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Probiotics and Mental Health

Probiotics are defined as the combination of beneficial bacteria or yeast cultures that live naturally in our bodies. Bacteria are usually viewed for their darker side causing infectious diseases in humans. The probiotics represent the positive side of bacteria. In other words, we can say that probiotics are the good bacteria that live in or on our body and help us fight against the bad bacteria and help our body stay healthy and work better.

If we look at our microbiome, we will see the bigger picture of the type of bacteria present in our body. The microbiome refers to a diverse community of organisms that work together to keep your body healthy. Our body consists of trillion microbes that together constitute for your microbiome. Every person has a unique microbiome consisting of different microbial cells. Even the twins have a distinct microbiome. It is a collection of different good or bad bacteria.

The microbiome is important when it comes to many aspects of health, especially that of the gut, immunity, and mental health.  Neurotransmitters are manufactured in the gut by these bacteria, and a holistic and dietary approach when treating chronic mental health disorders is crucial. This is especially true if the patient has a history of antibiotic use and poor diet (diet sodas are a disaster to the microbiome) that may have negatively affected the microbiome.

Diet sodas will make you fat, farty, depressed and anxious by affecting the bacteria in your gut

“…some long-term prospective studies raise the concern that the consumption of artificial sweeteners might actually contribute to the development of metabolic derangements that lead to obesity, T2D [type 2 diabetes], and cardiovascular disease…”

Tragically, this physiological aspect of mental health is so commonly overlooked by mental health professionals of all types, and too many people are engaged in therapy for something that may not be psychological and whose causation actually resides in the bacteria balances in their intestines. If you suffer from chronic fatigue, depression, or anxiety, then an investigation into your diet and guy flora and fauna is well worth considering.

Be aware that there are many services online offering to analyze your poop in order to give you the appropriate reccomendations. These should be approached with great caution and only after due diligence owing to the number of frauds out there. If you have a service you know to be true and correct, do please post the link in the comments section below.

Properties of Probiotics
For a bacterial culture to be called as probiotic, it must have the following characteristics

  • The bacteria should be isolated from humans.
  • After being eaten, it should be able to survive in your intestine.
  • The specific benefits of a bacterial strain should be proved.
  • It should be safe in its consumption.

“Children whose outdoor play areas were transformed from gravel yards to mini-forests showed improved immune systems within a month.” Intervention modified surface soil microbiota in daycare yards

Main Sources of Probiotics

1. Live Yogurt
Yogurt is a good source of probiotics as it is made from milk by the fermentation of friendly bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, and bifidobacteria. These probiotics are associated with many health benefits. These preparations are readily bought from the local supermarkets.  I make mine go along further by buying a 2-litre bottle of full-fat milk, and adding one of the small bottles of probiotic to it and leaving it out at room temperature for 3-4 days, shaking daily. Basically, take a live culture and infect fresh milk with it, and you end up with a bigger culture.

It plays a role in:

  • Improvement of bone health.
  • Beneficial for people with high blood pressure.
  • Reduce the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
  • Helps to reduce diarrhea caused by antibiotics.

2. Kefir
It is a probiotic milk drink that is made by adding Kefir grains to cow’s or goat’s milk. They have a culture of lactic acid bacteria and yeast. I use the same trick mentioned above for creating more kefir at home from a shop-bought starter bottle.

Kefir is associated with the following benefits

  • Helps with digestive system problems.
  • Protect against infection.
  • It is also well tolerated by the people intolerant to lactose.

3. Sauerkraut
It is a type of finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria. It a traditional yet famous food in Europe. Mostly, it is served as a side dish or at the toppings of the sausages. Sauerkraut is rich in Vitamin C, B, and K, and it also serves as a source of Iron, Sodium, and Manganese. Sauerkraut is one of the easiest things to make.  Last year, after a gastric infection picked up on a plane home from India left me with gastritis, a spoon full of homemade sauerkraut three times a day cured gastritis within 24 hours. Those with IBS may wish to limit the amount they take owing to the high FODMAP value of cabbage. Just a teaspoon a day is sufficient for good probiotic dosing.

