Probiotics are one of the most amazing types of foods on the planet. Not only can they flood your intestines with beneficial bacteria, but they can improve your immune system, balance your hormones, and enhance digestion. They are truly marvelous foods! According to new research, they offer another fascinating benefit: improving your mood.
The Science of Probiotics
A team of researchers from McMaster University has been working with beneficial bacteria for years, and their discoveries have helped us to understand more about how probiotics improve our internal function. Their latest study enhances our knowledge of the connection between our gut and our brain. Now, it turns out that eating more probiotics—which balances out gut health—could be a way to lessen the symptoms of depression.
The researchers collected 44 adults to participate in this study, which followed the patients for 10 weeks. All of the men and women suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, as well as a mild to moderate case of depression and/or anxiety. The patients with given either a placebo or a dose of Bifidobacterium (a form of probiotics) to take every day over the course of the study. They all underwent testing at the beginning and the end of the study to determine their depression and anxiety scores.
After just 10 weeks, a vast majority of the patients reported a decrease in their anxiety and depression levels. Even 32% the patients that took a placebo reported an improvement in their mood. However, a stunning 64% of the patients receiving the probiotic saw a decrease in depression and anxiety. That’s DOUBLE the results of the placebo, and a clear indication that the probiotic truly can be effective for improving mood.
The Truth is Clear: It Works!
Brain scans showed that the patients that consumed the probiotics had visible changes in the portions of the brain responsible for controlling their mood. The probiotics didn’t just improve their gut symptoms—though they did all see improvement in their IBS. The addition of the beneficial bacteria to their diet helped to enhance their mood and increase function of the part of the brain that controls their anxiety and depression.
How Does it Work?
How is it possible that bacteria living in your intestines can cause changes in your brain? Scientists are still looking for more links to indicate how everything is connected to the gut. However, it’s clear that nutrient absorption plays a large role in the beneficial effects of probiotics. In cases of IBS and other bowel disorders, nutrient deficiencies are often a secondary problem because the irritated or damaged intestines are unable to absorb the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants properly. This can lead to a lack of the nutrients needed to regulate internal functions, including the balance of neurochemicals.
What Does This Mean?
Thanks to this new discovery, there is hope for treating both bowel disorders and their accompanying psychiatric diseases. Many people dealing with chronic diseases like Crohn’s disease, IBS, and other bowel problems often end up suffering from depression as a result of nutrient deficiencies (see above). But by improving digestive function and enabling the body to absorb the right nutrients, probiotics may be able to help combat the problem at its source. With sufficient nourishment for the body and brain, emotional and mood disorders like anxiety and depression may not be as severe. This could be a brand new approach to treating these disorders instead of using medications like anti-depressants to deal with the problem.