fbpx

Yogurt to Reduce Stress

Yogurt to Reduce Stress

Grantly
October 21, 2018

Overview:

How does nutrition affect learning? How can I focus longer? Why do I experience nausea before exams? What are probiotics? What foods contain probiotics? Where can I find probiotics? Can I find local probiotic rich foods? Why do probiotics matter for test prep?
When preparing for the SAT, ACT, or any other exam, considering the effect of nutrition on academic performance is critical.

Here at Granite Prep we are fascinated by what makes students into great test takers. When preparing for the SAT, ACT, or any other exam, considering the effect of nutrition on academic performance is critical. The connection between nutrition and academic performance is not a new one; however, thanks to cutting edge research the importance of brain food for students is more clear than ever before! Probiotics have recently become the focus of countless innovative research studies, as more scientists are asking: how does nutrition affect learning?

Probiotics and Anxiety:

A team of neuroscientists led by John F. Cryan at The College University of Cork in Ireland made breakthrough discoveries on the impacts of probiotics and mood. Cryan compared the performance of mice who received a diet rich in Lactobacillus to a group of mice who did not receive any probiotics. The mice were placed in mazes and their behavior and stress hormones were monitored. The mice who had a diet rich in probiotics were notably more curious, less anxious, and showed lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone. Furthermore, the mice had a healthier distribution of the neurotransmitter “GABA” (the same neurotransmitter targeted by most fast-acting anti-anxiety medication). In Cryan’s own words: “These mice were more chilled out.

The mice who had a diet rich in probiotics were notably more curious, less anxious, and showed lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone.

As was discussed in “Getting Over Test Taking Anxiety“, a calm mind is a higher achieving mind. Therefore, the anxiety reducing properties of a probiotic rich diet could be extremely beneficial for students struggling with test taking anxiety.

Probiotics and Endurance:

One of of the main obstacles students face in the world of test taking is endurance. Maintaining peak mental focus for three hours or more is extremely difficult. Fortunately Dr. Cryan’s work on probiotics seems to share insight with us on endurance and probiotics as well! Just as a swimmer or track star might consider how probiotics boost athletic performance, so too can test takers consider the effect of nutrition on academic performance and test taking sharpness.
“The mice with a probiotic rich diet simply wouldn’t give up.”
The aforementioned University of Cork study addressed the resilience of it’s mice by seeing how long they were willing to swim in a forced swim test before “despair”. Mice who did not eat probiotics would swim for 4 minutes on average before giving up. The mice with a probiotic rich diet, however, simply wouldn’t give up, swimming well past the end of the 6 minute test.

Upset Stomach and Exams:

For many students an upcoming exam can cause days of frustrating and uncomfortable stomach issues. Many students report test anxiety as causing heartburn, nausea, or other G-I issues. It seems that probiotics might offer a solution to this issue as well!
One day before the students’ big exam, the “probiotic group” had notably less stress hormones (cortisol) in their system than the “no-probiotic group”.
A cutting-edge study published by the American Society for Microbiology, studied the effect of probiotics and medical student test anxiety. For 8-weeks, half of a medical class was given a probiotic supplement (Lactobacillus casei) and the other half (the control group) was not given any probiotics. One day before the students’ big exam, the “probiotic group” had notably less stress hormones (cortisol) in their system than the “no-probiotic group”. Furthermore, the probiotic group reported far less “stomach discomfort” before the exam. Therefore, if you are like the millions of other students who experience a “nervous stomach” before exams, probiotics might be a great solution to both reduce stress and settle your stomach.

Finding Probiotics:

Probiotics can be found in a wide array of foods. Olives, Pickles, Tempeh, Kombucha, Miso, KimChi, and Yogurt are all rich in probiotics (among countless other tasty snacks and drinks). Simply including a bit of these treats in your diet might lead you closer to all the helpful benefits described.
For our local Nashville readers who love yogurt, we suggest Franklin, TN based Noble Springs Dairy. Founded in 2009 by Dustin and Justine Noble, this hotspot of local agriculture is only 6 miles from downtown Franklin. Dustin tells us that some of his favorite ways to enjoy his farm’s amazing probiotic rich creation include: “with honey and granola for breakfast” or “in a smoothie”.
Dustin tells us that some of his favorite ways to enjoy his farm’s amazing probiotic rich creation include: “with honey and granola for breakfast” or “in a smoothie”.
The Noble’s yogurt is more than simply delicious, it is packed with all the healthy probiotics important for academic achievement. Our yogurt expert, Dustin was also kind enough to share with us the strikingly diverse strains of probiotics in his yogurt.
This delightfully creamy superfood contains a half dozen unique probiotic strains shown to boost immunes system health, reduce stress and promote a resilient mind, support healthy cholesterol levels and healthy weight, and even help your body naturally fight tumors.
It is quite possible that starting your morning with a bowl of Nobles Spring’s yogurt might just be the healthiest choice you can make. For y’all who can’t wait to include this delightful Tennessee treat into your diet, the Noble Spring’s Dairy yogurt can be found at area farmers markets, Whole Foods, Turnip Truck, and Produce Place.

Author

Grantly Neely is a certified mindfulness teacher and founder of Granite Prep a company dedicated to helping it’s students achieve their ambitions while building resilient minds.

Sources:

Check out the research and data behind our blog posts!
Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve
Javier A. Bravo, Paul Forsythe, Marianne V. Chew, Emily Escaravage, Hélène M. Savignac, Timothy G. Dinan, John Bienenstock, John F. Cryan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2011, 201102999; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1102999108
Kato-Kataoka A. Fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota preserves the diversity of the gut microbiota and relieves abdominal dysfunction in healthy medical students exposed to academic stress. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2016;82:3649–3658.

