The term “well-being” is common. But what exactly is its definition? It’s like the term “state-of-the-art,” which was actually coined in 1910 to depict the newest technology. Both these terms are well-understood but are somewhat nebulous.
So—why are we opening this blog with a language lesson? Or, more specifically, an etymology lesson? (Add an “n” and you have a word meaning the ‘study of insects.’)
Because if you are reasonably healthy, when you concentrate on elevating your state of well-being, probiotics are key in helping you achieve it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asserts that “there is no consensus around a single definition of well-being.” However, it is a meaningful concept that is understood around the globe. Unlike just about anything else about health (except pain measurements) well-being is subjective. In general, well-being includes positive mood and emotions, state of contentment, and satisfaction with one’s life in all domains; physical well-being is feeling good, healthy and energetic.
S the CDC, “higher levels of well-being are associated with decreased risk of disease, illness, and injury; better immune functioning; speedier recovery; and increased longevity. Individuals with high levels of well-being are more productive at work and are more likely to contribute to their communities.”
An initiative called Healthy People (healthypeople.gov), from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), has created and executed an initiative, Healthy People 2020, which, according to its website, “emphasizes the importance of health-related quality of life and well-being by including it as one of the initiative’s four overarching goals, promoting quality of life, healthy development, and health behaviors across all life stages.”
Health-related quality of life (HRQOL) is a multi-pronged idea that also includes well-being, a relative state where one maximizes his or her physical, mental, and social functioning in the context of supportive environments to live a full, satisfying, and productive life,” according to the ODPHP initiative. By the way, Healthy People 2030 is in its formative stages.
Well-being is not solely about disease prevention or being condition-specific (although the idea of targeted health supplements has never been more important or appreciated). But you can’t really enjoy well-being if you are not in physical balance or are enduring a health impediment.
It appears that across generations, people are more mindful (and this is in and of itself a booming trend) about high functioning of their whole selves. The concept of mindfulness is about being “fully present” with the ability to channel distractions appropriately so that they are constructive rather than destructive.
Nutrition is becoming more important for the well-being mindset. According to market research firm Innova Market Insights, the idea of “holistic” health is appealing to all current generations and nutrition, including dietary supplements, that supports “both physical and emotional well-being is thriving.”
One study published this year in February analyzed data from more than 40,000 individuals and the researchers observed that changes in fruit and vegetable consumption are correlated with changes in mental well-being. The authors noted that individuals who consume more fruit and vegetables report a higher level of mental well-being and life satisfaction than those who eat less produce.
Food seems to be central to achieving well-being. The authors of the European Food Trends Report (2017) eloquently observed, “Health has become a lifestyle. Food is not only expected to taste good and fill the stomach, but also to be conducive to inner well-being. People are giving thought to their digestion, books like Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ are becoming bestsellers. The stomach and gut are threatening to steal the brain’s crown as the key organ. Digestive wellness is becoming a driver of many other nutritional trends. Genes and diet interact in complex ways that are not yet understood.”
Probiotics: The Well-Being-Promoting Supplements
There are hundreds of studies validating the power of probiotics to nourish the gut and immunity by ensuring pathogenic bacteria and irrelevant matter do not nestle in to disturb health. In fact, serotonin, the feel-good hormone, is largely produced in the gut. The link between the gut and the brain (thoughts, emotions, etc.) is so dramatically quick, that research has shown the gut-brain neural circuit in mice uses only two nerve cells, making the gut potentially the largest sensory organ. Emotion and thoughts that go between the brain and the gut (gut-brain axis) greatly impact well-being, and vice versa.
A new double-blind placebo-controlled study on 38 healthy volunteers showed that probiotics do enhance well-being. Those who took a probiotic blend (Lactobacillus fermentum LF16, L. rhamnosus LR06, L. plantarum LP01, and Bifidobacterium longum BL04) for six weeks showed significant improvement in mood, reduction in depressive mood state, anger and fatigue and improvement in sleep quality. The authors concluded that these findings suggest that probiotics “may improve psychological well-being by ameliorating aspects of mood and sleep quality.”
Other Tools to Boost Well-Being
Recent studies show that certain activities and practices can boost several domains of well-being. For example, spending at least two hours a week in nature may be a crucial threshold for boosting well-being, according to a large-scale study. Researchers found that, among 20,000 people, those who spent at least 120 minutes in nature per week were significantly more likely to report higher psychological well-being and good health than those who did not immerse themselves in a nature environment (whether it was a shoreline, park, woods, or mountains).
The researchers also observed that it didn't matter whether the 120 minutes was achieved in a single visit or over several shorter visits. It also found the 120-minute threshold applied to both men and women, older and younger adults, across different occupational and ethnic groups, among those living in both rich and poor areas, and even among people with long-term illnesses or disabilities.
Another team assessed the state of well-being in middle-aged adults, and found that those who had high mental well-being at age 42 were more physically active at age 50 than those who, at age 42, reported a lower sense of well-being. This team observed that different exercise activities correlate to various levels of well-being during mid-life. More specifically, they found, walking was related to emotional well-being, being in nature was related to social well-being and endurance training was related to subjective health.
Indulging in crafts and other creative arts has also been found to increase well-being. Researchers in New Zealand found that daily creative activity and crafting can lead to an “upward spiral” of increased well-being and creativity, especially in college-age adults. The gains in well-being were experienced the next day after the activity.
Well-being is an art, it is a science and it is a zen of perfect balance. While the exact definition is elusive, the parameters are inclusive and clear. Adding probiotics to your well-being quest – and maintenance – is also a great idea.