Gut Back on the Grind

As the new semester rolls around, we begin asking ourselves some important questions. Will I be able to tolerate another year of dining hall food? How will I make it to class with this raging hangover? Will I finally pass my intro level Spanish class?

Lucky for you, I have the solution to your woes: probiotics.

New research on the connection between the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain to intestinal and immune functions is slowly emerging, which is good news for both scientists and college students alike. This means that probiotics might actually be able to lift your spirits when your high school girlfriend dumps you over Thanksgiving break!

Not only will your bacterial buddies help you through your break up, but they’ll probably make you smarter too. Early evidence of this link arose around 20 years ago when antibiotics were used to treat patients suffering from hepatic encephalopathy (a condition that causes liver damage that results in the loss of brain function).

When oral antibiotics were introduced to their treatment, patients exhibited dramatic improvement in their brain health and cognitive abilities—suggesting a tangible link between gut bacterial diversity and brain health.

More recently, dramatic evidence surfaced on the link between “bad” bacteria in a subgroup of patients with impaired cognition. So when you start taking your probiotics this semester, you might finally be able to make it to Spanish 102! The third time really is the charm.  

Not only is the gut-brain axis relevant in diagnosing and treating physical health conditions, but there is also progress being made in defining the connection between mental health and the balance of gut bacteria. Studies confirm that gut microbiota affects anxiety by influencing brain neurochemistry in patients.

Specifically, Lactobacillus rhamnosus has been confirmed to reduce stress-induced cortisol release as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression. On a serious note, if you feel like you’re down in the dumps after midterm season, give your college counselor a visit--your mental health is extremely important.

P.S. Take probiotics before a big night out to make it easier to get to class the next morning!

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