Anxiety is characterized by a group of mental disorders. It is quite different from depression and people often use both terms synonymously. Anxiety is an ‘excessive’ state such as fear of something, excessive worry or dread, irritability, and restlessness. Whereas depression is state of mind where a person keeps himself/herself aloof from everything. Epidemiological studies have shown that 12% of the population is suffering from an anxiety disorder in a calendar year. This study also showed that 5 – 30% of the population has suffered the anxiety disorder at one point or the other of their life. Probiotics for anxiety are also called as psychobiotics. We are well familiar by the term gut-brain axis or gut-brain connection. This means that if your gut stays healthy so does your brain too.
“All diseases begin in the gut” – Hippocrates
Our gut contains trillions of health determining bacteria. They are known as probiotics. If the balance in this microbiota is disrupted, many ill effects are observed. Restoring the balance in the gut microbiome is the main aim of treating any ailment. These probiotics mainly help in digestion. But research suggests that they confer to health in many ways. A disrupted gut microbiome is related to many disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, vaginal health in women, constipation, leaky gut and even anxiety disorders.
Research shows that people with disrupted gut balance have strong predisposal towards anxiety disorders. This proves that gut microbiome and the brain are strongly connected. It is believed that the gut and brain communicate with each other. This is due to the fact that the gut produces its own neurotransmitters required for motility of the gut. An imbalance in these neurotransmitters will result in several gut related issues. The secretion of neurotransmitters by the gut is influenced by the gut bacteria. This somewhat proves that probiotics for anxiety have a strong connection with our gut and brain.
According to research published by NeuroPsychiatry (1), 10 different groups with the anxiety disorder were given probiotics to see their efficacy. This research showed a significant reduction in the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS) levels. This case study gives us hope that probiotics for anxiety are not a myth. In another case study by the Annals of General Psychiatry (2), the effect of probiotics on a random group of individuals showed mixed results. Although there is compelling data to support that probiotics showed a positive effect on anxiety and depression; there was no correlation between the disorder and probiotic strain, its dose, and duration of treatment. More research is still needed to establish the nature of probiotics for anxiety (psychobiotics).
Another research conducted by BioMed Central (3) has found that there is a strong connection between the gut microbiome and expression of miRNA (micro RNA) in the brain. Micro RNA expression is implicated in anxiety disorders. They also found that there is a strong relationship between anxiety or stress disorders with gut microbiota.
People with chronic gut disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) have a predisposition towards anxiety. They are also known to suffer from stress and depression.
So, what actually are probiotics for anxiety or psychobiotics?
Probiotics for anxiety or psychobiotics are live organisms when ingested in adequate quantities will reduce the symptom of various psychological disorders. The disorders include anxiety and depression. Probiotics for anxiety need not necessarily cure anxiety, because any probiotic have a significant effect on the brain (the gut-brain axis). What makes these probiotics for anxiety outstanding is that their potential benefits in people with anxiety. It is very hard to believe that your mood can be stabilized by altering the gut bacteria. The gut-brain axis is so complex and tremendous research is going on in this field.
How probiotics for anxiety work?
The first major way by which probiotics for anxiety work is by lowering the inflammatory disorders. Certain inflammatory disorders such as IBS or leaky gut are known to aggravate anxiety. Psychobiotics lower the symptoms of these diseases and hence alleviate anxiety disorders. It is very well established (although the exact mechanism is unknown) that probiotics reduce several inflammatory symptoms of the gut as well as other parts of the body.
Probiotics for anxiety or psychobiotics are also believed to stimulate gut cells to produce certain neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters include acetylcholine, catecholamines, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin. These neurotransmitters signal brain resulting alteration of mood.
When HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis becomes dysfunctional, probiotics for anxiety exert stress response altering the anxiety and mood. This is another mechanism by which psychobiotics exhibit their response on mood and cognitive disorders (4).
In a case study on patients with depression, administration of probiotics for eight weeks showed a significant reduction in the Beck Depression inventory (5) compared with placebo.
Consumption of fermented foods that contain probiotics will improve serotonin levels. Serotonin is secreted by the enteric nervous system of the gut. It is a ‘feel good’ hormone.
Which strains are ideal probiotics for anxiety?
Most probiotics which lower the inflammatory symptoms can be used as probiotics for anxiety. There are certain other strains which stimulate the secretion of neurotransmitters without any effect on inflammation. These psychobiotics are very effective in altering the mood. Lactobacillus rhamnosus is known to reduce anxiety by stimulating the secretion of GABA (6). L. casei strain Shirota (LCS) is known to improve physical symptoms in people with anxiety disorder. Other probiotics which are considered to improve various levels of anxiety disorders are:
- Bifidobacterium breve
- B. longum R0175
- L. fermentum
- L. reuteri
- L. helvictus LS8 and R0052
- L. plantarum PS128
Although the exact mechanism of action of psychobiotics is not completely known, it is well established that probiotics can alter your mood. Including probiotics (fermented foods) in your daily diet is suggestable.
How to Get Probiotics Daily?
Probiotics can be obtained by a wide variety of fermented foods. Some of these can be easily prepared at home. Note that all fermented foods need not contain probiotics. But the fermented foods are a good source of probiotics. Fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha are an excellent source of diverse strains of probiotics. Fermented veggies sauerkraut and kimchi also serve as an excellent probiotic source. If you are unable to prepare these fermented foods at home, you can get probiotic supplements. Note that these supplements must describe what specific strain it is selling. Read the label carefully before buying. There are certain probiotic supplements which are best suited for women. Some supplements are specifically designed for altering the mood. The label must also describe the number of colony forming units (CFU) and shelf life.
Probiotics for anxiety or psychobiotics are unique bacterial strains that alter your mood in different ways. Though the exact mechanism is unknown, tremendous research is going on to establish the relationship of probiotics with anxiety. It is believed that they alter the mood by stimulating the secretion of neurotransmitters and reducing the symptoms of inflammatory disorders.
Any probiotic, whether mood altering or anti-inflammatory, must reach the lower part of the gut to colonize. The health benefits of probiotics are shown after colonization. So, you must consume probiotics regularly. Most bacterial strains find it hard to survive the harsh environment of the gut. Many will perish and very few reach the lower gastrointestinal tract. It is the number of colonies that form in the lower gut decide the healthy benefits. Consume in small amounts if you are starting a new diet/supplement for probiotics. If you did not find any ill effects, you can slowly increase the does. Consumption of probiotics regularly will enhance your overall health too.
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Dr.Shashikanth Vydyula is founder of Pocket Reviewer. He is a vivid health enthusiast with a passion for beauty, wellness & nutrition.
Last update on 2018-08-16 at 00:01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API