Stress takes a heavy toll on various bodily functions. Cardiac problems, psychological disturbances, GI sensitivity, you name it – virtually all body systems are targeted by stress and anxiety. Prebiotic supplements fuel the growth of the good bacteria while inhibiting the expansion of the bad ones. They can help you calm down when you’re feeling keyed up. This post will address the subject on how prebiotics act as stress relievers.
Statistics indicate that the prebiotic fiber, which serves as a food for the beneficial bacteria, can alter the thoughts, emotions, and stress and anxiety levels in a number of ways.
Prebiotics Restore the Balance of the Gut Flora
Several experts now refer to the gut as our “second brain.” The brain interacts with our gut and the friendly gut bacteria communicate with our brain, indicating that an imbalance in the gut microbiome (dysbiosis) can lead to psychological imbalances and vice versa. This dysbiosis, in particular, lower levels of bifidobacteria underlie functional bowel disorders like IBS. Also noted in IBS, is the reduced production of short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate. Likewise, decreased levels of both bifidobacteria and butyrate are responsible for the generation of mental disturbances like anxiety. Prebiotics, primarily fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) amplify both the number of bifidobacteria and the butyrate production. 
Absorption is the passage of end products of digestion from the GI tract into the bloodstream and body tissues. These nutrients supply energy and nourishment essential for daily functioning. Lack of absorption of nutrients (both macro and micro) can lead to protein and several vitamin and mineral deficiencies – that is to say, malabsorption leading to malnutrition. Micronutrient deficiencies seem to gobble up about two billion people around the world.
While re-populating the gut with beneficial bacteria, high-end probiotics also ensure proper absorption of nutrients ingested as part of our diet. Following are a few evidence-based implications of probiotics in enhancing the delivery of micronutrients to our body tissues:
- Augment Iron Absorption
When used on a regular basis, these fortified microbial strains prevent iron deficiency by boosting iron absorption.
It is usual for many of us to experience fatigue and lethargy from time to time. The causes can range from trivial factors like poor diet and sleep to more serious factors like depression, fibromyalgia, or hypothyroidism. The gut microbiome has a lot to do with these fluctuating energy levels. They communicate with our brain (microbiome-gut-brain axis), and hence, can influence our mood and dynamism. How does supplementing probiotics hoist the sinking energy levels? Let’s delve a little deeper to understand this.
- Boost the Immune System
For reasons acknowledged, we know that the friendly gut bacteria strengthen the defense mechanisms of our body and fend off harmful invaders. A healthy immune system is the initial step towards boosting our energy levels and getting us back on the track.
Probiotics activate a variety of immune cells including but not limited to macrophages, natural killer cell, and white blood cells. These cells shield against contracting diseases by warding off foreign agents. In order to communicate, these immune cells require the help of protein molecules, called cytokines. Probiotics also stimulate the release of these cytokines, thereby enabling the immune cells to interact and function. 
The use of antibiotics has been expanding steadily over the past several decades. Presently, they are among the most widely prescribed medications. Though antibiotics can be life-saving for a plethora of infections, these bacteria-eradicating medications can themselves predispose to life-threatening infections. Taking probiotics during a course of antibiotic therapy replenishes the gut with the (lost) healthy bacteria and helps assuage antibiotic-associated side effects.
Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea (AAD) and Antibiotic-Associated Clostridium difficile Infection (CDI)
Around 10% to 25% of individuals treated with antibiotics develop AAD. The occurrence of AAD leads to a poor compliance with the antibiotic therapy and an incomplete eradication of the infection.
Adding fuel to the fire, antibiotics cause overgrowth of a more harmful bacterium, called Clostridium difficile. Once infected, this pathogen incites a severe inflammation throughout the colon (colitis).
How do antibiotics Cause Diarrhea?
The antibiotics upset the composition and function of the intestinal flora (cause dysbiosis), which causes diarrhea. The proportion of the unfriendly gut commensals goes up, whereas that of the friendly ones plunges.
Antibiotics also reduce the breakdown of fermentable carbohydrates in the gut. These nonabsorbable carbohydrates osmotically draw more water into the gut, increasing the fluidity and frequency of stools (osmotic diarrhea).
