What Are Probiotics?
The term probiotics refers to the “good” bacteria, or friendly flora, that occurs in our digestive tracts.
These live microorganisms have been shown to:
- aid in digestion
- improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
- reduce diarrhea
- boost the immune system
Common probiotics found in foods like yogurt include microorganisms such as Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus casei.
The Link Between Yogurt and a Healthy Mood
Studies have shown that probiotics, such as those found in yogurt, can have a positive impact on mood, cognitive function (mental ability), and can reduce stress, depression, fatigue, agitation and anxiety – especially social anxiety. Probiotics seemed to have the biggest impact on symptoms of anxiety, which is often a significant part of depressive symptomology.
The theory behind the use of probiotics in treating depression, include the regulation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is vital to the immune system and central nervous system, and especially cognitive function. Improved mental function, better problem-solving and reductions in cognitive fatigue were all reported in those who underwent probiotic treatments.
In addition, probiotics have been shown to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines and C-reactive proteins associated with chronic inflammation. It is believed that by improving the integrity and function of the gastrointestinal lining, inflammation is decreased throughout the body. Both actions seem to greatly benefit those who are suffering from depression.
Yogurt has long been known as a food that contains these important microorganisms commonly known as probiotics. When choosing a yogurt, look for one containing “live active cultures” to ensure you are getting these benefits. You may want to look for one that is low- or non-fat as a way of limiting calorie intake. Yogurt has been made from a variety of animal’s milk, including cow, yak, and camel and has been enjoyed as part of a healthy diet for generations.