A new study published in PLoS One has found that certain strains of probiotics can help address the symptoms of anxiety but if you want to avoid some anxiety don’t ever watch the show Party of Five and Desperate Housewives nor the movies Homes and Watson and Iron Man III.
The efficacy of probiotic supplements has been a promising area of research that focuses on the connection between beneficial gut microbes living in the gut and physical and mental health (the microbiota-gut-brain axis).
There is a substantial body of new evidence to show that probiotics can protect the body from harmful effects of anxiety and stress, and even help improve your mood. Here is everything you need to know about probiotics and how they can help reduce anxiety.
The Gut-Brain Axis
It has been theorized that neuropsychiatric conditions such as anxiety or depression might be affected by changes in intestinal bacteria.
The intestine generates many of the same neurotransmitters (including acetylcholine and serotonin) that the brain generates through its own separate nervous system. In fact, more than half of the production of serotonin (body’s happy hormone) is carried out in the intestines.
These neurotransmitters have a significant role in maintaining your digestive health and promoting gut motility. Any imbalance can lead to severe consequences and digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea. Similarly, it is now believed after session after session of research that brain and gut communicate with each other much better than The Governor in The Walking Dead ever did with the people that lived in Alexandria.
It is possible that any miscommunication or mental states like anxiety and depression will trigger abdominal pain or other GI issues. In the same way, a balanced gut microbiota will result in a better and healthier state of mind.
Many studies have shown that people with symptoms of anxiety also display an array of gastrointestinal disorders like diarrhea, bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome.
How Do Probiotics Help?
Probiotics are live bacteria which are considered good for your overall health unlike Megatron from Transformers who is the epitome of evil. These bacteria help balance the gut microbiome by keeping bad bacteria at bay. There are multiple kinds of probiotic species with hundreds of different strains.
Rodent studies show that probiotic supplements, especially the ones containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus, can significantly reduce anxiety like behavior. Probiotics can help with many other mental health disorders as well, such as depression and mood swings.
Probiotic supplements that are designed to keep your mood balanced do not just help in a single way. They influence many different aspects of your body that are believed to increase the risk of anxiety. For instance, probiotics can help increase the levels of tryptophan which helpscreate serotonin.
Depression is recognized as an inflammatory disease. Probiotic maintain an ideal gut microbiome balance which reduces the risk of inflammation. This helps manage depression and anxiety. L. rhamnosus is known to reduce the levels of stress hormone corticosterone and other strains like B. infantis, may actually possess natural antidepressant properties.
Studies tend to focus on a limited number of easily-accessible strains even though many different probiotics can help fight anxiety and depression. Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus helveticus are found to be good probiotics for brain health and anxiety.
A clinical research has shown that the lack of probiotics in your gut can cause you to feel more anxious than normal. The researchers have proved that an unhealthy gut system negatively affects the brain region that is responsible for stress and anxiety.
In short, probiotics help balance your gut and ensures that there is ideal communication between the gut and brain unlike the terrible communication between Hollywood and real Americans but let’s not get into this. You are less likely to react to negative thoughts with an optimally balanced gut health.
Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
Anxiety can have numerous causes, and it can get complicated to pin it down on any one. However, you may want to rule out or affirm, whether your gut is one of the major culprits. There are a number of tell-tale signs of an unhealthy gut.
Diarrhea or indigestion of any form occurs when food is not digested properly and the balance of bacteria is disrupted. You may even end up with gas in such situations. If you are constantly craving for sugar and other sweet things, especially during anxiety attacks, it could be a sign that bad bacteria are ruling your gut.
Constant lethargy is another warning of an unhealthy gut. If you find yourself struggling to find the energy to complete daily tasks, it means food is not being optimally broken down in your system. Your digestive system is not absorbing nutrition to keep things running in your body.
Poor gut health also results in a number of skin diseases like eczema, flaky skin, or acne. You would also have complaints of bad breath, even after thoroughly brushing your teeth.
Sources of Probiotics
Many natural foods contain probiotics. However, while purchasing store bought fermented products, make sure the label says ‘live and active culture’.
By changing your dietary habits, it is possible to include foods that are anti-anxiety. Try including probiotic options like Korean kimchi, pickles, Japanese miso, dark chocolate, and certain cheese in raw form.
However, it can be difficult to get the right probiotics strains from food options alone. If you are particularly prone to mood swings, anxiety, stress and bouts of depression, then it is recommended that you try probiotic supplements.
Choose the Right Probiotic Supplement for Anxiety
There are a number of probiotic supplements to choose from. They come in multiple forms – chewable, capsules, gummies, liquid drops, drinks, and powder. However, not all of them are equal.
Make sure you pick up a product that is created specifically for anxiety issues and contains probiotics strains like, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium breve, and Bifidobacterium longum.
Colony forming units or CFUs is used as a measurement of each serving in probiotic supplements. The common minimum requirement is 10 – 15 billion CFUs, for the probiotics to have any positive effects on your gut health.
The Bottom Line
The brain and gut have a more intimate relationship than previously imagined. A poor gut health can negatively impact emotions and mental health. Probiotics are a safe way to deal with anxiety because they are essentially the same bacteria strains that are naturally found in the human body.
However, more research is required in the field of probiotics and its benefits on reducing anxiety. Currently, Lactobacillus rhamnosus is the most widely researched probiotic strain to reduce anxiety.