How To Tell If Your Gut Microbiome Is The Culprit
Digestive symptoms are more likely when people suffer from anxiety or depression. Earlier, these symptoms and cognitive issues were thought to be independent of each other. However, today medical science is fast acknowledging the link between gut microbiome and mental health.
The common physical symptoms of anxiety and depression include constipation, bloating, nausea, diarrhea and gas. These are some common symptoms of an unhealthy gut microbiome as well.
Other symptoms such as weight gain, muscle aches, leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune conditions, irritable bowel syndrome and headaches also point towards an unhealthy gut.
You know there is a connection between your mental state and your gut if you experience these physical symptoms in combination with mental symptoms such as restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, and irritability, among others. See our post on brands of probiotics that can help with depression.
Probiotics To Complement Treatment
The study in question was a randomized controlled trial that delved deeper into the relationship between the natural bacteria in the gut and its connection to the brain. The study authors note that previous research has shown that among people with depression, there are also changes to the composition of the bacteria in the gut.
Participants included in the study were adults who currently had depression. Researchers used the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale to evaluate participants depression.
The participants were in one of two groups: one group received probiotics over four weeks while the other received a placebo.
Probiotics, as per the National Institutes of Health, are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when you consume them. They can have an impact on the bacteria in the gut and people can get them through supplements or certain types of food.
The researchers found that the participants who received the probiotic had a higher reduction in their depressive symptoms. They also saw an increase in a group of bacteria called Lactobacillus among the gut flora of the participants who received the probiotic.
Dr. André Schmidt, study author and neuroscientist, noted that among the highlights of the study were the supportive effect probiotics had on antidepressants in patients with major depressive disorder.
Dr. Schmidt said that these findings could help develop better, more efficient, and individually-tailored probiotics for treating depression.
How To Take A Probiotic
The good news is that it appears most probiotic strains are probably harmless. But use caution. Studies have shown that often what’s on the label is not what’s in the bottle, so it pays to be careful.
Will taking one a day improve your mood? The jury is still out, and it’s not a good idea to use probiotics as a replacement for any prescribed mood-managing medications. But if taking one a day for a month at least helps ease your gut issues, that alone might make you feel a little bit happier.
If the probiotic you’ve tried doesn’t have any effect at all, it may not be the right one for you. Switching to another type might be worth a try.
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Scientists Think Gut Probiotics Might Help Treat Depression
Plus: The search for alien life on Hycean worlds.
Do you like kimchi? Personally, I eat it by the jar. That spicy, salty, fermented cabbage always gives my gut a zing. Perhaps, according to a new study, it has also been changing my mind. A team of psychologists has found that increased consumption of Lactobacillus, a common probiotic found in foods such as kimchi and yogurt, is associated with decreased depressive symptoms.
Check out the study yourself, and then maybe change up your plans for lunch.
This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Tuesday, June 28, 2022. and learn something new every day.
Getting The Good Bacteria
Whether you’re feeling emotionally challenged or not, increasing gut-friendly foods can be a boon for health, including blood sugar regulation and lowered inflammation, according to registered dietitian Michelle Routhenstein, RD, owner of nutritional counseling practice Entirely Nourished. Fermented foods are particularly good for this, including:
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Recommended Probiotics For Depression And Anxiety
Below is a list of several probiotics on the market that may help depression and anxiety. When looking for a probiotic supplement, you may want to consider a few things including: the specific bacterial strains within the product, legitimate customer reviews, and CFU . Since we dont have the equipment to verify the survival rate of the bacteria ingested via a probiotic, it helps to look for honest reviews of the product that suggest it actually works.
If youre endeavoring to treat symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, youll want to look for specific strains that were highlighted above. There are many multispecies probiotics on the market that are engineered to populate the gut with a diverse amount of healthy bacteria. These probiotics may contain between 5 and 20 distinct bacterial species.
On the other hand, various probiotic products may include just a single species or a dual-species with 2. When it comes to probiotics as interventions for mental health, more species may not provide greater benefits. It is up to you to experiment and find whether a specific probiotic product is better for your individual neurophysiology than another.
They Strengthen Antioxidant Defense To Protect Brain Health In Depression
Reduced intake of dietary antioxidants fuels oxidative stress in depression. Increased levels of oxidative stress affect brain function.
Various probiotic strains have natural antioxidant property and can prevent/control diseases that are caused by oxidative stress.
A study published in Journal of Medical Microbiology, 2015 demonstrated that certain probiotics strain reduced oxidative markers in the brain and increased levels of antioxidant enzymes and neurotransmitter levels. This resulted in a neuroprotective effect.
Quick Gist: Probiotics raise the antioxidant defenses in the brain to protect it from neurodegenerative diseases and mental health disorders.
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Probiotics Alone Or Combined With Prebiotics May Help Ease Depression
But possible contribution to lessening anxiety not yet clear, evidence review suggests
Probiotics either taken by themselves or when combined with prebiotics, may help to ease depression, suggests a review of the available evidence, published in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health.
But as to whether they might help to lessen anxiety isnt yet clear, say the researchers.
