Probiotics And Stress

Recently in the British Journal of Nutrition, a very solid study that was double blind, placebo-controlled and randomized-all those sciency things, looked at the relationship of probiotics on stress and mood. They did this by measuring the stress hormone cortisol from the adrenal gland along with providing 4 different stress questionnaires, while patients were taking probiotics of two species of bacteria Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum. These are two of the more important and numerous bacteria in the healthy gut. They found

after one month there were decreases in anger, hostility, anxiety, depression and psychological distress with a simultaneous decrease in cortisol levels.

Clearly, this shows that there is a connection between the kind of bacteria that reside in your colon and your stress levels controlled by the stress hormone cortisol. Doctors have been trying to get a foothold on the cause of stress since the beginning of civilization, but unfortunately the damage from stress continues to increases every year. In this study we see that at least some of that stress is actually internal, from the inflamed gut and the disordered bacteria that reside there. This also explains why some people that have tried treatments to support their adrenal and thyroid glands have not improved as fast as expected. It’s just more complicated than that.

Other studies have had similar results showing probiotics increasing memory and brain function. In one study the anxiety and hyper-alertness- like that of ADHD kids- areas of the brain lit up on FMRI brain scans in people that stopped their probiotics. We don’t know yet exactly how the bacteria have this affect on the brain but some scientists speculate that it is by way of stimulation the vagus nerve, the main highway from the gut to the brain or by decreased inflammation-which is now thought of as a major factor in depression. Also, gut bugs are
necessary for the production of calming neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and GABA,and they make neuroactive chemicals like Buterate that decreases anxiety and depression. However, you want look at it, probiotics and a diet change can actually re-wire the brain.

So what we can take from this study, is that stress is not only external but internal. And that internal stress is not only controlled by the adrenal glands but the gut. At that gut is controlled by the bacteria that live there. This is a big deal to your brain, so gut health should be at the top of your new years list of healthy resolutions.

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