Have you ever experienced that unsettling feeling of knots in your stomach, only to chalk it up to anxiety? While anxiety can indeed play a role, the source of your discomfort might originate in your gut. Dubbed the “second brain,” the gut has an intricate connection to our emotional and cognitive centers, boasting millions of nerve cells lining its walls. According to Alex Georgiou, a naturopathic practitioner and medical researcher at Life-Space with close to a decade of experience, these gut-based nerve cells can significantly impact our mental well-being. When the delicate balance of the gut microbiome, comprised of 38 trillion bacteria, is disrupted, a condition known as dysbiosis, it can trigger mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
For those seeking to bolster their gut health, fermented foods like kombucha and kimchi are often suggested. However, as Alex points out, these options lack substantial clinical trial research to back their efficacy. Many commercially available kombucha products contain a fraction, sometimes less than 15%, of the necessary bacterial units to alleviate symptoms of gut-related conditions like diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome. Natural probiotics found in foods may fall short in addressing the complexity of the gut microbiome. This is where medically formulated probiotics step in, offering a complementary approach to support gut healing.
Dispelling common myths, Alex provides insights into probiotics and gut health. One prevalent misconception is that consuming copious amounts of yogurt, kombucha, or probiotic drinks daily will supply ample beneficial bacteria to the gut. However, the body has its limits, and much of the surplus bacteria from these sources are excreted rather than absorbed. Additionally, considering that the gut harbours over 500 bacterial species, achieving a comprehensive bacterial profile solely from food is practically impossible. Another misconception is that maintaining a clean diet equates to a healthy gut, overlooking the significant influence of lifestyle factors such as stress, sleep deprivation, and medication use, which can alter the microbiome and impact overall well-being. Lastly, while probiotics are crucial for gut health, they cannot replace a well-rounded diet rich in plant-based and fiber-rich foods. A diverse diet, coupled with carefully formulated probiotics like Life-Space’s high-quality strains, ensures that your gut receives the support it needs to thrive throughout life’s various stages.
Understanding the intricate connection between the gut and the brain sheds light on the profound impact gut health has on our overall well-being. By dispelling myths and embracing medically formulated probiotics, we can take proactive steps to nurture our gut and, in turn, promote mental and physical health. Trusting your gut feeling might be more than just a saying; it could be the key to unlocking a healthier, happier you.
Alex Georgiou, Life-Space Speaker & Naturopathic Practitioner, continued to share more insights with us as follows:
1) Can you tell us about your journey that led you to become a Life-Space Speaker and Naturopathic Practitioner? What inspired you to focus on natural health and wellness?
Alex Georgiou: I began my journey as a naturopathic practitioner working in a pharmacy in Melbourne, Australia. Through my experience in sales and clinical practice, I soon applied for a role as a naturopathic educator and sales representative at Life-Space group. For the last 9 years, I have been involved in various roles across the business including training and education, research and development and scientific marketing. During my time at Life-Space group, I have been inspired to focus on natural health and wellness as I believe there is a great need to make complex scientific research easy to understand, palatable and relevant for both consumers and healthcare professionals. I believe that everyone should have access to health information, so that we have equal opportunity to take positive actions to improve our health and prevent disease.
2) As a Naturopathic Practitioner, what do you believe are the most significant benefits of incorporating probiotics into one’s daily routine?
Alex Georgiou: By incorporating probiotics into your daily routine, probiotics can serve as a foundational support for gut health, aiding in maintaining a balanced gut microbiome, improving digestion, enhancing nutrient absorption, regulating immune system function, and reducing the risk of common infections. Furthermore, some probiotic strains have also been shown to have a positive effect on mood, skin health, and metabolic health, making them a valuable component of a holistic approach to wellness. Probiotics can also help support intestinal health and gut microbiome composition restoration during and after antibiotic use.
3) The concept of the “second brain” in our gut microbiome is intriguing. Could you delve deeper into how an imbalance in the gut’s bacterial composition, known as ‘dysbiosis’, can lead to mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety?
Alex Georgiou: The connection between gut and brain is mediated by the interaction between the gut microbes and the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and has been termed the ‘gut-brain axis’. An imbalance in the gut’s bacterial composition, which causes an overgrowth of harmful microorganisms, known as ‘dysbiosis’, has been increasingly recognised as a potential contributor to mental health and mood. This is due to the fact that dysbiosis can often affect the permeability of the intestinal lining, allowing micro-organisms and/or their components to cross the gut lining and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system. This barrier breach often triggers an inflammatory reaction in the body and has been associated with an increased risk of various mood related disorders. Furthermore, the gut microbiome has been shown to impact the production of enzymes in the body, which in turn affects the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, both of which play important roles in regulating mood and nervous system function.
4) It’s common for people to turn to fermented foods like kombucha and kimchi for gut health. Could you explain why commercially sold fermented products might not have the required bacterial units for addressing gut-related conditions? Why is diversity in both diet and bacteria crucial for a healthy microbiome?
