Probiotics are live bacteria which, when consumed, are thought to colonise the stomach with bugs that help digestion. According to research, mood issues and some health conditions could be treated with probiotics to relieve symptoms.
Research has shown that micro-organisms in our gut produce mood-regulating chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals can influence intestinal disorders as well as depression and anxiety.
An article in the New York Times details how intestinal microbiota can have an impact on our moods. Scientist Mark Lyte’s studies on monkey faeces imply that “gut microbes communicate with the nervous system using some of the same neurochemicals that relay messages to the brain.”
He said, “We found that the guys here in the gut make neurochemicals. We didn’t know that. Now, if they make this stuff here, does it have an influence there? Guess what? We make the same stuff. Maybe all this communication has an influence on our behaviour.”
“Probiotics are a source of naturally occurring bacteria and can help maintain diversity and a healthy microbiota or gut flora population,” says Dr. Jane Foster, associate professor of Hamilton, Ont.’s McMaster University & Brain-Body Institute. Probiotics help to build the good bacteria in your stomach and keep your digestion system healthy. “The presence of microbiota (also known as gut flora) is important to brain development and stress-related behaviours including anxiety, exploration, and activity,” says Dr. Foster.
A study from Ohio State University analyzed stool samples from 77 toddlers who ranged from 18 to 27 months of age. It was found that “children with the most genetically diverse types of gut bacteria more frequently exhibited behaviours related with positive mood, curiosity, sociability and impulsivity.” These connections seem to exist, especially in boys, even when factors that impact gut bacteria in children were taken into account, such as diet and breastfeeding.
It’s quite clear from the data available that there is a concrete connection between the gut and the brain. Even though the finer details are still a mystery, the use of these methods to help treat symptoms of autism and ADHD do seem promising.
In another study involving 75 babies, one group was given the probiotic strain lactobacillus rhamnosus; the second group was given a placebo. After 13 years, it was found that in the placebo group, 17.1% of the children had developed a neuropsychiatric disorder such as ADHD or autism. Astonishingly, none of the kids who were given the probiotic strain had any neuropsychiatric disorders. This led researchers to conclude from the study that consuming probiotic supplementation early in life (specifically the lactobacillus rhamnosus strain) could lower the risk of certain disorders.
While it is not suggestive that you start accumulating yogurt and probiotic products, it is an issue to be raised with your physician if you do reside with conditions such as depression or anxiety. You can consult with a pharmacist, dietician or naturopath who can guide you to select the probiotic that works best for you.
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