Exercise has long been recommended for decreasing stress while at the same time releasing endorphins that result in the “runner’s high”, a sense of euphoria and excitement often achieved while running, biking or participating in other forms of physical activity. Until recently, scientists and researchers were unable to pinpoint how the brain could be both excited and produce a sense of calm at nearly the exact same time; researchers at Princeton University may have discovered an answer.
Considering exercise produces new brain cells in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with thinking, emotion and other cognitive functions, researchers initially thought these new neurons should result in increased excitability and anxiety; but this was not being observed. In fact, researchers were observing the exact opposite, people who exercised on a regular basis were demonstrating to be calmer and experiencing reduced levels of anxiety; especially when compared to a sedentary control group. Researchers found that while exercise does produce new, excitable neurons, it also produces new neurons that release GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms and quiets anxiety in the brain. Specifically, research demonstrated that when faced with stress, both the brain’s of people who exercise and sedentary people produce significant response to stress; however, the brain’s of people who exercise demonstrated a significant shorter period of stress with GABA being released, calming the brain and reducing anxiety. Read the complete Journal Of Neuroscience report here: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/18/7770.abstract
Additional research from UCLA is also demonstrating that probiotics consumed and stored in the gut can affect the anxiety and stress producing portion of the brain. Specifically, researchers found that probiotics from yogurt and probiotic supplements alter the way the brain functions, especially when responding to environmental stimuli. Building off of research that demonstrates the health effects stress and anxiety have on digestive health, scientists found that digestive health, particularly probiotic levels, alter the way the brain deals with stress and anxiety. The complete Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain study is available at: http://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(13)00292-8/abstract
This research is not only promising for the relationship between probiotics and brain activity, but also probiotics and a number of brain-related conditions, including autism, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Schoenfeld, TJ. “Physical Exercise Prevents Stress-Induced Activation of Granule …” 2013. <http://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/18/7770.abstract>
Tillisch, K. “Consumption of Fermented Milk Product With Probiotic Modulates …” 2013. <http://gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(13)00292-8/>