Studies on the benefits of probiotics for everything from boosting moods to supporting immune function are not hard to come by these days. Researchers are quickly uncovering how other nutrients work with probiotics to stabilize the gut microbiome and encourage a happy belly.
But the benefits of bacterial bliss aren’t limited to the gut – they extend throughout the body to the cardiovascular system, brain, and beyond!
Garlic Teams Up with Gut Bacteria to Block TMAO
One natural compound recently deemed a strong ally of friendly bacteria is garlic. A study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found that garlic may be able to block the production of a compound called TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide), which has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
TMAO is a byproduct created when the gut bacteria metabolize carnitine, an amino acid thought to support heart health.
The study revealed that allicin, an active compound in garlic, interferes with the break down of carnitine by blocking the production of TMAO. Previously, only antibiotics (which come with a long list of nasty side effects) were known to inhibit TMAO production.
How It Works
Mice were given either a carnitine supplement, carnitine plus garlic, or placebo. While TMAO levels increased significantly in the carnitine group, when garlic supplements were added, TMAO levels dropped to a level equal to that of the control mice. That means that the garlic supplements completely blocked TMAO production.
This is welcome news for both carnitine users and people who’d rather not “risk it” when it comes to prolonged antibiotic use (think candida overgrowth, abdominal cramps, gastrointestinal issues, chronic fatigue, etc.).
Fast Facts: Add another benefit to the long list of probiotics’ amazing abilities: the power to reduce triglyceride levels, yet another indicator of heart disease risk. In a study of 92 people, probiotic supplementation was associated with a 22% reduction in triglyceride levels. These tiny bugs are relentless when charged with the task of boosting your health!
Fermented Food Intake Linked to Lower Social Anxiety
The concept of psychobiotics has gained in popularity in recent years as researchers continue to uncover the link between bacterial imbalances in the gut and mental health. The idea is that probiotics alter the makeup of our bacterial profile and influence the gut-brain axis, thereby opening up new ways in which to manipulate brain activity.
Recent research published in the journal Psychiatry Research studied the link between fermented food consumption and anxiety levels. Fermented foods are known to be very rich in probiotics.
The researchers administered questionnaires to 710 psychology students asking about fermented food consumption in the last 30 days, exercise frequency, and other diet habits. The data suggested that students who ate the most fermented foods and who exercised more often than others reported lower anxiety levels than their peers.
Though follow-up studies are needed to determine causation, the researchers are hopeful that nutritional interventions will become an integral part of treating social anxiety.