Apparently, our probiotics help alleviate anxiety too. As it turns out, it seems that our tummies can be a really fascinating place. When you consider all the recent advancements in neuroscience, it is a little surprising that the function of digestion is still not very well understood and it has been something like the dark matter in the galaxy of our body. Fortunately, this is beginning to change.
A big part of understanding digestion is its complexity. It seems that there are around 100,000 times more microbes in our tummies than there are humans on the Earth, according to what Emeran Mayer wrote in his book, The Mind-Gut Connection. In addition, there happen to be even more immune cells in our stomachs than there are in our blood and our bone marrow too. This really makes it so vital the things that we swallow and put in our mouths. As it turns out, it is our diet that could be affecting our brain instead of the reverse.
And as Mayer states, “Your gut microbes are in a prime position to influence your emotions, by generating and modulating signals the gut sends back to the brain.”
Our Diets Dictate So Many Other Things in Our Body
We human beings are now collectively experiencing higher rates of anxiety, and it is now the world’s biggest psychological disorder. Our higher stress levels have had vastly destructive effects on our guts, and this includes an alteration of contractions, transit rates from our tummy and also our large intestine, and even the blood flow. When the blood delivers extra cortisol because of an increase in the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), this results in increased storage of visceral fat, and a decrease in the overall function of the immune system, which leads to anxiety.
Even though there are so many different facts that negatively affecting our gut environment—we can always partake in healthier diets that use less sugar; practice stress-reducing activities such as meditation; and exercise regularly. But as posted recently in Neuropsychiatry (London), new studies indicate that one of the most helpful solutions is a regular regimen of probiotics.
According to the World Health Organization, probiotics are “live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” In year 2010, this organization started creating guidance for using probiotics in various foods, and this is actually very tricky for many reasons.
To begin with, every host provides a vastly different gut environment – for instance, the things that work in your gut may not work in mine. Secondly, the amount of dosages is also important for every host as well. So as one could imagine, the act of crafting widespread guidelines can be quite challenging.
Thirdly, the FDA has been known to be very inefficient in filtering and screening health claims. There is actually a huge difference between room temperature and refrigerated probiotics, and this difference extends beyond price. Even still, this industry is barely regulated and can be very difficult to navigate. There are cases when the actual benefits are exceeded by stated benefits, as it often occurs with so many medicines that are disguised as nutritional supplements.
This research group was led by Ruixue Huang who comes from the Xiangya School of Public Health located in Hunan, China. They searched through some seven different academic databases and selected ten studies that demonstrated the efficacy of probiotics in the reduction of anxiety. Perhaps most importantly, the team understood the valuable crosstalk between the brain and the gut:
“The gut-brain relationship is bidirectional, meaning that changes in microbial flora can affect behavior, and behavioral changes can affect the gut flora.”
The team spent a lot of time seeking out a meta-analysis on probiotics along with anxiety disorders, which they were not able to find. These requirements were to include studies on people who suffered from anxiety disorders, where various probiotic sources were used, and studies that contained unique testing groups.
Huang’s group got research data from many different countries such as Japan, Ireland, Spain, Iran, the UK, Sweden, Canada, and France, and every one of them indicated effects that were beneficial from a wide variety of probiotics. In all, there were a grand total of 660 people were included in the final assessment:
“Meta-analysis results indicated that probiotics significantly decreased anxiety compared to controls. These results are consistent with some previous studies showing that probiotics on anxiety are effective.”
As Mayer concluded in his book that there are not a “one-size fits all recommendation” for the use of probiotics. He continued to say,
“We cannot expect that any simple intervention by itself, such as a particular diet, will optimize your gut microbiome, while not paying attention to all the other factors that influence gut microbial function, like the influence of unhealthy gut reactions associated with stress, anger, and anxiety at the same time.”
So even though probiotics may not cure anxiety in a fell swoop, they can definitely play a vital part in the healing process. There is still research work to be done in understanding dosages and strains for future studies.