This is Your Brain on Probiotics
Have ever had a “gut feeling” that eating yogurt with live cultures is good for your health? For years, I’ve recommended low-fat yogurt as a great functional food that supplies plenty of calcium and beneficial probiotics—acid-loving bacteria that have been linked to better immune function. Now, striking research by scientists at the University of California Los Angeles shows that probiotics can actually affect the way your brain works.
This remarkable new research has wide-ranging implications. Using sophisticated real-time imaging of the working brain, scientists showed that women who had consumed a probiotic fermented milk product experienced measurable changes in the way their brains reacted to stimuli.
The study adds to a growing body of research on the connection between the network of nerves in the gut and the brain. The phrase “gut feeling” is taking on new meaning as it becomes increasingly clear that the gut influences brain function, and vice versa. “Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,” said lead author, Dr. Kirsten Tillisch. “Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”
Previous research has shown that diet affects the body in numerous, important ways. “There are studies showing that what we eat can alter the composition and products of the gut flora — in particular, that people with high-vegetable, fiber-based diets have a different composition of their microbiota, or gut environment, than people who eat the more typical Western diet that is high in fat and carbohydrates," said said Dr. Emeran Mayer, senior author of the study. “Now we know that this has an effect not only on the metabolism but also affects brain function.”
Tillisch K, Labus J, Kilpatrick L, Jiang Z, Stains J, Ebrat B, et al. Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology. 2013 Jun;144(7):1394-1401.e4. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.043. Epub 2013 Mar 6.
van Baarlen P, Wells JM, Kleerebezem M. Regulation of intestinal homeostasis and immunity with probiotic lactobacilli. Trends Immunol. 2013 May;34(5):208-15. doi: 10.1016/j.it.2013.01.005. Epub 2013 Feb 26.