Probiotics and MoodApril 13, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
One of the primary differences between holistic and conventional medicine is that they often have different objectives. In conventional medicine, you’re often given prescription medications or surgical interventions to help address problematic symptoms. In the holistic medical model, your physician will often want to discover the root cause of your “dis-ease” and try to help heal the imbalance. The difference may seem ambiguous, but it essentially boils down to actual healing as opposed to simply masking or getting rid of troublesome symptoms.
If you walk into a typical medical doctors office complaining of feelings of anxiety and depression, he’ll likely examine you and if nothing is obviously wrong you’ll probably be given a prescription for some form of anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) or antidepressant medication. If, however, you go to a naturopathic doctor, you’ll likely be asked a much longer list of questions. Some of the inquiries may even seem irrelevant, but the condition of seemingly unrelated systems in the body may contribute to mental health.
Meet the Bacteria
|These microorganisms have been shown to boost health in scientific studies:|
|Bifidobacterium animalis DN-173 010 (marketing name: Bifidis Regularis)||Supports gut health and faster digestion||Dannon Activia yogurt|
|Bifidobacterium infantis 35624||Alleviates symptoms of (IBS) Irritable Bowel Syndrome||Procter & Gamble’s Align supplement|
|Bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12||Helps immune system and digestive health||Yo-Plus yogurt, Nestle Good Start infant formula|
|Lactobacillus casei Shirota||Supports immune function, digestive and emotional health||Yakult fermented dairy drink|
|Lactobacillus casei DN-114 001 (marketing name: L.casei immunitas)||Promotes healthy immunity; lessens duration of colds and flus||Dannon’s DanActive dairy drink|
|Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 in combination with Lactobacillus reuteri||Improved vaginal health; helps eradicate (UTIs) urinary tract infections||PreHresh Pro-B and Fem-Dophilus dietary supplements|
|Lactobacillus reuteri 55730||Helps manage colic, gingivits, antibiotic-associated diarrhea||BioGaia tablets, drops and lozenges|
|Saccharomyces boulardii yeast||Helps prevent and treat antibiotic-related diarrhea||Florastor dietary supplement|
A study that appeared in the March 2009 issue of Gut Pathology offers an alternate view of how we may be able to manage anxiety naturally. The focus of the research was on the use of a special strain of healthy bacteria (probiotic) called Lactobacillus casei Shirota (LcS). Probiotics are a class-friendly bacteria commonly associated with cultured or fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut and yogurt. They serve many functions in the body, including participating in the digestion of food, the production of essential nutrients and supporting immune function.
In this current scientific trial, 39 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) were given 24 billion units of LcS per day or a placebo for 2 months. The intent was to determine whether LcS could help alleviate one of the common symptoms associated with CFS: anxiety. The reason that a probiotic was chosen for testing is that previous research indicated that CFS sufferers sometimes have an imbalance between the friendly and pathogenic bacteria in the digestive system.
In order to examine the possible connection between good and bad intestinal bacteria and anxiety, the researchers tested for both physical and psychological changes in the following ways:
- The patients provided stool samples at the beginning of the study and after its completion.
- All the participants took standardized tests known as the Beck Depression and Beck Anxiety Inventories prior to and post study.
Of the original 39 patients, 35 completed the study. Two patients from both the placebo and LcS group dropped out for reasons unrelated to the trial. Here are the findings of the researchers:
- The group receiving the probiotics showed significant increases in two forms of beneficial bacteria (Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria) in their stools.
- The LcS participants also exhibited a dramatic improvement in the Beck Anxiety Inventory score.
- No serious side effects were reported in either group.
The authors of the study offered this cautious appraisal, “Overall the results suggest that specific strains of probiotic bacteria may have a role to play in mediating some of the emotional symptoms of CFS and other related conditions. However, it is important to note that this is a small pilot study and broad conclusions cannot be drawn at this time.”
More research is indeed called for. But it’s also true that some previous trials seem to support the findings of the first experiment just illustrated. Below are highlights from a few other interesting studies that looked into the role that probiotics may play in promoting mental health.
- In the December 2006 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a study was presented that found that a probiotic milk drink could improve mood in a group of depressed older adults. The results were apparent in as little as 10 days.
- A different healthy strain of bacteria, Bifidobacteria infantis, helped to lower inflammation and increased the levels of serotonin precursors in a group of rats. Both functions are known to be associated with an antidepressant effect.
- Other research, such as this 2007 study, is beginning to illustrate a communication pathway between microbes residing in the gastrointestinal tract and various regions in the brain that control emotions.
These preliminary experiment offer tantalizing clues about the role that intestinal health may play in keeping our emotional systems in good order. If you’ve tried other methods of addressing anxiety and depression without success, perhaps you might consider the role that your “gut instinct” may be playing in the process.
Posted in Bone and Joint Health, Mental Health