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A recent study by Javier Bravo at the University College in Cork, Ireland looked at the response of rats fed Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a commonly available probiotic. The study showed that feeding this strain of probiotic to mice changed their behavior to the better; the mice showed less anxiety, depression and stress response. The study was entitled Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve.
Discover Magazine says of his study:
Bravo found that his mice, after regularly eating Lactobacillus, were more likely to spend time in the exposed parts of a maze (a common test for anxiety symptoms) than those who ate bacteria-free meals. They were also less likely to drift motionlessly when plopped into water (a common test for depressive symptoms). And during stressful situations, they built up lower levels of stress hormones.
The Wall Street Journal had an article about Bravo’s study entitled The Yogurt Made Me Do It. The article states:
How did the (probiotic) induce these changes? The answer involves GABA, a neurotransmitter that reduces the activity of neurons. When Mr. Bravo looked at the brains of the mice, he found that those fed probiotics had more GABA receptors in areas associated with memory and the regulation of emotions. (This change mimics the effects of popular antianxiety medications in humans.)
More and more studies show the benefit of probiotic bacteria to heal your gut, strengthen your immune system, keep your bowels regular, help control emotions and stress and much more. I don’t think science has touched the tip of the benefits probiotics have on our bodies.
Unfortunately, the author of the Wall Street Journal article equates probiotics with just yogurt intake. While yogurt is one of the most easily recognized probiotic foods in mainstream society, it is also one of the weakest probiotics and some studies have shown yogurt to be entirely transient. That means that it does its work and moves out of your system instead of staying and colonizing the gut for long-term benefit. If you want to heal your gut and improve your health, you need an established probiotic colony in permanent residence in your gut. Other foods, such as kefir and lactofermented vegetables, have more probiotics in them when made correctly.
Some forms of probiotics can be easier to get into you than others. And some are especially difficult to get into children. Here are some good recipes and articles to begin getting probiotics into you and your family.
- Coconut Milk Yogurt
- Kefired Lemonade
- Probiotic Potato Salad
- Sourdough Starter
- Four Sneaky Ways to get Probiotics Into Your Kids
Our books and Menu Mailers contain more probiotic foods.
If you wish to read more about the science of probiotics in your food, I recommend The Handbook of Fermented Functional Food by Edward Farnworth. Copies run about $150, but you can read some of the book on Google Reader and search the contents for the sections that interest you. This book is extremely well-referenced and contains citations for hundreds of studies.
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