The medical community has been interested in the " gut-brain-axis" for the past 15 years.
The gut has it's own separate nervous system and actually develops its own neurotransmitters and it appears that the brain and the gut communicate with one another. Additionally, it seems that there is a relationship between anxiety and depression and diseases of the gut. We know that most of the serotonin receptors are found in the gut. Yet, really researchers cannot figure out why. We have quite a ways to go with figuring all this out. It's exciting to think about all of the ways our body and mind are interconnected, but the truth is we know little about it.
Probiotics, live bacteria that are good for you, or keep your gut healthy, are also not fully understood. Sometimes doctors will prescribe probiotics when your body is depleted of good bacteria, for example, if you are taking antibiotics. Probiotics have also been prescribed by doctors for other gut health disorders. Because of the connections between anxiety and depression and diseases of the gut, such as IBS, there has been hope in the medical community that probiotics could be used to treat anxiety and depression.
A recent study set out to examine previous studies that had explored the use of probiotics and their impact on anxiety. It reviewed 36 studies and found no improvement in humans who had anxiety who were using probiotics, although there was some improvement found inrats. These researchers do suggest further research needs to be done into the use of probiotics for anxiety. Some of the flaws in the studies included:
· the rats received much higher doses of probiotics
· there are different strains of probiotics, some of which were more effective with the rats,
· some of the humans did not have high thresholds of anxiety.
Although it is true that probiotics show zero proof of easing anxiety, probiotics are generally not dangerous pharmaceuticals (although they can be expensive). Also, for some who have immune diseases they can be dangerous. Additionally claims made about probiotics are often unsubstantiated by science. When reading claims about probiotics helping your anxiety, it is important to be armed with knowledge, keeping in mind that the there are many strains, there is much to learn about the brain gut connection, and that our understanding of how the gut and brain is connected is still in the early stages. Rat studies did show changes, and new studies may point the way to an understanding of how probiotics may be more helpful with chronic diseases and mental health. New studies may well show that probiotics and anxiety have a different connection. It is also always important to make decisions with the help of a trusted doctor.
Probiotics and Anxiety Sources
BERCIK, P., PARK, A. J., SINCLAIR, D., KHOSHDEL, A., LU, J., HUANG, X., … VERDU, E. F. (2011). The anxiolytic effect of Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 involves vagal pathways for gut–brain communication. Neurogastroenterology and Motility : The Official Journal of the European Gastrointestinal Motility Society, 23(12), 1132–1139. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2982.2011.01796.x
Athos Bousvaros, M. (2018). Can probiotics help treat depression and anxiety? - Harvard Health Blog. [online] Harvard Health Blog. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-probiotics-help-treat-depression-anxiety-2017072612085 [Accessed 8 Jul. 2018].
Jabr, F. ( 2017) Do probiotics really work ?-Scientific American. [online]20170107 https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-probiotics-really-work/