In the average human gut, we carry a thousand different species of bacteria, literally trillions of cells that weigh about three pounds. Believe it or not, this ‘microbiome’ inside of us actually plays a role in autism, anxiety, depression and many other disorders. To prove that theory, scientists have actually given ‘calm’ mice gut microbes from ‘anxious’ ones and sent them straight into overdrive.
What does this mean for us? Well, it means that we really are what we eat. In another study done at UCLA, researchers gave healthy women brain scans to test their emotional responses to visual stimuli. They then fed half the women yogurt (which is a probiotic) twice a day, while the others received none. After 12 weeks, they re-administered the scans. The yogurt eaters reacted far more calmly to the images than the other group and showed markedly measurable differences in their stress levels. They believe that the yogurt changed the makeup of the subjects’ gut microbes, which then led to the production of compounds that ultimately modified their brain chemistry.
Our gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and GABA all of which play a key role in mood. They also generate other neuroactive chemicals that reduce anxiety and depression. In fact, your microbiome can activate the vagus nerve, which is the main line of communication between the gut and the brain. So, if you have a ‘gut instinct’ about something, you’re probably right. Since 80% of your immune tissue is in your digestive tract, which by itself influences both mood and behavior, you need to protect it.
What does all this mean? That inside of us we already have ‘natural’ anti depressants IF we keep ourselves healthy! Someday, scientists say that we will even be able to use our own bodies as healing mechanisms instead of prescription pills. Until then, keep your insides well fed. You might consider starting with pomegranates. They may well be the perfect stocking stuffer for your loved ones. Here are just some of their benefits:
- nutrient dense (contain vitamin C & K, folate & potassium)
- powerful antioxidant
- anti inflammatory
- may help fight both prostate and breast cancer
- lowers blood pressure
- can relieve arthritis and joint pain
- significantly lowers triglycerides
- fights bacterial & fungal infections
- improves both memory and exercise performance
- develops patience— it takes time to retrieve those 613 fruity arils!