This is a wonderful time of the year. The holiday season is about relaxing and visiting with family and friends. It’s a special time when many of us redirect our attentions to sharing and giving to those less fortunate.

It goes without saying, though, that the holidays can be stressful. There are so many things to do and many people to visit – perhaps even people with whom we’d rather not spend time!

With this in mind, I wanted to share with you a new medical report about the benefits of probiotics in lessening stress and anxiety.  I know what you’re thinking; How could the bugs in our gut affect our mood?

Probiotics: The Anti-Stress Pill?

A recent article in the British Journal of Nutrition(1) reported the beneficial psychological effects of probiotics. Years of research studies have already established a link between stress and gastrointestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis(2,3). Based on these studies, it’s reasonable to conclude that probiotics may have a positive influence on our moods. The article explored various studies.

One study was a randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study that found probiotics to improve the emotional symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome patients(4). This finding was the result of two studies. The first study, conducted on rats, gave one group a daily dose of probiotic bacteria for two weeks, and the other group received a placebo. The animals were then given a mild shock from an electrode. The rats that received the probiotic had lower stress and anxiety scores as compared to the control group.

After conducting the test on rats, the researchers moved to human volunteers; participants received either a probiotic or a placebo for 30 days. Everyone was given a battery of psychological tests at the beginning and at the completion of the study.

These tests assessed levels of stress and anxiety. Psychological distress, including measures of depression, anger-hostility, anxiety and problem solving were significantly improved in individuals who received the probiotics, as compared to those in the placebo group.

The researchers concluded that “the results of these studies provide further evidence that gut microflora play a role in stress, anxiety and depression”.(1)

Researches have inferred two possible reasons for the results: (1) the intestinal bacteria send signals via nerves going from the intestinal tract to the brain, or (2) the bacteria release mood-enhancing substances that travel through the blood stream to the brain. Further studies will be needed to confirm the findings, but probiotics might be a novel additional therapy in treating psychiatric disorders.

Take Home Message

This brings us back to the holidays. If you are shopping and planning for special family and friend gatherings, you may be feeling just a little bit of stress. Consider taking a high quality probiotic like EndoMune. It might just ease some of the holiday stress and prevent any GI disturbances.

Best wishes for a very happy holiday season and a healthy New Year!!

Eat healthy and live well!
Lawrence J Hoberman MD

References:

(1) Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation ( Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects. Messaoudi M, Lalonde R, Violle N, Javelot H, Desor D, Nejdi A, Bisson JF, Rougeot C, Pichelin M, Cazaubiel M, Cazaubiel JM. Br J Nutr. 2010 Oct 26:1-9.

(2) The Brain-Gut Axis in Abdominal Pain Syndromes. Mayer EA, Tillisch K.Annu Rev Med. 2010 Jan 27.

(3) Curr Mol Med. 2008 Jun;8(4):282-98.The role of microbiota and probiotics in stress-induced gastro-intestinal damage.Lutgendorff FAkkermans LMSöderholm JD.

(4) A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of a probiotic in emotional symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.Rao AV, Bested AC, Beaulne TM, Katzman MA, Iorio C, Berardi JM, Logan AC.Gut Pathog. 2009 Mar 19;1(1):6.