Probiotics in Yogurt can improve brain function by altering the intestinal microflora
It’s common knowledge that dietary habits may have significant effects on our health. A new study from the UCLA Health researches, however, shows how nutrition can also alter our psychological and emotional behavior other than just our physical health. In their small trial, researchers found that eating yogurt may affect brain function by altering the gut bacteria’s balance1.
Several studies found a strict connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal system, in what is called the “brain-gut axis.” Common negative emotions such as stress or anxiety may have as a consequence several reactions in the gut, such as constipation, gastritis, and diarrhea. Human intestine contains and an incredible number of bacteria called microflora, whose complex interactions may affect several aspects of our physiological as well as emotional health2. The individual’s microflora profile may be altered by the ingestion of several foods, especially those that include living organisms inside them such as yogurt.
Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, the lead author of the UCLA study, found that neurological signals aren’t unidirectional from the brain to the gut. They go back and forth between them, so they tried to alter these signals with a probiotic yogurt-based diet. The brain state of the 36 women who participated in the study were analyzed prior and before the test through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The researching team found that women who consumed the probiotic food showed an increased activity in the brain nuclei that are responsible for processing visceral feelings. These women also showed improved network connections in cognitive and sensitive areas of the brain, although the exact consequence of this activity is still unknown.
1. UCLA, Health Sciences (2013, May 29). Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function.
2. Zhou L, Foster JA. Psychobiotics and the gut–brain axis: in the pursuit of happiness. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2015;11:715-723. doi:10.2147/NDT.S61997.