Students with Test Anxiety Score 8-Points Higher (out of 100) After 3 Week Mindfulness Course

Students with Test Anxiety Score 8-Points Higher (out of 100) After 3 Week Mindfulness Course

Grantly
September 21, 2018

Don’t let stress slow you down

Test taking anxiety can be unpleasant, but it can also hinder test performance. The authors at PSYCOM explain that: “your body releases adrenaline, and the energy used to do good thinking gets diverted into being on high alert. Our brains prepare for the worst, and it becomes all too difficult to imagine doing well and to answer questions.”

What is Mindfulness?

At Granite Prep we like to refer to Mindfulness as “pull-ups for your brain”. Similarly to how an athlete will run miles, do reps, or swim laps to get stronger or faster, a student can do mindfulness exercises to boost focus, calm, and even curiosity.
The reality is that being “in the zone” (calm and collected) isn’t just a gift; its something that can be trained and nurtured.
The reality is that being “in the zone” (calm and collected) isn’t just a gift; its something that can be trained and nurtured. LeBron James uses mindfulness to get over free throw nerves. Oprah talks about the power of mindfulness for relaxing. Wall-street giant Ray Dalio built his entire hedge fund (“Bridge Water Capital”) around the lessons he learned from Mindfulness.

The Science:

Before we go any further, lets be clear that mindfulness isn’t simply a fringe habit of a couple famous people; it is a well researched practice with evidence based support for test taking anxiety. A collaborative study involving Drexel University, Mass General, and University of Pennsylvania found that a 3 week mindfulness-centric class aimed at reducing test taking anxiety both helped students feel more calm, but also boosted grades by 8-points on a 100 point final-exam (compared to the prior 100 point midterm). In other words, doing mindfulness between the midterm and the final gave students a full letter-grade boost!
“In other words, doing mindfulness between the midterm and the final gave students a full letter-grade boost!”
As a point of reference, another group of students in the class received Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for test taking anxiety. CBT is the current gold standard technique used clinically for reducing anxiety. Fortunately, the study revealed that BOTH mindfulness and CBT had a SIGNIFICANT impact on reducing test taking anxiety for the students.
“BOTH mindfulness and CBT had a SIGNIFICANT impact on reducing test taking anxiety for the students.”
Interestingly, however, only the mindfulness group enjoyed score increases from the midterm to final, the CBT group scores stayed basically the same. It is theorized that while mindfulness and CBT therapies are both highly effective at helping students relax and reduce anxiety, only mindfulness helps students score better because of it’s benefit of helping students focus on test material (instead of anxious thoughts). Results from the study are shown below:
Blue = Mindfulness-Centric (ABBT) Test Taking Anxiety Reduction
Red = CBT Test Taking Anxiety ReductionBlue = Mindfulness-Centric (ABBT) Test Taking Anxiety Reduction

Test Taking Anxiety Reduction Techniques vs Exam Scores

(Click on the image to read the full study)
CBT is the traditional approach used by therapist to help patients reduce experienced anxiety. This study shows that CBT is certainly effective in that capacity. That said, when comparing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs. Mindfulness, both seem to offer a reduction in stress and anxiety, but only Mindfulness also increases exam scores.

How do I learn Mindfulness:

“Enjoying the benefits of mindfulness isn’t difficult, nor is it particularly time consuming.”
Enjoying the benefits of mindfulness isn’t difficult, nor is it particularly time consuming. The simplest mindfulness exercise (a breathing meditation) only takes ten minutes a day and goes something like this:
  1. Find a comfortable seat and sit upright
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Take a couple deep breaths
  4. Notice any sounds or scents in the room
  5. Notice the ground beneath your feet
  6. Notice what your breath is doing (don’t change it – just notice)
  7. Begin counting your breath 1 on the in breath 2 on the out breath (again we aren’t trying to control or influence our breath just gently count)
  8. Once you reach a count of 6 start back at 1
  9. If you notice your mind wanders just bring it back to whatever number you last remember being on. No need to feel frustrated with yourself, simply bring your attention back to your breath; you are building the “focus muscle” of your brain. Every time you get distracted and focus back on your breath you have done a “brain pull-up”
  10. After 10 mins is complete open your eyes and go about your day!
“Every time you get distracted and focus back on your breath you have done a ‘brain pull-up'”

If you think you could benefit from mindfulness and want to learn different techniques we love to recommend HEADSPACE (linked below). Headspace founder Andy is a brilliant teacher and has been working in the field of mindfulness for nearly his entire life.
HEADSPACE

Furthermore, if you are looking for in person mindfulness instruction specifically for test taking anxiety the instructors at Granite Prep are always happy to help. Using our proprietary technique of blending mindfulness with class or test specific material, we are able to give students a unique opportunity to perform at his or her highest level.
Whether it is the SAT or ACT, Pre-Calculus, or Physics we have created innovative solutions to help students thrive. Granite Prep offers both one on one private tutoring and institutional seminars.

Author

Grantly Neely is a certified mindfulness teacher and founder of Granite Prep a company dedicated to helping it’s students achieve their ambitions while building resilient minds.

Sources:

Brown, Lily & Forman, Evan & Herbert, James & Hoffman, Kimberly & Yuen, Erica & Goetter, Elizabeth. (2011). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Acceptance-Based Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Therapy for Test Anxiety: A Pilot Study. Behavior modification. 35. 31-53. 10.1177/0145445510390930.