Foods that broaden the profile of helpful bacteria in the gut are collectively known as probiotics, while prebiotics are compounds that help these bacteria to flourish.
In the UK in 2016-17, 1.4 million people were referred with mental health issues, over half of them had anxiety or stress related disorders, while a third had depression.
A two-way relationship exists between the brain and digestive tract, known as the gut-brain axis. And the possibility that the microbiome–the range and number of bacteria resident in the gut–might help treat mental ill health has become a focus of interest in recent years.
To explore this further, the researchers searched for relevant studies published in English between 2003 and 2019, which looked at the potential therapeutic contribution of pre-and probiotics in adults with depression and/or anxiety disorders.
Out of an initial haul of 71 studies, just 7 met all the criteria for inclusion. All 7 investigated at least 1 probiotic strain 4 looked at the effect of combinations of multiple strains.
It Protects Metabolic Health In Depression
A study published in Nutrition 2016 demonstrated that probiotics intake is associated with reduced depression and improved metabolic health. This is the only study to examine this point, as per my knowledge.
40 individuals with major depressive disorder were involved in this study. They received either probiotic supplements or placebo for 8 weeks.
After 8 weeks, those who received treatment had reduced depressive symptoms compared with placebo. A decrease in insulin levels and reduced insulin resistance was observed in the probiotic group. The increase in levels of antioxidant glutathione and reduction in inflammatory parameters were also observed.
No differences in glucose levels, beta cell function, insulin sensitivity, lipid profiles, and total antioxidant capacity levels were observed.
The bacteria used were Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidobacterium bifidum.
Quick Gist: Probiotic supplementation is found to improve metabolic health modestly in addition to reducing depressive symptoms. It reduces inflammation, improves antioxidant levels and reduces insulin resistance.
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The Vagus Nerve Connects Your Gut And Your Brain
Your gut and brain are connected by the vagus nerve, a major component of the autonomic nervous system which enables you to breathe, digest food, and swallow automatically. This nerve is able to send messages to your brain for your colon, and vice versa.
The connection between the two organs means that the gut-brain axis is becoming a vital player in mental health, illnesses that affect the brain, and even irritable bowel syndrome . It explains why stress can take a toll on your digestion, but also why digestive problems can make you unhappy.
Possible Benefits Of Probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that exist naturally in foods like yogurt and kimchi. They’re also available in pill or powder form. Probiotics are thought to improve digestive health, and they’re often used to treat diarrhea or bloating.
Probiotics can have many positive effects on the body, including:
- Shaping the body’s immune system
- Producing antimicrobial substances
- Fermenting fiber in the diet to generate nutrients for the cells that line our intestines
Now researchers are finding evidence that the effects of bacteria in the gastrointestinal system send signals to the central nervous system, linking the gut with the brain. This could account for some known connections between GI conditions and mental illness. For example, a higher-than-average number of people with irritable bowel syndrome also develop depression and anxiety.
Could better GI health via probiotics boost emotional health too? The link between probiotics and mood isn’t clear.
But experts have observed that certain foods can seem to boost mood just think of the comfort foods we reach for when we’re low, whether it’s macaroni and cheese or a bowl of ice cream. However, this might simply be a mental or behavioral association. Rather than something triggered by bacterial responses to the nutrients in that food, it’s likely that our brains associate eating that item with comforting or pleasant memories.
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Probiotic Consumption Relieves Stress And Anxiety
Anxiety and chronic stress can affect a healthy human. And anxiety is that unwanted friend who always accompanies depression.
Findingsfrom animal studies on probiotics and anxiety are promising. Here are a couple of mechanisms by which they fight anxiety: Prevent stress induced changes in brains plasticity Normalize HPA axis Support neurogenesis or formation of new nerve cells Reduces levels of stress hormones Normalizes neurotransmitter levels Improve cognition
A study published in Nutritional Neuroscience, 2016 demonstrated that consumption of probiotic supplement or yogurt helped reduce depression and anxiety scores in petrochemical workers.
A group of Japanese researchers has found that consumption of fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei helps in reducing pre-examination stress and anxiety in students.
Quick Gist: Probiotic consumption helps reduce anxiety symptoms by regulating the HPA axis and reducing the levels of stress related hormones.
Two Probiotic Strains For Mental Health
A new pilot study, carried out by Caroline Wallace of Queens University, Ontario suggests that two strains of probiotic bacteria could potentially help to support health in those with depression, with problems such as low mood, anhedonia and sleep disturbance.
Two strains of bacteria shown to improve depression
The study which involved 10 participants with major depressive disorders, was performed over an 8 week period. All participants were assessed for a range of clinical symptoms at the beginning of the study and at two week intervals throughout. The Montgomery-Asberg depression rating scale was used to monitor mood symptoms, and polysomnographic sleep assessment recorded each patients brain waves, heart rate and eye movements during their sleep to assess sleep quality and duration.
