Psychobiotics? What are psychobiotics??
Well, what if I told you your happiness has very little to do with the circumstances going on in your life and whole lot to do with your gut bacteria?
This’s exactly what science is proving to us. It turns out there are very specific strains of bacteria that live in our gut that produce neurotransmitters that control how our brains function.
These bacteria have been dubbed psychobiotics. And anything that destroys your gut will destroy these critical happiness bugs.
What the Microbiome Project taught us
Before I go into which bacteria give you this burst of happiness, I want to get you up to speed with what’s been going on in the world of microbiome research. It’s super exciting!
One very interesting thing we’ve learned is that we are more bacteria than we are human. Yep, you heard that right!
Current studies are proving that you have 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than human cells. As weird and disgusting as this may sound, contrary to what modern medicine may have taught you, not all these bacteria are harmful. In fact, most of them are helpful!
In 2008, the United States National Institute for Health launched the largest study ever done on the bacteria that live in and on us. This study is called The Microbiome Project. What the microbiome project has been revealing to us is that our bodies are host to literally trillions of different species of bacteria, all serving a different purpose.
The really cool part of this study is that after five years and thousands of people studied, the Microbiome Project gave us a profound understanding of which bacteria control our immune system, lower inflammation, help us produce B vitamins, and make us happy.
This is revolutionary because once we know which bacteria do what, we can work with diet and lifestyle to increase the helpful bacteria and decrease the harmful ones.
The Power of Psychobiotics
Today I want to bring your attention to the bacteria that give you joy.
Due to the efforts of the Microbiome Project, we now know that there are nine very specific bacteria your gut needs an abundance of to keep your brain filled with happiness chemicals.
If you are currently taking a probiotic or thinking of taking a mood enhancing probiotic, I highly recommend that you look at the label of your probiotic and see if these bacteria are in there.
Here are the nine key happiness bacteria you need to know about:
- Faecalibacterium prausnitzii – One of the most powerful psychobiotics. These bacteria are the primary producers of a fatty acid called butyrate. Butyrate is a powerful anti-inflammatory which, when secreted by F. praunsnitzii, will protect the inner lining of the gut, speed up metabolism and help regulate your blood sugar. Low levels of F. prausnitzii are found in people with chronic depression, Crohn’s disease, obesity, and even asthma.
- Mycobacterium vaccae – There are many promising studies proving that M. vaccae can improve mood and activate the learning centers of the brain. These happiness bugs have proven to lower anxiety and improve your stress response.
- Lactobacillus plantarum – Found in kimchi, sauerkraut, and almost every other cultured vegetable, this bacteria will protect you from a leaky gut. Scientific studies have also identified that this psychobiotic can help with your response to stress. If you are missing these bacteria, your reaction to stress may be amplified.
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus – Studies show this species of bacteria to have a beneficial influence on your cortisol levels. It also restores a key happiness neurotransmitter, serotonin, back to normal levels.
- Lactobacillus helveticus – This strain of bacteria is your problem solving bacteria. Studies show that when you have high amounts of L. helveticus in your gut, your ability to work through problems is improved.
- Bifidobacterium longum – This bacteria is your anti-anxiety psychobiotic. In clinical trials with people suffering from anger, hostility, anxiety, and depression, this psychobiotic species excelled in supporting the body’s normal neurotransmitter balance.
- Bifidobacterium bifidum – Not only does this famous psychobiotic species fight pathogens like E. coli and Candida, it lowers inflammation in both the gut and brain. Studies show that high doses of this bacteria are neuroprotective and prevent Alzheimer’s.
- Lactobacillus brevis – Abundant in sauerkraut, this psychobiotic will increase BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor) levels in your brain. BDNF is like Miracle-Gro for your brain. Production of BDNF will improve your learning capabilities and help you maintain a positive mood.
- Lactobacillus casei – Improving glutathione levels is key to minimizing the damaging effects of toxins on the brain. This psychobiotic species has been proven to not only elevate your glutathione levels; L. casei also helps keep your cells sensitive to insulin.
- Lactobacillus gasseri – A good night’s sleep, cortisol balance, and stress support are what this helpful psychobiotic will do for you. A Japanese study proved that ingestion of this psychobiotic lowered cortisol levels in stressed out medical students, which in turn allowed them to finally start getting quality sleep.
Now that you know which bacteria help keep your brain working at its best, how do you know if you have these key psychobiotics and what can you do to make sure they are abundant in your gut?
Test, Don’t Guess
If you want to know exactly which bacteria you have and don’t have in your gut, you are going to have to test. The great news is that gut testing has come a really long way in recent years.
We can now take a small sample of your stool, send it off to a lab, and within weeks have a detailed profile of which bacteria you have. How cool is that?!
There are a lot of great tests available to you, but my favorite is Gut Zoomer by Vibrant Wellness. Not only does this test give you an extensive profile of your gut microbiome, it will tell you if you have any bad pathogens like E. coli, parasites, Candida, or viruses living inside you that need to be dealt with.
Feed Your Bacteria Daily
Here’s the good news. You have these bacteria sitting in your gut right now, ready to go to work for you. Here’s the dilemma: you may not have enough of them and you may not be feeding them properly.
If you have ever taken a course of antibiotics before, you have definitely wiped out your good gut bacteria. In fact, research shows that with each round of antibiotics, you destroy 90% of your good gut bacteria.
If you are eating conventional meats and dairy, you are also getting a high dose of bacteria-destroying antibiotics.
From my experience with patients, I can tell you that almost everyone is depleted in good bacteria. We live in an antibiotic obsessed world, and there’s no doubt that our good bacteria are suffering because of it.
You need to make sure you are doing everything possible to feed your microbiome daily. You may have noticed in the list above that you can get some of these bacteria from eating cultured vegetables.
Daily consumption of sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented pickles, kefir water, or kombucha is a must if you want to grow some good bacteria. Now, remember that each one of these fermented foods brings you different good bacteria, so varying your fermented food consumption is key.
The other recommendation I make to my patients is to add prebiotic and polyphenol foods into their daily diet. These foods will feed and grow the good guys that can help your gut. Foods like chia seeds, hemp seeds, olives, cloves, blueberries, or pecans are all excellent fuel sources for your happy bugs.
Getting your hands in dirt is also known to specifically increase the bacteria M. vaccae, so make sure you get outside, tend to your garden, and get yourself dirty.
Take a high quality psychobiotic
Mood enhancing probiotics are now emerging in the marketplace. There are a couple of criteria I adhere to when picking the best one.
First, does it have the above bacteria in it? F. praunsnitzii and M. vaccae are two strains of bacteria that are very difficult to find in a probiotic. That’s why I am a huge fan of Systemic Formulas’ new Neurobiotic. It is the first probiotic to have these two bacteria.
Second, does it have a prebiotic in it? For some of you, just adding these happy bugs may not be enough to change your mood. You may have to feed them, too. Making sure your psychobiotic has prebiotic foods in it can be the difference between you noticing a lift in your moods or thinking that you just wasted your money.
I’m pretty excited about the combination that Systemic Formulas has put together with their Neurobiotic PRObiotic and Neurobiotic PREbiotic. It’s the first of its kind, putting together the right mood-enhancing bacteria with the food that feeds them to stay alive.
So now you’re armed with all you need to know about psychobiotics and how you can benefit from them.
As always, if you have questions, you can find me on FB in my Resetter Tribe, coaching people to better health.
Reach out if you need any help.
I’m cheering you on!