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The Interoceptive Mind and Probiotics: How Microbes May Influence Mental Health

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

We've got some great new content for you! We've been working on the fascinating topic of the interoceptive mind and probiotics for a while! If you're like us, you're probably wondering what the microbes in your gut anything could have to do with your mental health.

Well, buckle up because we're about to dive into the wild world of the gut-brain connection and how probiotics may help improve everything from your mood to your digestion. So grab your favorite probiotic-rich snack (kimchi, anyone?), and let's get started on this gutsy journey!

What is interoception?

Ah, the elusive interoception - that mysterious part of our mental landscape that always knows when we're hungry or thirsty or have to run to the nearest bathroom. It is our eighth sensory system! Interoception is a significant player in our overall experience of the world. The aspect of the mind helps us perceive and interpret all the little signals our body sends us from within. You know, like that gnawing feeling in your stomach when you're hungry or the rapid thudding in your chest when you're excited or scared. Our interoceptive mind helps us to make sense of all these internal sensations, and it plays a crucial role in how we feel and respond to the world around us. So the next time you wonder why you're suddenly ravenous, or your heart is racing, just remember - thanks to your trusty interoception, working hard to keep you in the know about what's happening inside your body.

How is the gut microbiome connected to interoception?

Let me tell you - it's a more intertwined relationship than a bowl of spaghetti. The gut microbiome is this bustling little community of microorganisms that live in our digestive tract and help us to digest our food and extract all the good nutrients we need to thrive. But it turns out that these tiny critters aren't just interested in our digestive health - they also significantly influence our brain and nervous system. It's like they have a hotline straight to the control center up there in our heads. And how do they do it, you ask? These gut microbes are pretty clever - they produce neurotransmitters and other signaling molecules that can affect brain function and behavior (Cryan & Dinan, 2012). For example, one study found that the gut microbiome influences interoception by modulating the activity of sensory neurons in the gut that detect the presence of food and communicate this information to the brain (Furness et al., 2014). Another study found that changes in the gut microbiome can alter the activity of the vagus nerve, which is involved in the communication between the gut and the brain and plays a role in regulating various bodily functions (Cryan and Dinan, 2012).

Overall, the gut microbiome is connected to interoception through its effects on the nervous system and regulating various bodily functions. So the next time you're feeling a little off or having trouble concentrating or not 'feeling' well, you should think about what's going on in your gut - it could be the key to unlocking your inner genius.

What is the role of probiotics in mood and mental health?

These little live microorganisms are like the superheroes of the gut microbiome world - they're here to save the day! You see, probiotics are similar to the beneficial organisms that naturally live in our digestive tract. They're known for their ability to alter the composition of the gut microbiome in all sorts of positive ways. But it turns out that their powers don't stop there - some studies have shown that probiotics can also affect brain function and behavior. For example, they've been found to improve mood and reduce anxiety (Bermudez-Brito et al., 2012; Messaoudi et al., 2011). So if you're feeling a little down in the dumps or just can't shake that anxious feeling, it's worth giving probiotics a try - they could be the secret ingredient you need to get your head back in the game.

Can probiotics be used to improve mental health disorders?

There is an increasing body of evidence suggesting that probiotics may be effective in treating and managing various mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. For example, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment analyzed data from 24 randomized controlled trials. They found that probiotics were associated with significant reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms compared to placebo (Mao et al., 2019). Similarly, a randomized controlled trial published in the journal Psychopharmacology found that a probiotic supplement could significantly reduce anxiety symptoms and improve overall well-being in a group of healthy volunteers (Bravo et al., 2011).

Other studies have also suggested that probiotics may potentially treat other mental health disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, a randomized controlled trial published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology found that a probiotic supplement was effective in reducing OCD symptoms in a group of adolescents (Sudo et al., 2004). In addition, another study published in the journal Psychiatry Research found that a probiotic supplement effectively reduced PTSD symptoms in women who had experienced intimate partner violence (Kang et al., 2017).

Well, it looks like those little gut bugs we call probiotics might just be the next big thing in mental health care! At least, that's what the evidence suggests. Many studies have shown that probiotics may help with all mental health disorders, from anxiety and depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Now that we've explored the exciting relationship between the interoceptive mind and probiotics, we want to hear from you! Have you noticed any changes in your mental or physical health after incorporating probiotics into your diet? Do you have any tips or tricks for choosing and using probiotics? Or you're still skeptical about the whole thing and want to share your thoughts. We'd love to hear your thoughts and continue the conversation in the comments below. So don't be shy; share your gut feelings with us!

  • Mao, J., et al. (2019). The effects of probiotics on depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 15, 861-873.

  • Bermudez-Brito, M., Qet. al. (2012). Influence of oral administration of Lactobacillus plantarum 299v on the gut-brain axis. British Journal of Nutrition, 107(9), 1422-1429.

  • Bravo, J. A., et al. (2011). Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(38), 16050-16055.

  • Sudo, N., et al. (2004). Postnatal microbial colonization programs the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system for stress response in mice. The Journal of Physiology, 558(1), 263-275.

  • Kang, D. W., et al. (2017). The effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus on anxiety and depression in pregnant women: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Psychiatry Research, 250, 1-9.

  • Furness, J.B., et al. (2014). Interactions between the gut microbiota and the nervous system. Physiology, 29(2), pp.119-137.

  • Cryan, J.F., and Dinan, T.G. (2012). Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behavior. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 13(10), pp.701-712.

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