increase intake of sleep-promoting nutrients, including probiotics.
Improving the gut microbiota could improve sleep quality, as the gut bacteria also produce melatonin that the brain uses to regulate sleep. Inflammation is negatively correlated to sleep, and probiotics can also help manage a healthy inflammatory response.
There are many probiotic products out there, but which ones have the scientific evidence to improve sleep and brain health? A new study submitted for publication suggests a multi-strain probiotic containing three different Lactobacilli and one Bifidobacterium (L. fermentum LF16, L. rhamnosus LR06, L. plantarum LP01, and B. longum 04), might be an optimal combination. The study examined the effects of six weeks of probiotic supplementation in healthy, young women on both psychological well-being (e.g., feelings of depression, anxiety or cognitive reactivity to sad mood) and quality of sleep. At the end of the study, probiotic supplementation was associated with observed improvements in mood, depressive feelings, anger, fatigue and sleep quality.
Ralf Jäger, FISSN, CISSN, is a managing member of Increnovo LLC, and a senior scientific advisor to Ashland.
Ashland is presenting a session, “Gut-Brain-Axis: New Study–Probiotic Supplementation Improves Mental Health in Healthy Women,” on Thursday, Nov. 8, as part of the IPA Probiotics Resource Center at SupplySide West.