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Are Probiotics Good for Anxiety?

Feel that flutter in your stomach before you give a toast? Or waking up feeling nauseous because of a big conference call? Or maybe a sudden loss of appetite after receiving upsetting news? But how does that happen? It’s your brain talking to your gut flora.


Your gut communicates with your brain


Your gut houses the second brain known as the enteric nervous system (ENS). The enteric nervous system consists of neurons embedded in the lining of the GI tract. It communicates with the brain by sending signals and hormones back and forth.

Messenger signals connect your ENS with your brain. Surprisingly, your gut bacteria play an active part in your brain’s communication through hormones, and chemical messages. It’s our job, therefore, to let the ENS know everything is fine down there and then send that information to the first brain.


Anxiety is a common mental disorder


Mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression are among the most common mental health disorders in the world. Approximately 300 million people worldwide suffer from anxiety and depression. These disorders affect thousands of people throughout the globe and mainly affect their moods and emotions.

Anxiety disorder includes panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Furthermore, depression often occurs in conjunction with an anxiety disorder or vice versa. People who suffer from depression also suffer from anxiety.


How your gut supports your second brain?


The beneficial bacteria in your gut contribute to proper ENS function. Your gut microbiome also produces and metabolizes several important messenger signals that are sent to the brain through the bloodstream. These include dopamine and serotonin hormones that are linked to mood and emotions.

Additionally, your gut microbiome also protects your body from pathogen-causing illness. Stress, lifestyle factors, poor diet, and certain medication can disrupt the normal balance of the gut flora. This makes your body more susceptible to harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi, leading to inflammation in your gut. In recent years, symptoms of anxiety and other mental health disorders have increasingly been linked with changes in the gut flora.


How do probiotics impact anxiety?


The beneficial bacteria in your gut produce many hormones and signals that influence your mood. Now changes in bacterial composition in the gut do affect the production of these hormones and chemical messages. For instance, low levels of dopamine and serotonin hormone are linked with anxiety and depression.


Additionally, the gut is extremely sensitive to stress, and many good bacteria in the gut die off when stressed. As a result, the gut becomes inflamed, causing leaky gut as tight junctions in the gut barrier break down. When this happens, harmful bacteria and viruses can get inside, causing inflammation. The result- digestive discomfort, weakened immune function, mood changes, including anxiety and depression.


Probiotics for anxiety


Probiotic strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are more researched strains than others that researchers even call these strains “psychobiotics”.

  • bifidum: generate vitamins that influences mood
  • longum: reduce anxiety and depression, also helps people with IBS
  • plantarum: increases serotonin and dopamine levels
  • acidophilus: reduces cholesterol and supports nutrient absorption

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