Science

Gut Bacteria May Be The Key To Happiness

By Donna Bellevue , Feb 20, 2017 02:50 AM EST
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Taking a probiotic daily to enhance our gut bacteria can reduce stress, improving memory and sense of well-being, UCC Professor John Cryan says. Those pesky critters influence everything we do, he says, including how we feel about things. But in order for the stomach bacteria to help us be happy, we also need to keep it happy by keeping it healthy, he adds.

In a small study last year, researchers at the University College Cork, gave 22 healthy male volunteers the bacterial strain, Bifidobacterium longum 1714, daily, for four weeks. The study aims to determine at what length do good bacteria in the gut influences our sense of well-being. Findings say that the volunteers who took the strain of bacteria said they felt less stressed, and was confirmed by tests on their levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Other benefits reported of the gut bacteria are significant brain function improvement, particularly, memory. Encouraged by the positive results of the study, the Institute is now exploring other ways of harvesting gut bacteria to improve mental health. The initial results are very promising.

In a recent study that focuses on the health benefits of prebiotics as opposed to probiotics. Probiotics is defined as live bacteria that survive the acid in the stomach, while prebiotics come from the diet. Both are important for a healthy digestive tract, but the scientists want to know how prebiotics would fare, the Tribune Star says.

In the study, mice were given a high concentration of soluble fibers fructo (FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), two prebiotics which are similar to those found in green vegetables, onions, leeks, and breast milk. The results amaze the researchers as they observe an amazing robustness of changes in the brain chemistry. They observe "how effective [the prebiotic] was — it could change brain chemistry quite dramatically".

According to the Irish Examiner, Prof. Cryan says that the study showed how gut microbiota could reduce a lot of the effects of stress. It also affects the immune system, behavior, and what is going on in the brain. He adds that promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria can help us modulate brain function, and that the secret to happiness may lie within our gut bacteria.

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