A Link Between Mental-Emotional Health and Probiotics

Have you ever heard the expression, “A cup of probiotic yogurt a day helps keep anxiety at bay”?

Not likely since it was just made up, but there might be some truth to it.

The connection between the health of our gut and our brain is fascinating, and researchers are discovering specifics that can help us make wise lifestyle choices.

A small study at done at UCLA divided 45 healthy (emotionally and physically) women, ages 18 to 50, into three groups: One group was not given a product, the second group was provided with non-probiotic yogurt, and the third group was provided with probiotic yogurt.

Study Results

Probiotics are live microorganisms (bacteria) that may provide health benefits to their host organism. Study subjects who ate the probiotic yogurt, compared to those who ate non-probiotic yogurt or no yogurt showed:

  • Less brain activity is areas involved with pain and emotion.
  • More brain activity in areas involved with making decisions.
  • Positive effects in the processing of sensory information.

“Our findings indicate that some of the contents of yogurt may actually change the way our brain responds to the environment,” said study author David Geffen. “When we consider the implications of this work, the old sayings, ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘gut feelings’ take on new meaning.”

About Probiotics

The human digestive tract normally has approximately 400 kinds of probiotic bacteria busy at work eliminating harmful bacteria and helping us digest food and eliminate waste. The most commonly known of these healthy microorganisms is Lactobacillus acidophilus, one of many organisms in the lactic acid bacteria group, and it is found in live yogurt cultures.

People frequently take probiotic supplements to help with digestive problems such as bloating, gas and diarrhea. However, be sure to consult a physician before giving probiotics to young children or before taking them if you are elderly, pregnant, nursing or have a weak immune system.

More About the Study

Over a four-week period, subjects in the non-probiotic and probiotic yogurt groups ate 125g of their yogurt twice each day. The probiotic yogurt contained live cultures of B. lactis CNCM I-2494, yogurt symbiosis L. bulgaricus, S. themophilus and L. lactis.

Before and after the four weeks, women in all three groups took part in activities that were designed to trigger an anxiety response. The emotional reactions were measured by reading brain activity via MRI scans and a blood oxygen level-dependent response that somehow indicates brain activity.

This study does not prove that eating probiotic foods will reduce anxiety, although that may be the case, it does remind us that what we eat has a profound effect on our physical, emotional and mental well-being.

Sources: Probiotic Help the Brain Cope with Anxiety; Study Abstract; Intro to Probiotics
Photo: Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

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