The patients were all given a probiotic supplement containing two different strains of bacteria, namely: Lactobacillus acidophillus Rosell-52 and Bifidobacterium longum Rosell-175. Statistically significant improvements were seen in mood symptoms, the ability to feel pleasure and sleep quality, which will hopefully prompt further clinical trials in the future.
The Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate , the regulatory agency for natural health products in Canada, approved a number of claims for the combination of strains, such as: Helps to moderate general feelings of anxiety Promotes a healthy mood balance
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It Regulates Neurotransmitter Levels To Improve Mood
Gut bacteria are actively involved in the development of neuro active molecules like GABA, serotonin, acetylcholine, etc. Probiotics are appropriately known as psychobiotics as they increase the number of bacteria that produce these neuro active molecules.
Messaoudi et al. conducted a study to assess the psychotropic effects of probiotics in animal model and humans.
In an animal model, the treatment helped in reducing anxiety. In healthy humans, a reduction in depressive symptoms, anxiety, anger, and improvement in problem-solving was observed.
Tillisch et al. demonstrated that fermented milk consumption twice daily for 4 weeks by healthy women affected their brain activity related to the processing of emotions and sensations, positively.
Quick Gist: Experimental studies reveal that probiotic intake normalizes neurotransmitter levels in depression. Studies in humans demonstrate the probiotic intake is associated with a positive change in brain activity.
Is The Way To Your Brain Through Your Stomach
Interest is also developing in the so-called brain-gut axis. It has been theorized that changes in intestinal bacteria may play a role in neuropsychiatric conditions such as anxiety or depression. The intestine has its own separate nervous system, and generates many of the same neurotransmitters that the brain generates. These neurotransmitters are very important in promoting gut motility, and too much or too little of them may result in constipation or diarrhea. Similarly, we believe that the brain and the gut can talk to each other. Therefore, it is possible that anxiety and depression may trigger abdominal pain or other GI symptoms. It is also possible that gastrointestinal conditions such as chronic abdominal pain or constipation might also result in anxiety or depression.
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A Probiotic Solution To Depression And Anxiety
Two probiotic strains have been shown to significantly reduce depression and anxiety. A controlled study showed a 50% improvement in depression scores.
By Michael Downey, Health & Wellness Author.
Many people who suffer from depression and anxiety are resistant to conventional treatments.
Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for the 2011-2014 period show that anti-depressant drug use increased 65% since 1999.1
Individual responses to depression treatments vary greatly from one person to another.
Among those taking antidepressants, 30%-50% find their initial treatment doesnt work,2,3 and two-thirds experience at least one side effectincluding nausea, weight gain, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and in some cases, suicidal thoughts.3,4
Scientists have found a new way to relieve mood disorders: probiotics.
One human study showed a 50% improvement in depression scores with these two probiotics, and another showed a 55% improvement in anxiety scoresall without side effects.5,6
Scientists have now combined these probiotics with an extract of the spice saffron that has been shown to be equally as beneficial as anti-depressant drugs to reduce depressionwithout side effects.7-10
The result is a safe, powerful new way to relieve depression and anxiety and boost overall mood.
Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Periods of diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and stomach pain are all symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Womens gastrointestinal systems typically become better after menopause because hormone changes are most likely the cause of irritable bowel syndrome during this time.
Probiotics stabilize and normalize a womans bowel movements throughout menopause, which helps alleviate irritable bowel syndrome.
Probiotics achieve this by encouraging the body to create the appropriate mucus, improving the function of the intestinal barrier, and restoring normal bowel habits.
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Gut Bacteria That May Cause Anxiety And Depression
There are some bacteria that may contribute to the pathophysiology of anxiety and depression. Most probiotic supplement companies would never include such bacteria in their product, so you shouldnt have to worry. A benefit associated with taking the right probiotic is that it may compete with and/or inhibit proliferation of these unhealthy gut bacteria, ultimately improving mood and reducing anxiety.
Citrobacter rodentium: This is a Gram-negative bacterium that is associated with higher mortality rates in mice. Whether Citrobacter rodentium is detrimental to the health of humans and/or pathogenic remains unclear. In mice, it is associated with increased rates of gastrointestinal disease and may facilitate an upregulation in other pathogenic bacteria within the intestinal lining.
A study published in 2011 discovered that Citrobacter rodentium was implicated in stress-induced memory dysfunction in mice. Probiotic treatment successfully reversed the influx of Citrobacter rodentium within the gastrointestinal tract of mice, thereby attenuating the memory deficits. That said, it is unlikely that Citrobacter rodentium solely causes memory deficits it may also directly increase anxiety in mice.
Probiotics And Prebiotics For Depression
Probiotics and prebiotics for depression: The connection between the microbiome and mood.
Guess what? You are never alone. None of us are.
It may not be comfortable to think about, but tons of tiny organisms live inside us and affect our health. The microbiome refers to all of the microorganisms that live in our body. The term microbiota refers to specific populations of microorganisms in specific body parts, such as the gut microbiota. The gut microbiota is huge. There are 10 to 100 times more microorganisms living in each of our guts than our total number of human cells. There are more than 1000 species and 7000 subspecies, so next time you are lonely, think about all your gut buddies.
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