Can a probiotic a day keep the doctor away?
In a new release by the team at University College cork, probiotics and their effect on mild anxiety and depression, are the focus of an ongoing study.
According to the study, a daily capsule of probiotic bacteria can assist people in managing mild anxiety and problems with memory retention.
The study saw 22 healthy men take a daily dose of a billion probiotic bacteria for a whole month, then their dose was changed to a placebo for another month. None of the men knew what tablet they were taking, at any stage. As a result, the men who were given the probiotic for a whole month, reported significantly lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
When given a memory test, those who had been taking the probiotic also fared better than those who had been given the placebo.
“When they were given these bacteria they were less anxious and their capacity to memorise material seemed to be enhanced,” said Professor Ted Dinan, who led the study.
Whilst the effects of simply taking a probiotic everyday were small, “the effect was large enough for them to perceive less stress,” said Dinan.
The study is an extension of previous research conducted at the university where the same probiotics were given to mice. Similar results were achieved throughout the study which spurred the commencement of the human trial.
“This study is one of the few examples where someone has taken a probiotic from preclinical studies and put it into humans and found pretty much the same thing as in rodents.”
“By their very nature, probiotics are safe bacteria, and if we can delineate those that have benefits for mental health, that would be a major advance for neuroscience and psychiatry. My hope is that within the next five years we’ll have a probiotic or two on the market that will be effective for treating mild forms of anxiety and depression,” Dinan added.
For social anxiety disorders in particular, an increasing focus on gut health and probiotics has meant that some patients are able to have more control over feelings of embarrassment, of being overwhelmed, as well as fears of being judged. Used alongside traditional therapy, foods that focus on restructuring the gut have had wonderful effects on sufferers of the anxiety.
“Probiotics also reduce inflammation of the gut… because anxiety is often accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms, reducing gut inflammation helps alleviate those symptoms,” said Hilimire.