Article 4 of 4. As the Tokyo Olympic games comes to an end, so is our series of articles based on the four demonstrated modes of action probiotics can play for athletes to optimize their wellbeing [Jäger 2019], as recognized by the International Society for Sport Nutrition (ISSN). These four effects of probiotics are:
- boost natural defenses
- maintain gut barrier integrity
- improve antioxidant capacity
- decrease occasional stress through the brain-gut axis
Probiotics decrease occasional stress of athletes through the brain-gut axis
Professional sport has its share of stress. Active people tend to put too much pressure on themselves to meet expectations or are anxious about their performance or the risks of injuries, while working out or competing. If a certain level of stress can be beneficial to push themselves to their limits and remain competitive, excessive stress can affect training, performance, and ultimately mental well-being. Mental health is a topic that is increasingly communicated by athletes, and no longer hidden as it was before. The current Olympic athletes are experiencing very difficult Games session considering all the restrictions that have been set up due to the pandemic. They are more than ever isolated from their supporters, which make it even more difficult in case of doubts and in defeats. Athletes need to be equally in tiptop physical and mental shape, and probiotics have a big role to play to help support them.
Stress can also affect the digestive system, leading to occasional intestinal discomfort. The influence of stress on gut function is well known and leads to pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating and nausea, which are all common symptoms of psychological distress. Luckily, awareness of the role of the microbiome-gut-brain axis has gained momentum over the last few years [Liang, 2018] and natural solutions exist.
What happen in times of intense stress?
When experiencing a stressful event, the area of the brain that controls emotions, the amygdala, sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus, the brain’s command center. The hypothalamus then sends out an alert throughout the nervous system, which responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. In turn, these hormones prepare the body for emergency action, known as the fight-or-flight response. When the whole system is activated, digestion slows as the body uses its energy resources on the threat at hand, and in turn, increases gut sensitivity. Common physiological symptoms of acute stress include an increased heart rate, increased muscles sensitivity to neural signals, a rise in blood pressure, and rapid breathing. These physical changes increase strength and stamina, improve reaction time, and enhance focus, preparing to either fight or escape in response to the stressful situation.
The power of psychobiotics on the brain-gut axis
Psychobiotic is a term used in preliminary research to refer to live bacteria that, when ingested in appropriate amounts, might confer a mental health benefit by affecting the microbiota of the host organism. Cerebiome® continues to be the most documented psychobiotic in the world with more than a decade of evidence after its first proven effects on the brain-gut axis and as such constitute a very good option for athletes to not only decrease their occasional stress, but also decrease their stress-related gastrointestinal discomfort. Visit our dedicated website on the brain-gut axis to learn more.
… And there is more good news! As research expand, some botanical extracts have been successfully combined to the flagship probiotic formulation Cerebiome® for further effects. For example, Safr’inside™ encapsulated saffron or ashwagandha, are innovative combinations to help manage occasional stress. Cerebiome® can also be formulated with carefully chosen ingredients like melatonin to help improve sleep-wake cycles in different conditions athletes are facing, for example in times of jet lag. Cerebiome® can also be combined with a variety of vitamins and minerals.
We hope you enjoyed our series of articles on how probiotics participate to sport performance!