When was the last time you had a 'gut-wrenching' experience?
Ever face a situation so bad that you had butterflies in your stomach...or worse?
That's your 'gut-brain axis' in effect.
This is odd, but in many people, anxiety and depression begin to rear their heads about 3 years before severe gastrointestinal problems. In other words, mood issues precede gut issues and your mood may be an 'leading indicator' of gut troubles.
This discovery could be telling us that both mood and gut issues may share a similar origin found inside your digestive tract.
As your gut microbiota impacts behavior, the good news is that it may be possible to improve your mental health through changing your beneficial gut bacteria.
1. Probiotics and Prebiotics
Probiotics are live bacteria or yeast.
Of course, if your mood health issues are caused by trauma or non-gut-related causes, no amount of probiotics can help.
Even in healthy adults, probiotics for 4 weeks can lead to better stress tolerance through impacting the brain.
Probiotics need Prebiotic Fiber to Thrive
Prebiotics are plant fibers that you cannot digest but act as food for your gut bacteria in order to grow in your gut.
But not all dietary fibers are prebiotics.
Useful prebiotics include soluble fibers, non-starch polysaccharides, polyphenols, and resistant starches.
Beyond the well-known benefit of improving bowel regularity, fermentable dietary fibers can:
- Reduce the stress hormone, cortisol.
- Help regulate your feeling of fullness after a meal (increased satiety).
- Decrease your desire to eat sweet and salty food through beneficial modifications of the gut microbiota composition.
Dosage for probiotics depends on the strains used. Make sure that if you decide to try a 'psychobiotic,' that your product offers a clinically studies dose.
Dosage for prebiotic fibers also depends on the type of prebiotic - there are dozens of different prebiotics, each feeding a different bug in different sections of the gut. Minimum effective dosage could be a teaspoon (5 grams or so) per day. However, use caution - if your gut isn't used to that much fermentable fibers, you might be a little bloated and, uh, gas-powered for a day or two. Start very small and work up to a teaspoon per day. This may take a couple of weeks. Once you build up an army of good bugs, digesting a teaspoon of prebiotic fiber should be uneventful.
At this point, the link between prebiotics and mood is somewhat weak. All we know about prebiotics is that it's best from foods and that prebiotics improve gut health over time. We do not know if prebiotics can improve mood.
Like probiotic strains, there are countless types of prebiotic fibers. Virtually all of them come from plants.
Most prebiotic fibers are soluble in water and fairly bland tasting. We've combined over a dozen of them into a powdered product that you can add to any meal. But we had to leave out many bitter-tasting-but-critical prebiotics compounds like phenolics. There are gut-bug-friendly phenolic prebiotics in coffee, tea, and chocolate.
In another decade or two, prebiotics may be viewed as far more important to human health than probiotics.
2. Omega-3 fats
These fats are found in oily fish and plant foods such as nuts, and flax seeds. EPA and DHA are the two key types of Omega-3s in fish.
The International Society of Nutrition Psychiatry Research recently issued a statement that 1000 to 2000 mg of high-EPA fish oil daily can enhance the effect of anti-depressant medications.
Several studies have looked at Omega-3 alone for potential benefits with mood. Some have been positive and others not. If you look at positive studies, two things become clear:
- EPA seems more effective than DHA for mood health
- Dosage matters - 1000 to 2000 mg of Net EPA daily. What's 'Net EPA'? Look at your Omega-3 label. Net EPA = mg EPA minus mg DHA. So, the higher then EPA level of your Omega-3, the better for your mood.
As a result, what happens in your gut doesn’t stay in your gut.
It may be a good idea to take EPA-rich Omega-3 fats along with probiotics and prebiotics.
Exercise is good for your mental health. No surprise there.
But it’s even better for your digestive well-being.
Scientists are working on exploring how changing your gut microbiota can resemble that of amateur athletes so you can benefit from a better performance.
Don’t worry if you’re just getting motivated...how much you decide to bite off, even a little bit of exercise is really good for your gut health and overall wellbeing.
Just 6 weeks of endurance training is enough to make positive changes in the composition and activity of your gut microbiota.
But...you gotta keep it up. Because the observed changes in gut bacteria were reversed when participants become sedentary again.
- The combination of psychobiotics and prebiotic fiber can help improve your gut health and possibly your mood.
- Omega-3 fats, especially EPA Omega-3 seems to have a positive effect on mood.
- Combining prebiotics, probiotics, Omega-3 fats, and exercise may improve your mental health through changing your gut bacteria.
Stuff that must be said:
InnovixLabs sells supplements. It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that we do not make claims that taking our supplements will treat, cure, or prevent any disease, including depression or anxiety.
Why? Because your case of depression or anxiety may have nothing to do with nutrition or gut health. Your mood also depends on a whole bunch of factors: what and when you eat, how much you sleep, how often you move, people around you, sun exposure, your hormones, heck...even social media. Nutrition (and supplements) should be a PART of a larger plan. Should you decide to include supplements as a part of this larger plan, hey, call us. We can help.
Supplements mentioned here are not meant to replace prescription meds or doctor visits. You may need prescription medications. Most of the supplements we sell may be taken with prescription anti-depressants. Do not make these decisions by yourself. Talk to your doctor about it.
Supplements may help, but supplements alone will not restore you to complete health. We think supplements are a small piece of the health puzzle. You cannot outrun a bad diet and inactivity with pills. Most of the heavy lifting involved in restoring your health will have to come from you in the form of healthy eating and lifestyle corrections. In these articles, we are merely sharing our excitement about nutritional science and doing our best to translate dense science into fun, easy-to-read plain English. We geek out on nutrition and health science and we think you will too. We hope it makes you a more informed consumer. Our Legal Dept. says the same thing in Legalese at the bottom of this page. Enjoy.
- Jones MP, Tack J, Van Oudenhove L, et al. Mood and anxiety disorders precede development of functional gastrointestinal disorders in patients but not in the population. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017; 15(7):1014-20. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2016.12.032.
- Schmidt K, Cowen PJ, Harmer CJ, et al. Prebiotic intake reduces the waking cortisol response and alters emotional bias in healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015; 232(10):1793-1801. doi: 10.1007/s00213-014-3810-0.
- Hiel S, Bindels LB, Pachikian BD, et al. Effects of a diet based on inulin-rich vegetables on gut health and nutritional behavior in healthy humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019; 109 (6):1683-95. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz001.
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- Liu RT, Walsh RFL, Sheehan AE. Prebiotics and probiotics for depression and anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2019; 102:13-23. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.03.023.
- Wang H, Braun C, Murphy EF, Enck P. Bifidobacterium longum 1714TM strain modulates brain activity of healthy volunteers during social stress. Am J Gastroenterol. 2019. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000000203.
- Mocking RJT, Harmsen I, Assies J, et al. Meta-analysis and meta-regression of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for major depressive disorder. Transl Psychiatry. 2016; 6(3):e756. doi: 10.1038/tp.2016.29.
- Watson H, Mitra S, Croden FC, et al. A randomized trial of the effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements on the human intestinal microbiota. Gut. 2018; 67:1974-83. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2017-314968.
- Allen JM, Mailing LJ, Niemiro GM, et al. Exercise alters gut microbiota composition and function in lean and obese humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018; 50(4):747-57. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001495.