New research reveals mood-boosting effects of probiotics

Key points

  • A recent study highlighted the potential positive effects of probiotics and prebiotics on anxiety and depression symptoms.
  • This may be attributed to better intestinal health, because a large amount of serotonin in the human body is produced in the digestive tract.
  • Some experts believe that adding probiotics and prebiotics can be used to supplement standard therapies and make them more effective.

A recent analysis in the magazine showed that foods containing probiotics and other beneficial bacteria, as well as foods that support these bacteria, called prebiotics, may not only promote intestinal health BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health Report.They can also play a role in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Researchers looked at seven studies involving probiotics and prebiotics in the treatment of depression and anxiety. They found a significant improvement in one or more outcomes related to their symptoms, even in those with more severe depression.

However, some studies have shown that this advantage needs to be maintained in order to continue. For example, a study cited by the review showed that after eight weeks of daily use of probiotics, there were improvements, but after another eight weeks of use without probiotics, these improvements disappeared.

Gut-brain axis

The gut is so important in emotional and cognitive functions that it is often referred to as the “second brain.”Imagine the gut-brain axis as a two-way highway with a lot of speeding traffic, representing the chemical signals sent between the brain and the digestive system.

These signals are very important for your autonomic nervous system, endocrine system and immune system.Although your brain sends information to your digestive system-for example, if you feel upset in your stomach before a speech or feel nauseous during high stress, this is your gut-brain axis at work-this highway is definitely The same is true in other directions.

An important example is serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter with multiple functions in the body. It is essential for mood and overall health, so it is called the “happiness chemical.” Although it plays an important role in brain function, it is estimated that 95% of your serotonin is produced in the digestive tract.

Dr. Lisa Mosconi, author of “Brain Food: An Amazing Scientific Diet for Cognitive Ability”

The importance of maintaining good intestinal health for better emotional regulation cannot be overstated, because they are so closely linked. We often see that if one person is dumped, the other person will be affected, sometimes even significantly.

— Dr. Lisa Mosconi, author of “Brain Food: An Amazing Scientific Diet for Cognitive Ability”

Some standard treatments actually rely on this connection. For example, the common types of drugs used to treat mood disorders, anxiety, and depression are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs.

This increases the level of serotonin in the brain by blocking the reuptake process, so serotonin will not be reabsorbed into the system quickly. Serotonin is reaching the brain through the intestinal highway.

Get good bacteria

According to registered dietitian Michelle Routhenstein, RD, whether you feel emotionally challenged or not, adding foods that are good for your intestines can benefit your health, including regulating blood sugar and reducing inflammation. Fermented foods are particularly beneficial for this,include:

  • yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Pickle
  • Sauerkraut
  • Beet Kvass
  • Kombucha
  • Fermented kimchi

These tend to increase the diversity of intestinal bacteria, allowing them to thrive in the intestines is the role of prebiotics,These include foods rich in dietary fiber, such as:

  • onion
  • garlic
  • Whole grains
  • banana
  • beans

In order to get greater serotonin stimulation, Routhenstein recommends foods rich in folic acid, which can release hormones into the brain more effectively.she says. These include dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, as well as asparagus, broccoli, chickpeas and lentils.

Although there are supplements that provide probiotics and prebiotics—and many—but Routhnstein and other nutritionists recommend that you try to get as much food as possible before taking this approach. This is because you will also get the other nutritional benefits of these healthy choices, such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which also help improve intestinal health.

What this means to you

If you have a mental illness and show signs of anxiety and/or depression, please consult your primary care doctor or other health care provider for an appropriate referral. Even for new patients, you can have telemedicine meetings with a therapist or consultant.

In addition, while alternative therapies such as probiotics and prebiotics are promising, there is not enough evidence to use them in place of medications you may be taking, rather than in combination with your medications.Experts warn that stopping drugs used for mental health problems abruptly can be dangerous and should not be stopped on their own without medical guidance.