gut-brain axis

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Help Ease Your Anxiety with Probiotics

As our country watches the COVID-19 pandemic with apprehension, it’s no surprise that mental health specialists report a sharp increase in the number of anxiety and depression cases. A recent poll taken by the American Psychiatric Association indicates 36% ofAmericans said COVID-19 has made a serious impact on their mental health. If the physical isolation isn’t enough, the pandemic has escalated fears over potential job losses, bankruptcy, acute illness, and death.

Probiotic consumption has been a hot topic for research concerning the gut-brain axis in the past few years. The gut-brain axis (GBA) is the connection between the central nervous system (CNS) and the enteric nervous system (ENS.) That connection links the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with our body’s intestinal functions. Recent research describes the important role gut microbiota play in these functions.

Probiotics protect against stress

That evidence suggests that probiotics can protect the body against the harmful physical and mental effects of stress. Conversely, it also suggests that probiotics can help regulate mood by keeping the gut microbiome balanced and performing optimally. That means if we want better mood and mental health, we need to take care of our guts.

However, gut bacteria can also be altered by stress, leading to suboptimal gut health. Moreover, other things can reduce the efficiency of our gut function such as antibiotics, intestinal infections, and poor diet – all of which can kill off beneficial or “good” bacteria. A lack of good bacteria in the gut has also been associated with other health problems such as leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Clearly, this evidence indicates we can’t achieve optimum health unless our guts are maintained at peak efficiency and fortifying our microbiota with probiotics may be a way to both fight and prevent anxiety and mood disorders.

How it works

The bacteria in our gut enhance our resilience to stressful situations by helping seal the gut barrier. When our microbiome is not balanced, its compromised, inefficient gut function can have a negative impact on our overall health (including mental health), due to leakage of hormones and intestinal inflammation.

If the gut lining stays porous for too long, it can allow toxins and toxic bacteria into our body, where some of those toxins can pass through the blood-brain barriers that protect the brain from these types of pathogens.

That’s how a balanced gut microbiome strengthens the gut lining, protects us against leaky gut, and reduces gut inflammation, which in turn plays a role in our mental well-being.

Inflammation also affects the central nervous system and can cause symptoms of depression; but conversely, depression can cause inflammation itself. That’s why having a robust, diverse microbiome is necessary to help control inflammation by strengthening the gut lining, and preventing unwanted toxins from entering the body.

Researchers report that people who suffer from anxiety often have symptoms of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders such as IBS, gas, and diarrhea. These ‘co-occurring disorders’ help cement the conclusions over the importance of the gut-brain axis and its role in many common illnesses.

The link between the gut-brain axis plays a critical role in how healthy we are, and an ever-increasing body of evidence strongly suggests that the microbiota in your gut influences every other aspect of your overall health – including our mental health. Simply put, it seems that now, more than ever, it’s impossible to maintain a healthy lifestyle unless our guts are happy and thriving, and everyone’s first step to better health should be to repair our guts. Consequently, dietary changes and probiotics are some of the methods researchers use to alter the microbiota in patients to help treat anxiety and depression.

Since microbiota has such an important impact on your entire body, it’s not surprising that taking probiotics for your mood doesn’t just benefit our mental health in one way. Probiotics may also help other precursors associated with an increased risk of anxiety:

  1. Helps reduce inflammation, and research suggests that depression may be an inflammatory disease
  2. Increases tryptophan, the happiness hormone, which stimulates natural serotonin production.
  3. Certain probiotic strains, like L. Rhamnosus, help reduce levels of the stress hormone corticosterone.
  4. Some strains of probiotics may possess inherent anti-depressant qualities.

Research on probiotics and the brain-gut connection continues, but the importance of this connection seems clear. Incorporating more probiotic foods in your diet, is a great step to achieving robust overall health. Unfortunately, our fast-paced lifestyles and the ever-present temptations of industrialized food make eating well-balanced, healthy meals hard. The easy answer to that is to help our guts with a probiotic supplement like an EndoMune Probiotic.  Try one today – your body and your mental health will thank you.

Woman that looks sad while sitting on a couch

Coronavirus and the Gut-Brain Blues

There’s no doubt following social distancing guidelines when you and your family go outside is the smart and safe way to avoid the many health risks associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19).

But those guidelines don’t take into account the stress you’re feeling, whether you’re hunkered down for long periods of time with work-at-home responsibilities plus family responsibilities or not working at all.