Alex Georgiou: Although fermented foods are a healthy complement to any diet, most fermented foods, such as Kombucha, Kefir, Sauerkraut, and Nato, have not been thoroughly examined in clinical studies and typically contain modest numbers or a restricted diversity of beneficial bacteria. Key strains selected and investigated for the symptomatic relief from certain illnesses such as upper respiratory tract infections and irritable bowel syndrome are included in targeted probiotic supplements. A dose of at least 1-20 billion colony forming units (CFU) of a clinically trialed strain is often administered daily to provide symptomatic relief from these conditions. In contrast, when looking at popular commercial kombucha products, not only are the beneficial strains not offered by many manufacturers, but the total living cultures are usually estimated as comprising less than 15% compared with common therapeutic probiotic supplements on the market. In contrast to fermented foods, Life-Space probiotics contain up to 15 strains of beneficial bacteria that are formulated to meet the needs of different life stages, from birth all the way through to 60+ years, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.
5) Could you discuss the impact of stress, lack of sleep, and medications on the composition of our microbiome and how it relates to issues like stress, poor sleep quality, and skin problems? How does Lifespace’s products help mitigate these?
Alex Georgiou: Compared to healthy subjects, patients suffering from stress related disorders have been shown to have reduced bacterial diversity in the gut, higher inflammatory markers, higher cortisol levels, and intestinal barrier disruption. This complex state of disruption can influence multiple body systems, affecting sleep, mood, and stress tolerance. Life-Space utilises the clinically researched strain, Lactobacillus plantarum DR7 which has been shown to increase intestinal bacterial diversity in the gut, improve bowel movements, enhance cognition, and improve the symptoms of stress and anxiety in adults. This is believed to be attributed to the strain’s effects on the gut-brain axis due to its influence on regulating the production of important neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin.
6) Can you explain how the strains of bacteria in products like Life-Space’s probiotics are tailored to meet specific needs, from pregnancy to old age?
Alex Georgiou: Life-Space probiotics contain multi-strain products that are tailored for every stage of life, from pregnancy and breastfeeding, infancy all the way through to 60+ years. This life-stages range consists of up to 15 strains of beneficial bacteria and contains key strains to target common health concerns during these periods of life. For example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is utilised for upper respiratory tract infections in children, Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis HN019 is used to support bowel health in elderly, and Lactobacillus fermentum CECT 5716 for reducing symptoms of mastitis while breastfeeding. The target range also contains strains which address health concerns, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Cholesterol, Bowel and Skin Health.
7) Could you provide some insights into any ongoing or upcoming developments in the field of probiotics and gut health? How does Lifespace stay at the forefront of these advancements?
Alex Georgiou: There have been many advances in microbiome testing which have allowed researchers to examine the presence of vast amounts of microorganisms, on a larger scale in an extremely time efficient way. This is thanks to the introduction of next generation sequencing which is used to determine the genome or nucleotides of DNA and RNA in different microorganisms. With this new technology, microbiome understanding will exponentially increase in the coming years.
We know that the intestinal microbiome is essential for shaping the development of the immune system, particularly in early life. However, we have many unanswered questions, such as:
- To what extent can the immune system itself shape the microbiome?
- How do microbes in the gut travel to various body sites, intact?
- Is there the existence of a healthy core blood microbiome?
Life-Space Group’s scientific research team is committed to be at the forefront of microbiome and probiotic research by conducting regular literature reviews and attending research and industry conferences on microbiome science.
8) Lastly, could you provide some tips and tricks that one can incorporate into their daily lives to maintain a healthy gut?
Alex Georgiou: There is no one size fits all when it comes to gut health as everyone has a unique microbiome profile and we all deal with various foods differently. However, some basic tips and tricks would be:
- Incorporate brightly coloured fruits and vegetables into the daily diet, these are not only a great source of fibre but many brightly coloured fruits and vegetables have good amounts of polyphenols which have a favourable effect on beneficial bacteria throughout the digestive system.
- Include fermented foods in the diet, although they may not have supplement levels of bacteria, they are still a great addition to the diet to maintain healthy gut environment and digestion.
- Limit the number of processed foods consumed in the diet, such as cold meats, packaged foods, and margarine. These tend to be a poor source of fibre and a rich source of trans fats which are a contributor to heart disease when over consumed.
- Limit high sugar foods, which are absorbed quickly. Although they are great at spiking blood glucose levels, they can feed a bacteria in the oral microbiome known as Staphylococcus mutans. This bacteria contributes to tooth decay by producing enamel eroding acid when metabolising glucose.
- Increase healthy foods rich in nitrates, such as green leafy vegetables, including; spinach, lettuce, fennel, rocket, radishes, parsley and cabbage. These tend to feed bacteria in the oral and gut microbiome which metabolise nitrates through biochemical pathways to produce nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide has a positive effect on cardiovascular health by causing the healthy dilation of blood vessels.
Find out more about Life-Space’s Broad Spectrum Probiotic at this LINK.