What does anxiety and depression have to do with your guts, your gut bacteria in particular? Well, a whole lot it turns out. Apparently, the probiotic bacteria in your digestive tract profoundly affects your ‘gut/brain axis’.
John Cryan at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Center at University College Cork, Ireland has done a study using 16 healthy mice and Lactobacillus rhamnosus — a species of probiotic bacteria found in some yogurts. When put through various stress tests, such as a maze or forced swimming, these mice were found to be less anxious and to have produced less cortisol (a stress hormone) than were mice who were not fed the probiotics. You can read a short article on the study here: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110830/full/news.2011.510.html
So, what does it mean for us? Our digestive tract has not been called our second brain for nothing. It is becoming more and more clear that gut health and brain health are closely connected and one can affect the other. Since we do not eat as much fermented food as our societies ate a century ago, plus living in times of overuse of antibiotics, it would behoove us to supplement with probiotics daily.
Use a high quality probiotic – one that is enteric coated so that your stomach acid does not kill them before they get where they are going and can do you some good. Second, best are ones that have been pressed into a compact tablet – studies show that at least some of the bacteria can make it through the stomach unscathed.
Can I promise you a cheery mood if you do? No, but you might just be in better balance, top to bottom if you do.