Bugs for Better Brain Health?
Updated: Oct 13, 2020
Anita is at work when she receives a call from her mother. It’s about Aiden, her 5-year old son. Aiden had hit another child in school... again. In fact, this is the third time this month that Aiden has gotten into trouble in school. Aiden is a bright little boy. However, even Anita has to admit that his active and often difficult behaviours are taking a toll. Anita herself feels down and stressed out having to manage such frequent issues from her child. Even her mother who takes care of Aiden during the day is losing patience
Understanding ‘bad’ behaviour
When a child acts out, has a meltdown or is naughty for some reason, it does not automatically spell poor parenting or bad behaviour. As a child may lack the ability to verbalise their feelings, any forms of stress experienced is usually expressed through their moods and behaviours.
Scientists have now found that there lies a second brain or ‘emotion centre’ located within our gut, capable of sensing emotions and feelings, and with that, influence our thoughts, feelings, moods and behaviours.
The Gut-Brain Connection
Our gut and our brain have more in common than we previously thought. We have long known that how we feel in our gut or tummies, influences how we feel in our brain. For instance, one can get very angry when one is hungry. On the other hand, one can feel absolutely happy and satiated after a good meal.
Far from being pure coincidence, this is a clear demonstration of the gut-brain connection.
In fact, the science has now confirmed a newly discovered neuron circuit called the gut-brain axis which establishes the connection between the gut (the second brain) and the brain. The human gut is lined with more than 100 million nerve cells. That's more neurons than are found in the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.
Our gut is called the second brain because it can operate independently of the brain and spinal cord. When you feel stressed, your gut senses it - immediately. The gut not only controls the gastrointestinal system, it also senses moods, feelings and behaviours.
The gut is such an important component of our brain, it is actually the production site of more than 90% of the neurotransmitter serotonin and more than 50% of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This production is greatly dependent on the presence of gut bacteria.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit a message from neuron to neuron. Different neurotransmitters produce different effects. For example, serotonin is responsible for regulating mood, social behaviour, memory, sleep, appetite and digestion. When the body experiences an imbalance of serotonin, not only will signs and symptoms turn up in the gut, signs will also turn up in our moods, feelings and behaviours.
First Gut-Brain Psychobiotics
The discovery of the gut-brain pathway opened up the scientific possibilities of aiding brain functions through the gut, specifically through the use of special probiotics strain.
In 2019, a research team lead by Professor Tsai Ying-Chieh from the National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan published a groundbreaking study outlining the positive brain benefits of a specific strain of gut-brain probiotics or psychobiotics from the Lactobacillus plantarum family. It was the first clinically proven, strain specific, gut-brain probiotics discovered in Asia.
Besides imparting digestive benefits as other strains of probiotics, this special strain of probiotics known as Lactobacillus plantarum PS128® or PS128® additionally worked on the gut-brain pathway to help to improve brain health.
How can a probiotics strain help our brain?
Consumption of PS128® has been proven to increase levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the gut. By means of the gut-brain pathway, serotonin and dopamine levels were shown to be improved in the main brain.
When PS128® is consumed, it interacts with neuro-receptors in the gut which in turn signals the gut to boost levels of serotonin and dopamine.
Benefits of serotonin in the body and the brain
Serotonin regulates appetite, digestion, pain perception and well-being in the body.
In the brain, serotonin modulates moods, emotions, social behaviour, memory, learning and our sleep cycle.
Low levels of serotonin is linked to a myriad of symptoms both in the body and the brain including but not limited to depression, anxiety, poor sociability, poor moods, anger, low self-confidence, autism, obsessive – compulsive behavior, poor sleep, slow digestion and poor pain tolerance.
Benefits of dopamine in the body and the brain
Dopamine is critical to central nervous system functions such as movement, pleasure, attention, mood, and motivation.
Low levels of dopamine is linked to hyperactivity, inattention, poor focus, lack of motivation, body movements and neurological conditions such as motor or vocal tics, Tourette’s and Parkinson’s disease.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
Q: How will I know if I may need a gut-brain probiotics?
A: Learning ability, memory, happiness, motivation and that feel-good-about-ourselves feeling is central to all human-beings.
If you have been observing both gut and brain health signs and symptoms, it could indicate issues along the gut-brain pathway which you may wish to address especially in developing children.
Q: Who can take PS128®?
A: PS128® is a proven probiotics strain which benefits gut-brain health. It is particularly important in the young, developing brain to establish to strong mirobiotia-gut-brain environment. In teenagers and adults, PS128(r) would be important to aid with stress and mental well-being prevalent during this stage of life. Seniors should not ignore their gut-brain health either in order that they can better protect against neurodegenerative damage.
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