Health benefits include:

  • It contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health.
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Sauerkraut is simple to make. Simply grate a cabbage, mix in a little salt and stuff it into a jar with a loose lid. It will ferment over 2 weeks and so the lid needs to be loose to release the excess gas. Fluid gets dispaced too so put it on a drip tray. The probiotic bacteria in sauerkraut are principally: Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillus plantarum, Pediococcus pentosaceus, and Lactobacillus brevis. All are anaerobic bacteria.

4. Tempeh
Tempeh is a type of probiotic that resembles mushroom in flavor. It is a fermented soybean product, and it serves as a high protein meat substitute. These are rich in phytic acid, and when fermentation occurs, it lowers the amount of phytic acid and increases the number of minerals to be absorbed by the body from tempeh.

Health benefits include:

  • It serves as a source of vitamin B12 when fermented that helps your bones to stay healthy.
  • They improve the nutritional content in the food.
  • Iron and zinc are essential for growth and protect against infection.

5. Kimchi
The king of probiotic food, Kimchi is a fermented spicy Korean side dish. It is made from a variety of vegetables and the main ingredient in mostly cabbage. Usually, it is flavored with chili pepper flakes, garlic, ginger, and salt. It contains lactic acid bacteria Lactobacillus Kimchi and other strains of lactic acid bacteria.

Benefits include:

  • Improves digestive tract health.
  • Provides a variety of vitamins like vitamin K, Riboflavin, and iron.
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Kimchi is a staple in the Korean diet and is a traditional side dish of salted and fermented vegetables. Some say it is the Korean obsession. It is commonly made from napa cabbage and radish along with a variety of spices and flavourings including chillis, spring onions, garlic and ginger. It is commonly also mixed with seafoods. The bacterias present are typically: Bacillus mycoides, B. pseudomycoides, B. subtilis, Lactobacillus brevis, Lb. curvatus, Lb. kimchii, Lb. parabrevis, Lb. pentosus, Lb. plantarum, Lb. sakei, Lb. spicheri, Lactococcus carnosum, Lc. gelidum, Lc. lactis, Leuconostoc carnosum, Ln. citreum, Ln. gasicomitatum, Ln. gelidum, Ln. holzapfelii, Ln. inhae, Ln. kimchii, Ln. lactis, Ln. mesenteroides, Serratia marcescens, Weissella cibaria, W. confusa, W. kandleri, W. kimchii. W. koreensis, and W. soli. (Source: Wikipedia)

6. Miso
Miso is a Japanese dish, and it is made by the fermentation of soybeans with salt and a fungus. It can also be made by fermenting soybeans with rice or barley. Miso is often used as an ingredient in Japanese soup. It is typically salty and contains protein, fiber, minerals, copper, and manganese.

The health benefits include:

  • It reduces the risk of breast cancer in middle-aged women in japan.
  • Reduces the risk of stroke in women.
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Miso typically comes as a paste in a sealed container requiring refrigeration after opening. Natural miso contains microorganisms such as Tetragenococcus halophilus and Lactobacillus acidophilus.

Aerobic and Anaerobic Probiotics
The probiotics that do not need oxygen to live are known as anaerobic probiotics. It includes the probiotics found in yogurt that do not require oxygen to stay alive, and these probiotics are unable to survive in the presence of oxygen. It usually includes the bacteria that we can put on our skin.

There are a certain type of bacteria that require oxygen to stay alive, known as aerobic probiotics. These bacteria usually live inside the body and keep taking oxygen from the blood. These types of probiotics cannot survive on the surface of the skin without oxygen.

Probiotics and Health Risk
As probiotics are microbes that are naturally existing in our body. They are generally considered safe. There are some people with the weekend immune system or having some type of surgery; they might have a risk of mild stomach upset, diarrhea, and bloating after few days of intake of certain probiotics but are associated with any serious effect on health.

“Probiotics alone or combined with prebiotics may help ease depression.”

“A two-way relationship exists between the brain and digestive tract, known as the gut-brain axis. And the possibility that the microbiome–the range and number of bacteria resident in the gut–might help treat mental ill health has become a focus of interest in recent years.”

Probiotics alone or combined with prebiotics may help ease depression

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