How Probiotics May Ward Off Depression and Anxiety

Written by on September 4, 2015 in Health, Prevention with 3 Comments

 | Huffingtonpost

probioticIn recent years, neuroscientists have become increasingly interested in the idea that there may be a powerful link between the human brain and gut bacteria. And while a growing body of research has provided evidence of the brain-gut connection, most of these studies so far have been conducted on animals.


Now, promising new research from neurobiologists at Oxford University offers some preliminary evidence of a connection between gut bacteria and mental health in humans. The researchers found that supplements designed to boost healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract (“prebiotics”) may have an anti-anxiety effect insofar as they alter the way that people process emotional information.

While probiotics consist of strains of good bacteria, prebiotics are carbohydrates that act as nourishment for those bacteria. With more evidence that gut bacteria may exert some influence on brain function and mental health, probiotics and prebiotics are being studied for the potential alleviation of anxiety and depression symptoms.

“Prebiotics are dietary fibers (short chains of sugar molecules) that good bacteria break down, and use to multiply,” the study’s lead author, Oxford neurobiologist Dr. Philip Burnet, told The Huffington Post. “Prebiotics are ‘food’ for good bacteria already present in the gut. Taking prebiotics therefore increases the numbers of all species of good bacteria in the gut, which will theoretically have greater beneficial effects than [introducing] a single species.”

To test the efficacy of prebiotics in reducing anxiety, the researchers asked 45 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 45 to take either a prebiotic or a placebo every day for three weeks. After the three weeks had passed, the researchers completed several computer tests assessing how they processed emotional information, such as positive and negatively-charged words.


The results of one of the tests revealed that subjects who had taken the prebiotic paid less attention to negative information and more attention to positive information, compared to the placebo group, suggesting that the prebiotic group had less anxiety when confronted with negative stimuli. This effect is similar to that which has been observed among individuals who have taken antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.

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  1. 10153006060005443@facebook.com' Daniel Fuchs says:

    Judi Lopes Angeline Fuchs

  2. Anonymous says:

    I had a severe sleeping disorder for nearly eight years. The doctors were clueless and basically had no idea how to help. Then I accidentally met a doctor who just checked my overall health. I didn’t even tell him about my sleeping disorder, just wanted to know if my blood levels are alright. He found out that my good gut bacteria are low and prescribed me a special probiotic drink and recommended pro- and prebiotic foods in my diet (like fermented drinks or resistant starch). Well…sleeping disorder gone. Brain fog gone. I sleep like a baby and have a clear mind. My sleeping disorder had started around the time my mother had died, so everyone assumed (including me) that it was a mental issue. Only now I remember that around the same time my mother died I have had a stubborn ear infection that got cured with two heavy rounds of antibiotics. Yeah…NOW everything is clear… Would I have known earlier I would have spared myself eight years of this horrible insomnia…

  3. 10206900731904294@facebook.com' Lauren Oldfield says:

    Paris Walter

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