Women can Positively Alter their brain function by eating one thing daily

Woman holding yogurt cup

Women should take note of this one thing and have it every day!

Your diet and the small decisions you make on a moment to moment basis — either push your health towards better heights or leave you dragging yourself through the mud in emotional and mental distress. I’m sure we’ve all been in that spot many times — when we don’t pay enough attention to our health, it begins to shape our decisions. Because I’ve suffered from digestion issues most of my life, I have learnt through trial and error — just how much one harmful ingredient or food can affect your day, week and year. First, it may start as an adverse reaction in your body — but what it does to your mind is profound. Compare your mood and brain function when you eat well for a day and then after a bender over the weekend. There is a remarkable difference between the two. Have you ever said that you won’t ever do that to yourself again? Changing bacteria in the gut can affect the brain. This carries significant implications for future research, which may help point us towards better dietary practices and drug interventions that can help improve brain function. Do you enjoy eating yogurt as a healthy snack? It may be the one thing you are eating that adds several healthy gut bacteria. Yogurt starts as a healthy snack but leads to many health benefits — precisely your brain function. Dr Kirsten Tillisch, an associate professor of medicine at UCLA, says, “Many people have a yogurt container in our fridge, eating it for enjoyment and its calcium. Our findings indicate that some of the contents of yogurt may change the way our brain responds to the environment. When we consider the implications of this work, the old saying goes ‘you are what you eat and ‘gut feelings’ take on a new meaning.” Researchers already have a good idea that our brain sends signals to the gut, which is why stress and other emotions are the byproducts of gastrointestinal disturbances. However, this study shows something that scientists have suspected for a while — that the signal travels the opposite way. In other words, the gut signals the brain as well! Dr Kirsten says, “Time and Time again, we hear from patients that never felt anxious or depressed until they began to experience problems with their gut. Our study shows that gut-brain connection is a two-way street.” The small study involving yogurt consumption involved 36 women between 18–55. 

Researchers divided the groups into three categories:

  • One had a specific yogurt containing a mix of different probiotics. This bacteria was thought to have a positive impact on the intestines. This yogurt was consumed twice a day for four weeks.
  • The other group consumed dairy products that looked and tasted like yogurt, although they contained no probiotics.
  •  The third and final group ate no products at all.

During the four weeks, magnetic scans were conducted to look at all the women’s brains in a state of rest and responses to emotional recognition. This task had the women view several pictures of people who were angry or frightened faces. The women had to match the faces to the same emotion. This task measured engagement as a visual stimulus, linking changes in gut flora to changes ineffective behaviours. 


The researchers found that, compared with the women who didn’t consume the probiotic yogurt, those who did show decreased activity in both the insula — which processes and integrates internal body sensations, like those from the gut somatosensory cortex during the emotional reactivity task. (Research results: Kirsten Tillisch, Jennifer Labus, Lisa Kilpatrick, Zhiguo Jiang, Jean Stains, Bahar Ebrat, Denis Guyonnet, Sophie Legrain-Raspaud, Beatrice Trotin, Bruce Naliboff, Emeran A. Mayer. Consumption of Fermented Milk Product with Probiotic Modulates Brain Activity. Gastroenterology, 2013; DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.02.043) Looking at these women’s brain scans is astounding just how much sensory processing is happening (please check out the link above to view them yourself). Many studies show that eating a high volume of vegetables and foods based on a high fibre diet tends to have a different microbiome composition than those who eat the typical western “high carb” diet.So now we know that the way we eat has a profound effect on our metabolism, gut health and brain function. To experience the effects of better gut-brain and brain-gut connection, eat a wide variety of veggies, fermented food, and if your stomach can handle it — yogurt. I can’t eat dairy and get all my probiotics from supplements, fermented foods, and coconut yogurt. Please check out the whole body of research here

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