We’ve talked a lot about the gut-brain axis, the connection between your brain, emotions and intestines.

If you’ve been doing a lot of stress eating lately, it could be a sign that your gut-brain axis needs some extra help to stay in balance and keep the weight off too.

Don’t fear, there’s many ways to rebalance your anxious gut-brain axis safely and gently, even in these stressful coronavirus times.

First, let’s take a look at how we got there.

Overeating processed foods

Consuming a typical Western diet full of processed, high-fat foods is a huge problem all by itself, which is often worsened by stress.

The more you eat, the more your gut produces higher levels of gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP), a hormone that manages the balance of energy in your body.

Last year, Baylor College of Medicine researchers discovered this extra GIP that the gut produces travels through the bloodstream to the brain where it slows down the impact of leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells that promotes a feeling of fullness or satiety, in a series of tests on mice.

(Messing up your sleep cycle affects how your body produces leptin too.)

Baylor scientists recognized the gut-brain connection when they took steps to block the production of GIP which reduces the appetites and weights of mice fed high-fat diets.

But that’s not all…

Too much real sugar

You may also recall our warning about foods sweetened with real, refined sugar that can be just as harmful to your health as those containing artificial sweeteners. It doesn’t take much of the real thing to trigger sugar cravings either.

The average American consumes at least 66 pounds of real sugar, if not more, every year, fueling the epidemic of obesity and many more health problems.

Real sugar affects the brain in a unique way by signals traveling from the gut all the way to the brain via the vagus nerve, according to a very recent study on mice appearing in Nature.

It was really hard for Columbia University researchers to ignore the connection. When given the option of being fed water with artificial sweeteners or real sugar, mice gravitated to the real thing after only two days.

What’s more, scientists found that the gut-brain connection kicks into gear in the presence of glucose (often added to processed foods as dextrose and extracted from corn starch).

Rebalancing your anxious gut-brain axis

Depending on how the coronavirus outbreak is slowing down in your area (or not), getting back to a normal routine may take a while.

With this in mind, ask yourself these four questions each day to help make sure you’re maintaining your balance, mentally and physically.

  • Are you taking breaks to exercise at home? At the very least, plan short walks outdoors (while practicing safe distancing).
  • Are you reaching out to your family and friends for support? All of us need some extra love and attention right now.
  • Are your sleep habits a real mess? Get back on a regular schedule!
  • Are your eating habits in hibernation mode? You have a golden opportunity right now to clean up your diet and lose some extra pounds.

A very safe and healthy way to relieve those gut-brain blues and boost your immune system without a drug — taking a multi-strain probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic with 10 strains of beneficial bacteria — is one of the best choices you can make.

And, if you need some extra help to lose a few pounds, you may want to consider EndoMune Metabolic Rescue with its proven formula of Bifidobacterium lactis and the prebiotic XOS that promotes a greater sense of fullness and healthier blood sugar levels too.

Resources

Journal of Clinical Investigation

Baylor College of Medicine

Nature

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

University of California at San Francisco/sugarscience

Healthline

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5 Reasons Why You Need to Take a Probiotic

If you’re seeing our blog for the first time — or the tenth time — you may be wondering why we share tips and news about the ever-changing, ever-shifting, ever-growing world of gut health many times each month in this space.

Our lives — full of work, life responsibilities and stress — leave us so little free time just to be…

Many of us fail to take even the very simple and necessary step of protecting our gut health by taking a probiotic every day.

Gut health affects so many parts of our own health and well-being, that a natural boost with a probiotic can make a world of difference to keep our bodies working just as they should.

Need some solid evidence that probiotics can make a world of difference to your health? Consider these five questions when you’re considering why you need to take a probiotic for your health, based on the latest research.

Have you taken a lot of antibiotics?

People rely so much and so often on antibiotics as a quick fix to solve all sorts of health problems — even minor ones like colds and sore throats — that doctors tend to over-prescribe them.

This excessive use has created an antibiotic-resistant world in which these drugs are quickly losing their ability to do the healing work they were meant to do.

The problems have become so acute that more people than ever are being sickened from exposure to superbug infections like Clostridium difficile (C. diff.) and some will die from them.

Antibiotics deplete the beneficial bacteria in your gut that keep your immune system strong. If you really need an antibiotic to solve a health problem, to take a probiotic two hours before taking an antibiotic to give those beneficial bacteria some extra time to reach and protect your gut.

