UCLA researchers conducted a study in which healthy women consumed beneficial bacteria known as probiotics through yogurt. The researchers didn’t first notice a change in digestive function, but noticed a change in brain function in both a resting state and in response to an emotion-recognition task. The article, which can be found at newsroom.ucla.edu discovered that changing the bacteria environment of the gut can affect the brain and carries significant implications for future research into dietary or drug interventions to improve brain function.
Many of us have a container of yogurt in our refrigerator that we may eat for enjoyment, for calcium or because we think it might help our health in other ways," said Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, an associate professor of medicine in the digestive diseases division at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "Our findings indicate that some of the contents of yogurt may actually change the way our brain responds to the environment. When we consider the implications of this work, the old sayings 'you are what you eat' and 'gut feelings' take on new meaning."
Researchers have known that the brain sends signals to the gut, which is why stress and other emotions can contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms. This study shows what has been suspected but until now had been proved only in animal studies: that signals travel the opposite way as well.
"Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut," Tillisch said. "Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street."
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