I’ve always used a probiotic supplement to help me with Reflux and digestion problems, but did you know they can also be used to help alleviate stress, mild depression and anxiety?
According to a recent study, the abundance of microbes living in our guts not only affect people’s physical health, they may also influence mental health too. A study on mice, shows that changes in the gut bacteria appear to make mice less anxious and also affect levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
In humans, there is also some very early evidence of a link between gut bacteria and mental health. A recent study by Oxford University Department of Psychiatry found that supplements that boost good bacteria in the gut (called prebiotics) may alter the way people process emotional information, suggesting that changes in gut bacteria may have anti-anxiety effects.
In the Oxford University survey, 45 healthy people, aged between 18 to 45 took either a prebiotic or a placebo, every day for three weeks. At the end of the study, they completed several computer tests to assess how they processed emotional information, such as negative and positive words.
During one computer test, people who took the prebiotic paid less attention to negative information and more attention to positive information, compared with people who took a placebo. A similar effect has been seen in people who take drugs for Depression or anxiety, and the finding suggests that the people in the prebiotic group had less anxiety about negative or threatening stimuli.
The study also found that people who took the prebiotics had lower levels of cortisol in their saliva when they woke up in the morning, compared with people who took a placebo. High cortisol levels have been linked with stress, depression and anxiety.
Scientists are now interested in studying whether probiotics (strains of good bacteria) or prebiotics (carbohydrates that serve as food for those bacteria) could be used to treat anxiety or depression, or if the substances improve patients’ response to psychiatric drugs.
But experts caution the idea that taking a probiotic or a prebiotic could improve mental health in humans is still an unproven hypothesis that needs to be investigated with further research, according to researchers at Toronto University. Researchers aren’t sure exactly how changes in gut bacteria might affect the brain. Some researchers suspect that a nerve which conveys sensory information from the gut to the brain, may play a role.
But for now, what is clear, is that future studies are needed to better understand whether gut microbes play a role in psychiatric disorders, like Depression and anxiety and which bacteria species are important. It’s pleasing that a start has been made to quantify something that is used holistically.
I believe we rely on too many conventional drugs and whilst they alleviate the initial symptoms, they also suppress the immune system. If there is a better, more natural way for us to relieve ourselves of anxiety and that may help us feel better, it’s an option we should consider.
It’s something I routinely do because it helps the gut and that helps with digestion. Something I’ve continued to struggle with.
Source: Live Science