Have you felt constipated lately?

Even a common gut-related health problem like constipation can be a sign of more serious health problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and kidney disease. Taking a probiotic restores the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut and lessens the need for harsher medications like mesalazine.

How are your emotions?

Disruptions in your gut-brain axis — the vital link that connects your gut, emotions and intestines — can add to challenges you may have with your sleep, mental health and mood. Taking a multi-species probiotic every day protects your gut’s ability to produce neurotransmitter chemicals like serotonin.

Could eating fermented foods help or hurt your gut?

Depending on how they’re prepared, fermented foods — such as pickles, yogurt, kombucha tea, pickles and miso — don’t provide the dependable gut health benefits that probiotics do and, in some cases, create more problems for your health than they’re worth.

Are you having trouble sleeping?

Shifts in your body’s circadian clock (the biological levers that control your wake-sleep schedule) due to work schedules or traveling long distances affect your gut health. Taking a quality probiotic that also contains a prebiotic (food for the good bugs in your gut) can help you get your sleep schedule back on track.

When evaluating a quality probiotic, you’ll want to consider a product that contains multiple strains of proven and beneficial bacteria and a prebiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior Advanced Probiotic.

BONUS QUESTION: How is your bone health?

If you’re having trouble maintaining your bone health, probiotics aid the production of butyrate (short-chain fatty acids created when your gut processes soluble fiber) that may increase bone mass.

European Journal of Public Health

Frontiers in Psychiatry

Journal of the American Society of Nephrology

BioMed Research International

Sleep Medicine

Microorganisms

Immunity

Mayo Clinic

Blood pressure cuff making a heart around "probiotics"

How Hypertension and Depression Are Tied to Your Gut

Hypertension is one of the common health problems Americans face every day. Slightly more than half of all American adults have their blood pressure under control at any time.

Your gut plays a critical role in your blood pressure. For example, some medicines you may be taking for hypertension may or may not be working properly, depending on the health of your gut.

Medical experts estimate about 20 percent of all patients with high blood pressure don’t respond to treatments, even when using multiple drugs.

Over the past decade, modern medical science is discovering multiple overlaps between symptoms of hypertension and depression. Both health conditions are linked for some people, but not others.

Your unique gut bacteria profile may soon be a way for doctors to determine if hypertension or depression are working together or separately to harm your health, according to the research team at the University of Florida Health.

New forms of hypertension?

Scientists came to this important finding by analyzing and comparing stool samples from more than 100 patients who had depression, hypertension, both conditions or neither.

Rather than looking merely at symptoms however, studying this problem from a unique perspective gave researchers the freedom to see these health problems from a more holistic, gut-health approach.

Each patient group possessed distinct profiles based on the biochemical processes and genes of their gut bacteria. In fact, Dr. Bruce Stevens, a professor of physiology and functional genomics at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine. and his research team identified three new and separate disorders related to these gut bacteria signatures, including depressive-hypertension.

Determining how a patient’s gut bacteria interacts with the rest of his/her body is a critical first step in devising therapies that work better, says Dr. Stevens.

This discovery could also explain why some blood pressure medications and antidepressants with antimicrobial properties may worsen those health problems.

How to treat it

The next phase for Dr. Stevens and his research team is clear: understanding how the gut-brain axis works to influence a myriad of functions from inflammatory centers to blood regulation.

Along with that knowledge will come better tools to treat both depression and hypertension.

Fortunately, we already have one in probiotics, a safe non-drug way that’s been found in other studies to lower your blood pressure and moderate your mood, given nearly 90 percent of your body’s serotonin is produced in the gut.

But not just any generic probiotic will do the trick, given that your gut is populated with a diverse array of bacteria that work very hard in a myriad of ways to keep you healthy.

You may want to consider EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, a product containing 10 strains of beneficial bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria families, plus a prebiotic (FOS) that feeds the good bugs in your gut.

probiotics and IBS written on a paper on a clipboard.

Probiotics and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the number one reason patients are referred to gastroenterologists.

IBS is a chronic disorder that creates a variety of painful symptoms, including diarrhea, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation and other abdominal pain.

Anywhere from 10-20 percent of Americans commonly experience IBS symptoms (usually younger than age 45). Typically, IBS affects twice as many women as it does men and often begins during young adulthood.

