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Gut feeling

Fortunately, there are researchers who believe they may have found a very safe alternative to treating anxiety and depression… and it all starts in your gut.

It is a known fact that a diet rich in probiotics — which support the growth of “healthy” bacteria in the gut — boosts digestive health and can even improve your immune system.

In recent years, mounting evidence has shown that gut bacteria have a significant effect on brain function and mental health.

A new study at Leiden University in the Netherlands, published in the journal Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity, further supports this idea: the researchers found that among 40 healthy subjects, participants who took probiotic supplements for four weeks showed a decrease in negative thoughts and feelings.

For the study, the researchers administered a multistrain probiotic — meaning that it contained different types of bacteria — to 20 healthy participants every day for four weeks. The other 20 participants received a placebo. At the outset of the study and then again after the month had gone by, the participants filled out a questionnaire assessing sensitivity to depression.

Participants who took the probiotics were significantly less reactive to sad moods. Improving the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut seemed to have a protective effect against the blues and the type of obsessive negative thinking that is often characteristic of depression.

Commenting on the findings, lead researcher, Oxford neurobiologist Dr. Philip Burnet, said: “It is likely that these compounds will help to manage mental illness. They may also be used when there are metabolic and/or nutritional complications in mental illness, which may be caused by long-term use of current drugs.”

AgoraHealth article reviewed by Barbara Beinart