Psychobiotics are different species of bacteria typically found in probiotics believed to impact anxiety, depression, and other psychological symptoms. These bacteria have a positive effect on digestive health since they can balance your gut flora. Here is how these bacteria impact your mental health.
The bacteria present in your gut interact with many different systems in your body. Your gut flora plays an important part in the digestive process since it can break down nutrients stomach enzymes can’t digest. Research suggests that gut flora also impacts mood, anxiety, and cognitive functions.
What Are Psychobiotics?
Psychobiotics are supplements or foods rich in bacteria that are beneficial to your gut flora. Introducing these strains of bacteria in your digestive tract helps restore a healthy balance in your gut flora, or preserves gut flora health.
Diversity and balance are important for your gut flora health. An unbalanced or unhealthy gut microbiome can result in weight gain, poor digestion, and low energy levels.
Probiotics fall in this category. These supplements contain live bacteria or yeast that have been proven to help with digestion. Probiotics typically contain bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii. These bacteria are also present in yogurt.
Taking a probiotic or adding yogurt to your diet contributes to making your gut flora more diverse. It brings a balance between different strains of bacteria.
A psychobiotic is a supplement with bacteria that will have a positive impact on your mood or stress levels besides contributing to your digestive health.
The Link Between Gut Microbiome And Mood
Research has found that a healthy gut microbiome supports cell function in a region of the brain connected to stress and anxiety. Poor gut flora healthy means that these brain cells can no longer produce some proteins they need to function properly.
Gut bacteria also use cortisol and serotonin to communicate with the brain. The presence of high levels of cortisol in the blood results in anxiety and stress and can impact the way a person responds to stress, for instance, by making them more sensitive to it.
On the other hand, the presence of serotonin in the brain has been linked to positive mood and motivation.
Anxiety And Your Gut Flora
Experiencing stress or anxiety over long periods can impact your microbiome. Experiencing stress triggers an inflammatory response from your immune system. This creates an environment that negatively impacts gut flora and digestion.
Inflammation can result in a weakened intestinal lining. In some cases, inflammation and poor gut flora health can result in the development of health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease.
There is a complex relationship between anxiety and your gut flora. Significant stress levels have a negative impact on your gut microbiome, but your gut flora can also affect how you experience stress.
A healthy gut microbiome that can produce serotonin will help you manage stress and anxiety. On the other hand, if your gut flora is in poor health due to sustained levels of inflammation, dealing with stress and anxiety will become increasingly difficult.
Introducing a psychobiotic to your diet can make a difference. Your gut flora won’t be able to restore its healthy balance once inflammation sets in your digestive tract. You can help restore your gut microbiome by introducing good bacteria.
Gut Flora And Sleep Patterns
Your gut microbiome plays a role in regulating your sleep patterns. Bacteria impacts your sleep cycles, release some of the hormones that regulate sleep and influence your body’s natural clock.
Poor gut health can lead to insomnia or in poor sleep quality. In return, unhealthy sleep patterns can be detrimental to your gut flora.
This is another scenario where a psychobiotic could be beneficial. Insomnia or poor sleep quality can make you more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, create brain fog, and negatively affect your cognitive functions as well as your mental health.
How Do Psychobiotics Work?
Some psychobiotics have been studied on animals and humans. Here are some of the findings of these studies.
This strain of bacteria is often found in probiotics. There are obvious benefits to digestive health since this bacteria allows for stomach acid to pass through your digestive tract without causing any damages.
A study has found that this bacteria seems to reduce anxiety in animals. This bacteria works by regulating the production of stress hormones.
Stress hormones aren’t the only factor that impacts mental health, but high levels of stress hormones sustained over long periods are detrimental to the way a person responds to anxiety and can be linked to depression.
This is another bacteria species you can find in probiotics. A study suggests that there is a link between this bacteria and depression symptom.
Scientists asked patients with irritable bowel syndrome to take a supplement with Bifidobacterium longum and to answer questions about their mood and quality of life.
The study also used MRI to keep track of brain activation patterns. Patients reported improvements in mood and quality of life over the course of the study and the MRI showed changes in their brain activity.
The effects of bacteria on brain activity and how this activity impacts mental health aren’t fully understood, but the results of the MRI suggests that the improvement in mood wasn’t just something perceived by patients.
This study suggests that this psychobiotic supplement is beneficial for IBS patients and could help anyone who suffers from some degree of inflammation in their intestinal tract.
This species of bacteria can be found in fermented foods. Sourdough and sauerkraut contain this species of bacteria.
A study looked at the effects of this bacteria on the gut flora health of animals. The animals were given antibiotics that eliminated some of their gut flora. Researchers observed anxiety and other psychological symptoms in these animals. A supplement with Lactobacillus fermentum reversed these negative effects.
This study suggests that this psychobiotic has a positive effect when it comes to restoring a depleted gut flora and in addressing anxiety symptoms linked to poor gut flora health in this context.
It is unclear if this bacteria would be beneficial in treating anxiety and other symptoms that aren’t linked to antibiotics.
A study looked at the effects of Lactobacillus helveticus on a group of patients with depression over the course of 12 weeks. The study used a control group that didn’t take any probiotics.
The subjects who took the suppAlement didn’t report any changes in their symptoms, but a series of tests measured their attention span, ability to learn and recall new information, and their information processing ability. These tests showed an improvement of cognitive functions over the course of the study.
It is possible that this psychobiotic supports brain function and might help with the brain fog sometimes associated with depression.
Should You Add A Psychobiotic To Your Diet?
Scientists agree that there is a connection between gut flora health and the brain. They call it the gut-brain axis.
The mechanism of action isn’t fully understood yet. Researchers have found connections between some species of bacteria and mental health but aren’t sure which species impact the brain the most.
It is difficult to determine which species of bacteria are the best psychobiotics or which ones are most beneficial to digestive health since everyone has a unique gut flora makeup and studies require subjects to take supplements but don’t monitor their diets.
However, studies suggest that taking a probiotic can help improve some symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as cognitive functions.
Lactobacillus casei has been found to improve mood in patients who are initially healthy and combining Lactobacillus acidophilus with Bifidobacterium bifidum and longum helps improve stress and exhaustion over the course of six months.
Another study found that eating more fermented foods seemed to help young subjects who are genetically predisposed to experience social anxiety but didn’t have a significant effect on other subjects.
Adding a probiotic supplement to your diet or eating yogurt on a daily basis can be beneficial. There are obvious benefits for your digestive health since probiotics and yogurt introduce species of bacteria that help with digestion and reduce inflammation.
If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, making some changes to your diet is worth a try. Take a probiotic supplement to see if it makes a difference, but keep in mind that other forms of treatment will probably be needed.
Restoring your gut flora with a probiotic could have a positive impact on your mental health. A healthy digestive system will have a positive impact on your energy levels and will help you get all the benefits of the foods you eat, especially when it comes to nutrients your stomach enzymes can’t digest such as dietary fiber.
There is strong evidence that suggests a healthy gut flora will help regulate stress hormones, sleep patterns, and serotonin levels. These factors have an impact on anxiety and depression, but several external factors can impact your mental health. You will need to identify and address these factors to get better.
Introducing more fermented foods, dairy products, or probiotic supplements to your diet will help restore or maintain a healthy and varied gut flora. These bacteria will also have a positive effect on your mood and mental health by regulating your stress response and sleep patterns.