Mental health, immune function & the role of the gut

In today’s climate of anxiety surrounding Covid-19, many are taking a fresh look at how best to maintain a naturally healthy mindset, as well as alternative ways to support the immune system. 

Could the answer lie in your gut?

The gut microbiome isn’t one organ, it’s a complex system housing many trillions of bacteria in an ever-changing composition. In perhaps one of the most eagerly anticipated research fields in gastroenterology, studies are uncovering the full influence of the gut on bodily health. An area of great interest – particularly in today’s coronavirus landscape – is how the gut plays its part in modulating mood and cognition – and even supports the immune system. 

The gut communicates with the brain through a number of important channels in the body. We call this dialogue the ‘gut-brain axis’, and it’s thought to play a role in how we function day-to-day.

Because of this important connection, one potential answer to supporting mental health may lie in boosting bacterial diversity in the gut microbiome. The way different types of bacteria interact has long been thought of as a strong influence on the body and its functions, which naturally extends to the brain.

Nutrition industry publication NutraIngredients has recently released a blog featuring Kara Landau, founder of Uplift Food, author of the Prebiotic Manual and nutrition adviser to the Global Prebiotic Association. In it, Kara connects the ongoing societal anxiety with actionable change, beginning with the gut. The article outlines nutrients, ‘good mood foods’ and supplements to help boost positivity.

Clasado recommends reading the article in full, which can be found here.

In the blog, Kara notes that there are specific nutrients and supplements that can help to alleviate stress and prevent mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety – and that can also ultimately help to support the immune system.

Prebiotics, a form of dietary fibre, are highlighted by Kara as a key dietary component to improving mental health, based on the growing body of evidence that connects strong microbial diversity with positive impacts on cognition.

She notes significant research supports the gut-brain axis’ role in mental health, as well as the understanding that poor gut health can lead to a release of inflammatory molecules in the body. The blog highlights that these inflammatory molecules can be significant factors in depression and anxiety. 

Could reducing the occurrence of these molecules – by controlling the composition of the gut microbiome – prove crucial?

Bifidobacteria, a type of ‘good bacteria’ in the gut, is highlighted as a specific type commonly targeted by prebiotics, and perhaps therefore the most abundant opportunity for those aiming to reduce anxiety through gut-modulated means.

In the blog, Kara combines the knowledge that the immune system is predominantly found within the gut, with the growing body of evidence surrounding the gut’s influence over mental health and anxiety. By doing this, sheconcludes that prebiotics, in their capacity as ‘fuel’ for bifidobacteria, may play a vital role in mental wellbeing and immune function.

Click here to read the NutraIngredients blog in full, or click here to find out more about the scientific backing of second-generation prebiotic ingredient Bimuno® that selectively targets bifidobacteria to positively affect overall health and wellbeing.