Probiotics are widely known for alleviating digestive ailments, but recent research shows that taking a daily probiotic supplement may also help reduce anxiety. This finding comes at an important time for many who struggle to keep up with the demands of modern life.
As the rise of prescription anti-anxiety medications full of unwanted side effects continues, can probiotics be the answer to promoting an overall balanced and calm disposition? One leading health expert certainly seems to think so.
The Gut and Brain Connection
According to a 2015 study conducted by researchers at the APC Microbiome Institute at University College Cork, healthy men who supplemented with the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium longum every day for one month reported less anxiety, had decreased cortisol levels and scored better on memory tests than men who did not supplement.
Although the effects of the probiotic were small, they were effective enough to make a difference in the men’s daily life. According to Ted Dinan, lead researcher and head of psychiatry at University College Cork, “By their very nature, probiotics are safe bacteria, and if we can delineate those that have benefits for mental health, that would be a major advance for neuroscience and psychiatry. My hope is that within the next five years we’ll have a probiotic or two on the market that will be effective for treating mild forms of anxiety and depression.”
The Brain and Gut Talk to Each Other Regularly
This is not the first time Dinan and his team have set out to determine the relationship between the gut and brain. His previous efforts done on mice found that giving the same probiotic strain to mice improved their memories and reduced depressive effects. Dinan’s work focuses on the variety of ways in which the gut signals the brain and the brain signals back to the gut, and how this communication is linked to cognitive function.
During a 2016 interview, Dinan stated, “There’s a neurological connection between the gut and the brain. The vagus nerve transmits impulses from the gut microbes to the brain. The gut microbes also produce various chemicals that can influence the brain. Short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and acetate produced by the metabolic activity of the gut microbes. There are peptides that come from the gut that can influence the brain as well.”
Many of these sentiments are echoed by neurologist David Perlmutter in his best-selling 2015 book Brain Maker.
Probiotics for Anxiety and Brain Health
Hundreds of bacterial species live in the gut and they all have unique purposes. In the past, Bifidobacterium longum has been shown to improve the immune system, support digestion and limit harmful bacteria. But recently researchers have attempted to understand the relationship between probiotics and brain health.
It was once estimated that around 100 trillion bacterial cells and 10 trillion human cells live in the body, which means that a person’s human cells are outnumbered 10-to-1. However, newer research shows that a person actually has 30 trillion human cells and 40 trillion bacterial cells. In other words, we are made up of more bacterial cells than human cells.
These bacterial cells reside primarily in the gut, along with many other microbes such as fungi and yeast. Together, they make up a person’s gut microbiome. Each of these compounds has the ability to produce different compounds, such as neurotransmitters, amino acids and short-chain fatty acids, each with a unique effect on the brain. Along with sending signals to the brain via the vagas nerve, the gut microbiome can also influence the central nervous system by controlling hormone production and inflammation.
How to Reduce Anxiety Through the Gut
The best way to improve gut health and reduce anxiety is by eating an alkaline diet free of processed foods that disrupt the signalling between the brain and gut. Focusing on an alkaline diet will naturally remove toxins from the body that alter the gut microbiome, impact the immune system and cause inflammation, all of which have a direct effect on your mood.
Recent research has shown that the number of people in the United Kingdom who take anti-anxiety medication increased by 9.1 percent in just 12 months back in 2012. As many medications that are used to treat anxiety are full of unwanted side effects such as nausea, drowsiness, confusion, blurred vision, seizures and even suicidal thoughts, it’s time for a natural option that does the job safely.
Vibrant Flora Improved Bowel Support contains Bifidobacterium Longum, the same strain of probiotic that has been shown to reduce anxiety. Compared with other probiotic brands, it contains a very high dose of helpful bacteria, which is important as some people only respond to higher amounts (50 billion or more) according to integrative gastroenterologist Dr Robynne Chutkan. Along with improving anxiety, Bifidobacterium Longum may be able to improve digestive symptoms, support clear skin and promote regularity.
If you want to learn more about Vibrant Flora Improved Bowel Support – more than can be gleaned from reading the product page – don't hesitate to give us a call; we're always happy to chat.