The Potential Link Between Probiotic Diets & Mental HealthWe have all experienced digestive side effects from stress and anxiety at some point in our lives, but new mental health research suggests that the mind/gut connection could be a two-way street. Your gastrointestinal track is second only to the brain itself when it comes to the number of neurons it houses, and behavioral studies have long focused on digestive health as much as they have focused on neurological health.
Researchers at McMaster University compared two groups of mice; one group had normal levels of gut bacteria, while the other was stripped of such microbes. The microbe-free group exhibited less cautious behavior and had higher levels of cortisol and BDNF, two chemicals associated with anxiety and depression in humans. The common-sense link between what we eat and how we feel, as well as new research findings, has led some psychiatrists to action. Dr. James Greenblatt of Boston has begun prescribing a probiotic diet for certain anxiety disorders. During a recent interview, he told reporters, “Each year, I get more and more impressed at how important the GI tract is for healthy mood and the controlling of behavior.”
Though the evidence is mounting, it is still inconclusive. If you suffer from debilitating stress, anxiety, or depression, you should consult a physician immediately. However, if you have reason to believe that your changes in mood are related to your diet, or if you would like to pursue a natural path with no known negative side-effects, talk to your doctor about the current research on the link between probiotics and mental health.