Despite the ability of modern medicine to spot the symptoms of IBS, nailing down a culprit has been far more difficult.

Certainly, stress may be a trigger for IBS, given the role the gut-brain axis plays in connecting your intestines, emotions and brain. The kinds of foods and the amounts we consume (too many carbohydrates) can also be big problems. Ditto for alcohol.

Although there’s no definitive tests for IBS, your gastroenterologist will want to perform some of these procedures to help him/her rule out other health problems.

  • Blood work
  • Stool culture
  • Colonoscopy or upper GI endoscopy
  • Hydrogen breath test

Another aspect that makes treating this disease really tricky: There’s different subtypes of IBS: Diarrhea-predominant (IBS-D), constipation-predominant (IBS-C) and alternating type (IBS-A).

And, IBS is a health problem that patients can switch from one subtype to another.

Treating a moving target

Many doctors will recommend some very basic lifestyle changes that may make a difference, especially if a patient’s IBS symptoms are mild:

  • Avoiding high-gas foods and gluten.
  • Eating more fiber and low FODMAP meals (with supervision from a physician or dietician.
  • Getting more sleep and exercise.
  • Reducing stress as much as possible.

(If some of these lifestyle changes sound familiar to you, health care professionals recommend them for fighting the obesity epidemic too.)

Physicians can prescribe medications, but shifts in an IBS patient’s subtype make that problematic too. For example, one drug for IBS-D — alosetron (Lotronex) — is recommended only for women with IBD-D and with special precautions and warnings.

Should stress also play a role, your doctor may want to prescribe an antidepressant drug, like a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (fluvoxamine or sertraline), an older tricyclic drug (amitriptyline or imipramine) or an antispasmodic drug (dicyclomine).

The probiotic approach

Out of the many non-drug therapies medical experts cite to control IBS, however, probiotics always seems to rise to the top of the list because they are among the safest ways to treat this condition effectively.

Why? Probiotics are much more versatile in the ways they work in your body, compared to a drug.

They do a great job in maintaining the motility in your intestines and lessening constipation, a key symptom of IBS.

And, probiotics are a safe, effective means to treat diarrhea and reducing its duration.

When emotions and stress begin to manifest in problems with your gut-brain axis, probiotics can be a difference-making tool.

But not just any probiotic will do.

The evidence

A very recent review of studies appearing in the medical journal Nutrients that examined controlled trials over the past five years underscored the effectiveness of multi-strain probiotics in relationship to IBS.

Of the 11 studies that met the final cut for the review, seven of them reported significant improvements among IBS patients taking probiotics. But that’s not all.

Eight of those 11 trials evaluated how IBS patients benefit from taking a daily multi-strain probiotic. When IBS patients were given multi-strain probiotics for eight weeks or more, the benefits were far more distinct, especially over a long period of time.

Probiotics containing a single species of bacteria may be good for treating one specific problem, but not several health challenges like those that occur with IBS.

Your gut contains a diverse accumulation of bacteria, 10 times more than the cells in your body (in the tens of trillions) and more than 1,000 different species.

That’s why a multi-species probiotic is built to be a more effective way to treat the symptoms associated with IBS and give your body’s immune system a healthy boost.

Taking a probiotic with 10 strains of beneficial bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families (plus a prebiotic that feeds the bugs in your gut) like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic can be a safer, better alternative for treating IBS that may help you avoid taking a prescription drug too.

older woman smiling and sitting in yoga pose

The Probiotic Treatment For Anxiety

Experiencing anxiety is more common than you think.

Think about the last time…

  • You went to the hospital for a medical test.
  • You gave a talk in front of a group of people, including some you didn’t know.
  • You had to make a decision about a problem with no clear-cut solutions.

Any one of those situations are potentially nerve-wracking, but they tend to pass pretty quickly.

But, if you’re frequently avoiding situations that could create excessive worries, you may be dealing with an anxiety disorder, and that may be a real problem.

Many people — including health providers — turn to antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) or escitalopram (Lexapro) or benzodiazepines like diazepam (Valium) or alprazolam (Xanax) to alleviate anxiety.

However, taking drugs (especially benzodiazepines) may create even more health challenges down the road.

Did you know taking better care of your gut health may be just as beneficial in treating anxiety?

The gut health solution

As you know, there’s plenty of evidence supporting the gut-brain axis, the connection linking your intestines, brain and emotions.

