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It’s no secret that eating yogurt is healthy for you.
By now, you’ve probably heard of those beneficial probiotics this tasty snack delivers.
They’ve been touted for everything from relieving digestive problems to boosting your immune system.
But, did you know that getting a daily dose of probiotics by adding yogurt into your diet could be one of the best things you can do to boost your brain health?
That’s because your nervous system is actually made up of two separate systems: your central nervous system and your enteric nervous system.
The gut-brain connection
Your central nervous system is your brain and spinal cord while your enteric nervous system is associated with your gastrointestinal tract, your stomach and intestines.
These two systems are directly connected via your vagus nerve. This means that what damages one system can damage the other and what makes one system healthy, makes the other healthy as well.
In fact, the vagus nerve connection is thought to be the reason that improving the health of your gut bacteria impacts the health of your brain.
Studies have demonstrated this gut-brain connection, going so far as to show that problems in your gut can lead to depression and that repopulating the gut with “good bacteria” can alleviate stress and anxiety.
Probiotics and brain power
This is why eating foods that contain beneficial probiotics is so vital to nourishing your brain.
The probiotics in yogurt repopulate your gut with the good bacteria it needs to not only support a healthy digestive tract but a healthy brain as well through that gut-brain connection.
A study performed at UCLA took a closer look at this connection.
In it, 36 women were followed over four weeks. One group of women was given yogurt with the “good bacteria” twice daily. Another group ate yogurt whose probiotics had been stripped from it. And, the last group was given nothing at all.
At the end of the study, all women underwent MRIs of their brains to rate function.
And, the research was conclusive.
The women who ate probiotic rich yogurt twice daily had better brain function and greater connectivity than the women in the other groups.
Beneficial effects were seen in areas of the brain that process emotions, such as depression as well as sensory processing areas.
Better gut health for better brain health
Based on these studies, it’s clear that a healthy gut is the first step to a healthy brain.
So, how can you improve the health of your digestive tract and boost your brain power?
The simple answer is to eat yogurt twice a day like the women in the study.
However, there is a little more to it.
You see, most yogurts are chock-full of sugars that feed the bad bacteria in your gut as well as artificial flavors and sweeteners, limiting the benefits you can get from them.
A better alternative is to choose an organic kefir, a fermented milk drink that provides a host of good bacteria without the artificial ingredients in other yogurts.
Kefir is easily found at most grocery stores or natural food stores and comes in a variety of flavors.
And, if you aren’t a fan of yogurt or kefir, you can always add a high-quality probiotic supplement to your diet to get the “good bacteria” you need.
However you choose to incorporate probiotics into your routine, the research is clear… If you want a healthy brain, you first have to improve the health of your gut.
Neurogastroenterology and Motility December 2011; 23(12): 1132-1139.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2011 Sep 20; 108(38):16050-5.