Evidence is emerging that probi- otics, those living organisms found in yogurt and other fermented foods, can do more than improve digestive health. preliminary research has found that some of these bacteria may also have antide- pressant or anxiolytic effects.
A recent literature review in the journal Biological Psychiatry examined the role “psychobiotics” (probiotics that can improve mental health) may have inthe treatment of psychiatric disorders. For several years now, researchers have considered how depression and other conditions affect the gut and vice versa. past studies have shown that people with depression have altered GI microflora, and we all know how stress and anxiety can cause a host of tummy troubles.
The paper’s authors theorize that psychiatric effects of psychobiotics are related to their action on inflammatory cytokines, the hpa (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, and the gut-brain con- nection. They point out that some strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, two commonly found probiotics, secrete gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a vital neurotransmitter that has been found to be dysfunctional in people suffering from depression and anxiety. They also found that oral ingestion of certain probiotics can produce serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
While there are no placebo-con- trolled trials of psychobiotics as treat- ments for mental illnesses, they are extremely safe and there is a rich evidence base for their use for over-all good health. The full study can be found at Dinan TG et al, Biol Psychiatry 2013;74(10):720–726.
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