Your gut bacteria could literally be ‘changing your mind’

When we think of bacteria, we think of our biological selves. It is not usually the case that we attribute mood changes and mental states to proliferation of bacteria. More evidence is mounting that this is a mistake, however. Gut bacteria can communicate with the brain in various ways. The good news is that there are types of bacteria available to you that can work in beneficial ways with your brain, thus enhancing your moods and cognitive functions.

There is a lot of hype around ‘friendly’ bacteria, but how much of it can we be sure is true? Marketing of such bacteria as health promoters in the form of probiotic yoghurts and other supermarket items is perhaps a clever PR stunt. The efficacy of these products is not really in question, but at least the upshot is that people are (to varying degrees) concerned with what is going on in their gut. The popularity of such yoghurts and high-street probiotic products indicates as much. Maintaining balance in our microbial environments is becoming increasingly important to people, and rightly so.

According to some studies done on the subject, your gut bacteria could be’ changing your mind’. So the question is not a new one: what are you eating – and what can you eat – that will positively influence your thinking?



Bacteria communicate with the brain.

It’s a question of brain chemicals. Different types of bacteria create ‘neural messengers’ which influence your cognitive function. For example, Bacillus makes Dopamine and norepinephrine, Bifidobacterium makes Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), Enterococcus makes Serotonin, Escherichia makes Norepinephrine and serotonin, Lactobacillus (this is one you’ll have seen on yoghurt cartons) produces Acetylcholine and GABA, and Streptococcus also produces Serotonin.

As you can see by the number of types of serotonin that produce serotonin, it makes sense that mood can be enhanced by consuming certain bacteria. It is important to know which types of bacteria produce beneficial results because many more are detrimental to the body. Microbes are nothing new to humans, whether we give them much thought or not. Our resilient bodies can handle many kinds, even the unsavoury ones, so we notice their presence only when they proliferate and overwhelm our systems.

There are many kinds of microbes; in many cases, we need them just as much as they need us. Striking the balance between those we should welcome and those we must eliminate is the trickier part. This is because there is no definite recipe for a healthy microbial presence, which differs for each person. On top of this, we can put them in consciously, but they do not always survive inside us.

Scientists have not yet discovered exactly how the communication happens between the microbes and the brain, but the results are still clear. They do know that the gut bacteria and the brain have something in common in that they ‘speak the same language. The gut bacteria can influence how the central nervous system utilizes the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. The gut sends signals via the vagus nerve, although exactly how this works is unclear.


Some are friendly, and some are most definitely not

Two bacteria you’ll want to steer clear of are Escherichia coli and Campylobacter. These can, at worst, be deadly and, at best, can alter the brain chemistry to cause depression and dark moods. They’re unfortunately not alone in this either; there are other types of bacteria linked to depressive states.

Although we disapprove of this kind of testing, there have been tests done on lab mice that show that when they were born with no bacteria introduced into their systems, they exhibited all manner of strange and antisocial behaviours. Fruit flies have been influenced similarly, with microbes causing changes in their mating selections. Our human bodies are full of different types of bacteria; it is thought that there are as many bacterial cells as there are human cells within us.

After taking probiotics, people have shown improvements in visual memory. Even this kind of bacteria found in yoghurt has been shown to positively affect brain activity during stressful situations, with people reacting less intensely to negativity. This is because gut bacteria improve the processing of emotions and pain sensations.

The studies done on the subject have highlighted the complexity of it, and the results could, of course, be attributed to other behaviours and habits, so it may not be entirely obvious to anyone that this is happening within them. When a person experiences changes in bacterial input (e.g. antibiotics, probiotics, or an infection) coinciding with mood changes, this is an indication that you should look into it.


It works both ways.

An interesting aspect of this is that our behaviour, in turn, can affect the microbes residing within us. Taking probiotics (natural or supplemented) like natural yoghurt or kefir can really help. If your diet contains plenty of ‘prebiotics’ (nourishment for your ‘good’ microbes) like onions and garlic, this can also help.

When you have stress in your life caused by bacteria or otherwise, you can take steps to diminish it, which will, in turn, positively influence the microbes in your system. This indicates that we have a relationship with our microbes in which neither is really ‘in the driving seat, so to speak. What we do know is that we can encourage balance through the introduction of the more positive microbes and limiting anything that will upset the balance or introduce unwanted bacteria, such as antibiotics and those microbes residing in undercooked or rotten foods, and those in unhygienic places, such as toilet door handles.

Choosing a good probiotic is essential for healthy gut bacteria, and it is sometimes necessary to question the quality and quantity of the bacteria you are told is ‘good’ within common marketing. You would need to consume a great deal of supermarket yoghurt to gain any benefits from the bacteria if it is still alive, and there are often other unwanted additives in such products. A safer bet is a strong, shelf-stable probiotic designed especially to safely and effectively proliferate your ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut.

To protect your gut bacteria, make sure you are alkalising. Gut bacteria struggle to survive in an acidic environment. Try our pH Plus for fast, active relief.

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