Increasingly, researchers are discovering the strong connection between your brain and your belly, and it’s not just your stomach letting you know when you’re hungry. As reported recently in The New York Times and other major news outlets, the Human Microbiome Project is revealing how bacteria in your gut affects brain chemistry and behavior, thanks to mood-regulating neurons like dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) secreted by the trillions of microorganisms traveling through your intestinal systems.
It’s a body of work in progress, but in the meantime, here are surefire ways to settle the flames that might be burning deep inside.
Go pro: As in probiotics. Probiotic foods and supplements are the new superheroes of the well-being world, thanks to a slew of recent studies linking them to better brain and overall health. In August 2015, Brain Behavior and Immunity reported that taking probiotic supplements for four weeks made participants feel less sad and aggressive, while another study from Canada, published in CNS & Neurological Disorders in 2014, suggests that “probiotics may mitigate anxiety symptoms” and that “the modulation of the gut microbiota may provide a novel therapeutic target for the treatment and/or prevention of mood and anxiety disorders.”
Probiotics may also help prevent obesity, according to Indian researchers who have found that metabolic syndrome – for which obesity is the main precursor – might be managed through the right foods and supplements. The authors write that implementing dietary strategies with probiotics, along with other nutrients such as CLA and polyphenols, “could have relevant implication in planning a successful dietary regimen and/or neutraceutical/pharmaceutical preparations for achieving and maintaining a normal body weight in obese individuals.”
See alsoListen to Your Gut & Lose Weight.
Some of the best food sources for probiotics include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and even ginger beer. For supplements, look for probiotics that contain strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus.
Sneaky Tricks for a Tamer Tummy (and a Better Mood)
Give your mouth a rest: Eschewing calories by constantly chewing sugar-free gum and sipping seltzer water? You might actually be making your midsection larger by swallowing air. A report from the American College of Gastroenterology notes that “belching and flatulence are normal body processes.” But those who have “excessive gas passages” may benefit from keeping a “flatus” diary for three days. Yes, a fart diary. Soda, beer, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, beans and bran are all tummy triggers, as are milk and other dairy foods, along with chewing gum, even sugar-free gum, which has flatulence-causing sweeteners.
Talk it out: Therapy is no longer a four-letter word, and new research shows that it may even alleviate distress from a three-letter acronym: IBS. In a December 2015 article published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, scientists show that psychological therapies can reduce abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). “Psychological therapies reduce GI symptoms in adults with IBS,” conclude the study authors. “These effects remained significant and medium in magnitude after short- and long-term follow-up periods.”
Sip ginger tea: The herb is “mighty and amazing,” according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, thanks to its effectiveness as an anti-nausea agent, among other benefits.
See alsoGinger Lemon Tea.