Moreover, antibiotics can undermine the gut barriers, enabling the intrusion of the offending attackers like Clostridium difficile that lead to devastating colonic infections and intractable diarrhea.
Given the present unhealthy Western dietary pattern, our gut microbial community is prone to perturbations. This makes the addition of probiotics, whether taken in the form of supplements or ingested as foods, vastly beneficial.
In this post, we’ll highlight the top 4 probiotic-rich foods that you should consider supplementing to your dietary regime.
Yogurt is the most enriched source of probiotics. It contains live active cultures of bacteria, preferably Lactobacilli and Streptococcus thermophilus. These bacteria are used to ferment fresh milk and/or cream that results in the production of yogurt. Yogurt cultures are scientifically documented to boost gut health, immune function, and mental abilities. They can hasten your sluggish bowel movements or otherwise, they tend to slow down the intestinal peristalsis in diarrhea. To be brief, they regulate your bowel function.
The latest research conducted by the Iranian experts revealed a significant improvement in various mental health parameters, including depression, anxiety, and stress after a 6 week trial of probiotic yogurt consumption.  This beneficial effect of yogurt can be attributed to the microbiota-gut-brain connection.
In another study published in the Ailment Pharmacology and Therapeutics, the subjects experiencing IBS demonstrated positive health effects after ingesting fermented milk containing Bifidobacterium. 
Kimchi is one of the traditional cornerstones of Korean medicine. It is a vegetable probiotic food manufactured by fermenting vegetables with lactobacilli. Koreans serve kimchi with rice usually at every meal. This probiotic-loaded food possesses infinite advantageous,  some of which are as follows:
Say Hello to The Tiny World Inside!
If you could see what’s inside your gut, you’d see an endless number of tiny bacteria lingering around. The word ‘bacteria’ is enough to startle you as it is usually associated with illness. But these bacteria are the type that benefits you so called the friendly bacteria or probiotics.
The Gut-Brain Axis Explained
Researchers believe that the number of probiotic bacteria is ten times the number of your body cells (1). These bacteria have a profound role in disease and health. They even alter how your brain works. Brain? Yes, your brain. The bacteria in your gut actually communicate with your brain. Let’s break it down to understand it better.
The gut-brain axis is quite complex and contains three important components: the Central Nervous System (CNS), the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), and the Hypothalamic Pituitary Axis (HPA). Don’t lose it over these difficult sounding terms. Your CNS consists of your brain and the spinal cord. The ENS consists of a collection of nerve cells within your gut walls. In other words, your gut has a brain of its own. Finally, the HPA is the part of this system that secretes a number of hormones and other chemicals (2).
The gut-brain axis is a high-speed two-way lane. In simple terms, your brain signals your gut what to do and your gut signals back some feedback as well. The HPA receives some of these signals too and secretes hormones accordingly. So if your gut microbiome is happy, your brain will be happy too. If your gut microbiome is not doing well, things will go South for your brain too (3).
What is IBS?
IBS is one of the most frequently occurring GI disorders. It is a constellation of the following major clinical hallmarks:
- Abdominal pain
- Altered bowel habits
- Straining at the stools
The bowel movements in IBS can follow either a pattern of constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C) or diarrhea- predominant IBS. Constipation-predominant IBS is exasperating – incomplete defecation, straining at the stools, and bloated feeling all interfere with daily chores.
The story of IBS begins with the gut-brain axis!
Our emotions influence our gut functions. That is the reason why many people have butterflies in the stomach when they are apprehensive. Our gut microbiota communicates with the brain and alters behavior. IBS is common in people who already suffer from anxiety issues. Saying it the other way around, anxiety and/or a stressful life event can trigger IBS symptoms. This bidirectional communication coins the phrase – the gut-brain axis. When the gut and brain can’t communicate well, IBS is inevitable.
What’s actually in the gut that interacts with the brain?
It is the gut microbiome. This re-coins the phrase as mIcrobiota- gut-brain axis. In IBS, a lack of these desirable bacteria undermines the gastrointestinal, neurological and/or immune relationships, eventually leading to infirmity.
