Prebiotic Fiber for Gut-Health and The Power of Mood Prebiotics
In recent years, there has been a greater awareness and acceptance of the benefits of prebiotic supplementation. This is attributed to the influx of academic research focusing on the role that microorganisms play in promoting human health. But did you know that prebiotics can also support MOOD health? (SOURCE)
While more people are familiar with probiotics, there is also increasing interest in prebiotics, and rightly so! Here’s what you need to know about prebiotic fiber and how it can be just as beneficial and essential as probiotics when it comes to digestive health, immune function, and emotional wellbeing.
What are prebiotics? How are they different from probiotics?
Probiotics are what we know as live microorganisms or good bacteria. When taken in adequate amounts, probiotics can confer great health benefits, especially for those with gut imbalance. An overgrowth of bacteria is said to be related to gastrointestinal issues; as well as chronic conditions such as issues like allergies.
Most probiotic supplements contain the Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium genus strains, which studies have shown can improve the balance of the intestinal flora. Probiotics can improve digestive health by reducing the permeability of the intestinal barrier and stimulating the immune system of the gut. A more balanced gut can reduce the incidence of diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
So, what about prebiotics? Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients, commonly dietary fibers, that serve as fuel or food for the beneficial bacteria that are already in your gastrointestinal microbiome.
Prebiotics interact with the microbiome, which leads to mechanisms that produce changes in the gastrointestinal tract.
Because prebiotics are resistant to digestion, they reach the large intestine intact. There, they selectively stimulate the growth and activity of the good bacteria via fermentation and cross-feeding interactions.
The really amazing part about supporting your gut with prebiotics is that your own (very wise!) microbiome can choose which types of bacteria to proliferate with the prebiotic fiber.
So, rather than CHOOSING which strains of good bacteria to supplement with, you take a prebiotic supplement and let your microbiome do the guesswork!
Prebiotic fiber can also promote changes in the composition and concentration of gut microbiomes by inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria and viruses.
Another reason for the beneficial effect of prebiotics is the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which according to studies have a direct and indirect effect on the gut-brain axis. SCFAs help strengthen the intestinal barrier, increase mucus production, regulate blood sugar levels, as well as protect against inflammation and other issues we’d all love to avoid. ;)
Prebiotics can be taken with probiotics. Those with healthy guts can still benefit from taking prebiotics to ensure that their gut microbiome remains healthy and balanced — even if they are exposed to stressful environments and conditions.
Can Prebiotics Boost Mood? It’s all about the gut-brain connection
Prebiotics can not only improve your digestive health and immune function, but did you know that they can also have a positive effect on mood and mental health? This is due to the gut-brain connection.
While there is still a lot to learn about the mechanisms involving the gut-brain axis, we do know that the gut and brain can communicate with each other via millions of neural and endocrine pathways. This means that the brain can send signals to the gastrointestinal tract and vice versa.
And due to this connection, studies have found that the gut microbiota can influence our mood and cognition. Disturbances in the gut flora can affect our central nervous system function and potentially increase our risk for mental health struggles and other stress-related disorders.
So how can taking prebiotics improve our mood? Preliminary studies that investigate the modulating effect of prebiotics have been very promising. Prebiotics play a role in enhancing our gut health, which, in turn, can have a major influence on our mood and emotion regulation. This can explain why gastrointestinal issues are often associated with psychological issues.
Though the underlying mechanisms are complex and not yet fully understood, researchers have outlined certain mechanisms that could be attributed or contribute to the mood-boosting effect of prebiotics.
- SCFAs can enhance the production of leptin and other hormones that are beneficial to the central nervous system (CNS) and can have positive implications on our memory and cognition. Our CNS also plays an important role in stimulating positive and negative emotions.
- The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which connects the gut and brain, releases the stress hormone cortisone as a response to environmental or systemic stressors. Chronic exposure to cortisol can be a risk factor for developing mood disorders. Prebiotics can impact the HPA, by modulating insufficient or excessive cortisol activity. Thus, stress levels can be reduced.
- Dysbiosis may promote dysregulation of brain activities, which can increase the risk of mood disorders. The gut microbiota can also interfere with levels of serotonin, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and other neurotransmitters — which are important for regulating our mood. The gut is also responsible for manufacturing 95% of the body’s serotonin and about 50% of our dopamine supply. So imbalances in the gut can impact our supply of serotonin and dopamine.
Prebiotics, along with probiotics, are sometimes referred to as psychobiotics due to their potential to confer mental health benefits. As interest in psychobiotics continues to increase, we can expect more research and evidence to come, which will help us better understand the gut-brain connection and how it affects our mood and mental health.
The Mood-Boosting effects of prebiotics
At Lifted Natural, we have developed a prebiotic formula that includes GOS, XOS, and FOS — all of which have been found to enhance or boost your mood. Here’s what you need to know about these powerhouse ingredients:
GOS can be found in lentils, chickpeas, beans, and other legumes; cashews and pistachios; silken tofu and soy milk; chia seeds; and hummus. Though GOS is still being investigated animal studies have found that GOS can reduce stress-like behaviors, as well as reduce the release of corticosterone. It can also reduce the inflammatory response, which is detrimental to cognitive function.
GOS, when combined with FOS, was also found to promote healthy serotonin levels and increase the actinobacteria-proteobacteria ratio. GOS can also normalize the stress response and the stress impact on the gut microbiota, which can avoid disruptions or alterations in the composition and concentration of microorganisms.
In one study, young adult women received GOS supplements daily for 4 weeks. Anxiolytic effects were observed in participants who were highly anxious. Results also showed reduced negative bias and increased positive bias, as well as an increase in Bifidobacterium in their microbiota composition.
XOS is usually derived from sugarcane bagasse, rice straw, wheat straw, corn cobs, rice husk, and tobacco stalk. XOS is said to be particularly beneficial to the Bifidobacterium genus and can lead to increased levels in the gastrointestinal tract.
In one study, participants were given 150 grams of XOS-infused rice porridge daily for 6 weeks. Results showed an improvement in their microbial balance. There was an increase in Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and a decrease in Clostridium perfringens — which is responsible for food poisoning.
Animal studies have found that XOS can reduce mood behaviors that are caused by chronic stress. Human studies have also been promising as XOS may have the potential in increasing feelings of vitality and joy.
FOS can be found in leeks, artichokes, cabbage, garlic, spring onions, broccoli, asparagus, wheat, apples, mangoes, and pears. Fructose chains are sweet but have no effect on blood sugar levels. As such, it is also used as a sweetener or sugar replacement. Studies have found that FOS can inhibit the growth of Clostridium perfringens, fight against salmonella, and support healthy cholesterol levels.
In animal studies, FOS combined with a specific form of GOS was found to modulate HPA activity and lower cortisol awakening reactivity. Lower cortisol levels are associated with decreased stress and reduced attention bias — which can play a role in mood dysregulation.
Boost your Mood with Prebiotics
While more research is needed to understand the complex mechanisms behind the gut-brain axis, there is a consensus in the existing literature that a healthy and balanced gut can not only improve our digestion and immune function, but it can also have a positive impact on our mood and cognitive processes.
Prebiotics, specifically GOS, XOS, and FOS, are important sources of energy for the microorganisms that are in our intestinal microflora. Their nutritive effect encourages microbes to function more effectively and maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms. This then allows us to feel better and can help reduce our physical and psychological symptoms.
At Lifted Naturals, we want to help you feel better, naturally. That is why we have developed a high-quality MOOD Prebiotic Supplement that can provide you with the many health benefits that come with taking prebiotics.