Probiotics May Provide Stress Relief

For the first time, there’s hope that within a few years you’ll be able to immunize yourself against the ugly and dangerous effects of stress.

There have already been a good number of scientific studies exploring the complex links between the human brain and gut bacteria.

In one such study, co-author Dr. Gerard Clarke, of the APC Microbiome Institute at University College Cork in the Republic of Ireland, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the journal Microbiome which suggest the absence of certain bacteria in our guts could alter areas in our brains that are involved in anxiety and depression.

Another study released in 2014 by Premysl Bercik, associate professor of medicine at the Michael G. DeGrotte School of Medicine at McMaster University in Canada, and colleagues suggests stomach acid drugs may actually induce depression by disrupting the gut-brain axis.

Still another study has identified a link between gut bacteria and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which could bring us closer to understanding the mechanisms of the complex condition. Researchers, including a team from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, reported their findings on the link between gut bacteria and PTSD in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the association between human gut bacteria and our emotional well-being may be tied together. Not only does the absence of certain beneficial microbes lead to mood disturbances, but stress, for instance, has been shown to harm gut health just as much as junk food.

Laura Bridgewater, of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology of Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, and her colleagues report that their findings indicate the gut microbiota may play a role in gender-specific health outcomes in response to stress.

This Brigham Young University study indicates that stressed female mice experienced changes to their gut microbiota — the community of microorganisms that reside in the intestine — comparable with what is seen in response to a high-fat diet. In male mice, however, stress appeared to have no effect on gut microbiota.

With all of these studies and data on the link between gut bacteria and mood disorders, is there a way to harness bacteria in our guts so we can immunize ourselves against stress?

The University of Colorado indicates there may be. Another recent study — led by Matthew Frank, a senior research associate in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience — uncovered a potential beneficial bacterium that has anti-inflammatory properties that the researchers believe could be harnessed to stave off stress.

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