A new report by Chinese researchers, recently published in the journal General Psychiatry, reviewed a batch of studies, finding 21 studies that examined boosting gut health as a means to treat anxiety.

The success rate was excellent. Eleven of the 21 studies discovered improvements in anxiety symptoms by treating a patient’s gut health.

Interestingly, the results were split nearly down the middle with five studies finding success with probiotics and six studies treating patients through non-probiotic means such dietary interventions.

Of course, there were limitations, as most of the patients participating in these students were having problems with an array of health issues. Among the six studies that did examine gut health interventions to treat anxiety, four showed positive results.

Listed among the non-probiotic interventions was the use of short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), a natural prebiotic made from plant sugars and non-digestible starches. Additionally, FOS is one of the key ingredients in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

It’s important to remember prebiotics feed the good guys in your gut, but really do a lot more good when they’re part of an effective probiotic like EndoMune.

Drug-free treatments for anxiety

There are many things you can do treat anxiety that don’t require taking a drug:

All of these things have one important thing in common: Not only do they improve your overall health, they do wonders for your gut.

In addition to working on these healthier habits, be sure to take an effective probiotic like EndoMune, with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, plus a prebiotic.

Illustration of probiotics at a cellular level.

The Multi-Species Advantage For Your Brain and Mood

The human gut is one very diverse sector of the human body.

More than 1,000 unique species of gut bacteria have been identified by medical investigators so far. That doesn’t include 2,000 more species recently discovered in populations of people living in Asia, Africa and South America.

What we do know (for the moment): Experts believe about 150-170 species live in the human gut at any time.

So, when we talk about the value of treating health problems like constipation, C. diff infections and even colon cancer, probiotics that contain multiple species of beneficial bacteria have been proven to do much more good than single-species products or even “probiotic” foods.

The gut-brain axis difference

The very same can be said for your gut-brain axis, the vital connection that links your brain, emotions and intestines, according to recent research appearing in the medical journal, Frontiers in Psychiatry.

For this study, researchers at the University of Verona (Italy) tracked the progress of 38 healthy volunteers (ages 18-35) who took either a placebo or multi-species probiotic including Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifidobacterium longum for six weeks.

(This trio is part of the 10 species of beneficial bacteria contained in every bottle of EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.)

Scientists monitored the mood, mental health and sleep quality of patients before the study began, then in three-week intervals during and after the study concluded.

The group who took probiotics reported significant improvements in fatigue, mood and anger, better acceptance (a marker of decreased depression) and enhanced sleep quality.

In fact, scientists were surprised to find benefits from taking multi-species probiotics lingered at least three weeks after the test subjects stopped taking them.

Those positive results for multi-strain probiotics aren’t surprising at all, given that the gut produces neurotransmitter chemicals like serotonin (governing your mood) and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) (controlling anxiety and fear).

Getting good sleep matters too

A healthy gut helps you get the right amount of sleep too. Not only does it promote better sleep, good gut health eases disruptions in your body’s circadian rhythms — governing your 24-hour biological clock — particularly when jet lag can be a factor due to traveling across multiple time zones in short periods of time.

Another gut-healthy way to promote restful sleep: Be sure you’re eating enough prebiotics, the natural, non-digestible carbohydrates/plant fiber contained in whole foods like almonds, jicama, artichokes, onions, leeks, apples and bananas.

If you’re not getting enough whole foods, that’s just one more important reason to take a daily probiotic like Endomune, that features fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), a natural prebiotic made from plant sugars.

two women locking hands during workout

The Gut-Brain Link to Depression and Obesity

It wasn’t long ago that conventional medicine debated the existence of the gut-brain axis, the connection that links your emotions, intestines and brain.

The medical community couldn’t dispute it for long, however, given that about 90 percent of serotonin, a chemical that sends messages from one side of the brain to the other, is produced in the human gut.

Obesity and diabetes are serious conditions that harm many parts of your health, including your gut. (Remember, gut health problems could be a warning sign of type 1 diabetes?)

Eating a high-fat diet, a direct contributor to obesity and diabetes, creates greater emotional problems and direct shifts in the makeup of bacteria in the gut too, according to findings from the Joslin Research Center (affiliated with Harvard Medical School).

In their work with mice, Joslin researchers had long studied the damage done by diabetes, obesity and other metabolic health problems in their work with mice fed high-fat diets.