IBS and Probiotics
The healthy gut microbiota (probiotics) confers a myriad of health benefits in IBS.
- Probiotics assist in breaking down complex molecules ingested as part of the diet. This smoothes out the process of digestion and facilitates elimination of hard feces in IBS-C.
- As stated above, stress is a common precipitating factor for IBS; when taken during periods of stress, probiotics decrease the activation of the areas of the brain that tend to secrete stress hormones like cortisol. Hence, a decrease in the stress hormones calms the mind, the gut, and the associated IBS features. What’s more? Stress triggers gut leakiness, which is counteracted by probiotics. Leaky gut syndrome (enhanced intestinal permeability) also underlies IBS. 
Acne vulgaris is the most common skin disorder. A disturbed human skin microbiome results in acne. The overgrowth of an unhealthy bacterium, called P. acnes predisposes to acne. Microbiome probiotics are therefore vastly beneficial in acne. Introducing healthy microbes can help in getting rid of acne.
Association of Acne with Gut and Psychological Problems – THE GUT-BRAIN-SKIN AXIS
A considerable overlap exists between gut issues, psychological problems (like depression and anxiety), and skin conditions such as acne. Individuals with acne sustain greater psychological fallouts (skin and brain). Likewise, gastrointestinal problems are more prevalent in those with acne (gut and skin). This gut, brain, skin triangle is referred to as the gut-brain-skin axis.
Gut Mechanisms Underlying Acne Flare-ups Explain the Implications of Probiotics in Acne
The Link between SIBO and Acne
A type of acne called rosacea occurs with greater frequency in adults with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Studies report a significant link between SIBO and the flare-ups of acne rosacea.  Since overgrowth of harmful bacteria characterizes SIBO, introducing probiotics balances the gut flora, improves the SIBO symptoms, and eventually can offset the accompanied skin rash and pimples. (more…)
Raised LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol or bad cholesterol) levels constitute one of the major factors predisposing to cardiac disease. LDL-C reflects the mass of cholesterol contained within the LDL molecule.
Besides their vast gut-related health benefits, probiotics containing L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 target cardiovascular disease owing to their distinctive quality of lowering the LDL-C levels.
How does L. reuteri reduce LDL-C levels?
L reuteri NCIMB 30242 classically demonstrates bile salt hydrolase (BSH) activity, an enzyme that accelerates deconjugation (cleaves the covalent bonding) of bile acids. 
What are Bile Acids and what is Conjugation/Deconjugation of Bile Acids?
Bile acids are the products of cholesterol breakdown (catabolism) and are produced in the liver. Bile acids then conjugate (form a bond) with two amino acids, namely glycine and taurine, and are transported to the intestine. These conjugated bile acids are water-soluble and enhance the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream.
L. reuteri Prompts Deconjugation
On the contrary, since the BSH activity of the lactobacillus cleaves the bond of bile acids with amino acids (prompts deconjugation), it renders cholesterol less soluble and less absorbable. Additionally, the water-insoluble, deconjugated bile acids are not excreted in the urine but in feces. In an attempt to compensate for the lost deconjugated bile acids, cholesterol is used up to produce more bile acids. This eventually represents another pathway for cholesterol reduction. 
Moreover, the lactobacillus species entrap cholesterol in the intestine, impeding its outflow into the blood, which is instead flushed out via feces.  (more…)
In this contemporary era where the donation of blood, eggs, sperms, and organs, serves as a monetizing source, you can also earn a handsome amount of money by selling your poop. Wondering how? This is achieved through a process called fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT or bacteriotherapy). FMT involves transferring your healthy stool bacteria into the colon of the affected patient. Broadly speaking, you’re not only raking in cash but also serving the humanity by saving lives.
FMT has become a center of attraction in recent years, presumably due to its high success rate (around 92%). You might be curious to know which individuals warrant someone else’s poop. The major indication for FMT hitherto is an antibiotic-resistant/relapsing or severe Clostridium difficile infection (CDI).
Where to go?
OpenBiome is a nonprofit stool bank, based in Massachusetts, which acts as a mediator supplying fecal microbiota to clinicians globally. (more…)