Probiotics and Brain Activity.

A new paper was published that the showed the effect of fermented milk with probiotics on brain activity.  It validates what many of us in the Everything Birth and “crunchy parenting” community already felt to be true. Changes in gut flora in turn change emotional behavior and brain functioning.

In this study, “healthy” women were given fermented milk products with probiotics for four weeks. The goal was to see if changes in the gut could affect brain connectivity or responses to emotional tasks. Keep in mind, these women had no gastrointestinal symptoms and no psychiatric symptoms. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain response.

Four weeks after these healthy women ingested the probiotic mixture, the results demonstrated a difference in brain functioning related to processing emotions and sensations. The fermented milk product contained:

  • Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis
  • Streptococcus thermophiles
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Lactococcus lactis subsp. Lactis.

Another study showed that certain probiotics given over 30 days reduced  depression, self-blame, anger, and hostility. It also resulted in the volunteers being more capable of focusing on problem solving. This study used:

  • Lactobacillus helveticus 
  • Bifidobacterium longum

The reason this matters so much to our community is two parted.  Not only can adequate probiotic use and healthy gut flora improve our own emotions and  un-scatter our “mama brains,” but the flora within our birth canals will be the flora that our babies are first given. Pregnant women can potentially give their babies a head start on emotional processing and brain functioning by making sure that they are getting enough probiotics while they are preparing to welcome their little ones. We’ve known about prenatal vitamins for decades now, isn’t it about time we consider prenatal probiotics to be crucial too?


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