You may recall a recent study I posted about the possibilities of an anxiety-free future by taking probiotics. Those possibilities are looking a little more like probabilities, based on the results of a University of Michigan study on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Although stressful emotions aren’t the primary cause of IBS, they can alter brain-gut interactions that trigger the intestinal inflammation that spurs diarrhea, belly pains (severe or chronic) or a loss of appetite.

In tests on mice, University of Michigan scientists discovered that stress may suppress an important element called an inflammasome, which is needed to maintain healthy gut microbes. The good news: Probiotics reversed the suppressive effect in these animals.

“This study reveals an important mechanism for explaining why IBS patients with probiotics makes sense,” said senior study author, gastroenterologist and associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan John Y. Kao, M.D.

During the course of the study, researchers found inhibiting inflammosomes changed gut composition, resulting in intestinal inflammation. However, pretreating some rats with probiotics reduced inflammation in animals with stress-induced, small bowel inflammation.