One variable stood out in their previous research: Obese mice that had been fed high-fat diets showed far more signs of emotional problems (depression, anxiety and obsessive behaviors) than animals fed healthier diets.

For their newest study, researchers took a different approach by giving mice behavioral tests commonly used to screen drugs for depression and anxiety. They learned mice that were fed high-fat diets experienced greater amounts of depression and anxiety.

However, when scientists took steps to change the gut health makeup of obese mice by giving them antibiotics their emotional health improved.

Taking that gut bacteria shift one step further, Joslin research also discovered the gut microbiomes of obese mice triggered emotional problems when they were transplanted in germ-free mice. And other germ-free mice that received gut bacteria from obese mice given antibiotics showed no signs of emotional problems either.

Where the gut-brain link really came into play was when researchers examined parts of the brain that govern metabolism and emotions, according to Dr. C. Ronald Kahn, Chief Academic Officer who leads the Section on Integrative Physiology and Metabolism at Joslin.

Like other tissues, these areas of the brain became insulin-resistant in test animals fed high-fat diets and this resistance was mediated partly by their microbiomes, Dr. Kahn said.

The Joslin team also found alterations in the gut health of mice were linked to the production of some chemicals that send signals across the brain too.

Now, scientists are studying specific populations of bacteria involved in the gut-brain axis that may govern this process, with an eye on creating healthier metabolic profiles in the brain.

Interestingly, Dr. Kahn points out the problems of using antibiotics as “blunt tools that change many bacteria in very dramatic ways.”

“Going forward, we want to get a more sophisticated understanding about which bacteria contribute to insulin resistance in the brain and other tissues. If we could modify those bacteria, either by putting in more beneficial bacteria or reducing the number of harmful bacteria, that might be a way to see improved behavior.”

Fortunately, there’s a growing body of evidence that shows probiotics like EndoMune Advance Probiotic may be a safe and proven tool for treating behavioral issues among mice and humans and provide some extra help to fight obesity too.

a pair of glasses sitting on top of a computer

Question What You Read Everywhere!

If you follow my blog and keep up with the news, you’ve heard about a pair of recent studies published in the medical journal, Cell, that found probiotics may have very limited value.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media — seemingly everyone from CBS News to Forbes — jumped on the bandwagon to dispute the value of probiotics without looking at their considerable and proven benefits over time, many of which we’ve discussed here.

Since you have some questions and concerns about these reports, we have some answers.

What do the studies say?

Study one examined how well a generic probiotic with 11 strains of bacteria could colonize the intestinal lining when given to 25 healthy adults, as determined with a colonoscope taking specimens from the mucosa, versus a placebo.

This approach differs from most previous studies in which probiotics were measured in stools. Their justification was to determine if the generic probiotics you find at most supermarkets “colonize the gastrointestinal tract like they’re supposed to, and then whether these probiotics are having any impact on the human host.”

Study two investigated whether patients should be taking a probiotic when they were prescribed an antibiotic to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Twenty-one healthy patients were divided into three groups: Seven took an antibiotic, six more were given an antibiotic and the same generic probiotic from the first study and the rest received an antibiotic and pills containing fecal samples from their own microbiome.

What were the results?

In study one, the generic probiotic bacteria were found in the stools of each patient, and only in the lining of the colon of a few patients. This finding led scientists to conclude that, if probiotic bacteria weren’t found in the colon, they’re not beneficial. It also explains why many stories reported probiotics were ‘’useless.”

The results of study two were a bit more complicated:

  • The microbiomes of patients who received just an antibiotic returned to their healthy composition after 21 days.
  • Patients given fecal transplants experienced a normal intestinal microbiome within days after stopping the antibiotic.
  • Among patients treated with a generic probiotic, their microbiomes did not return to their original composition even five months later.

Problems with both studies

Now that you’ve had a chance to review both studies, it’s easier to see why taking these results at face value is tricky.

The problem with study one that examined the use of a generic probiotic was pretty straight-forward. These generic probiotics were given to healthy people with normal microbiomes, so the beneficial bacteria wouldn’t find a place in the lining of the colon to colonize.

In fact, the immune system of the intestines and existing microbiome would prevent it!

Studies have shown when patients struggle with gut health problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), taking a good probiotic can treat their symptoms and rebalance their microbiomes. So, probiotics aren’t “useless!”

In study two, because patients treated with a generic probiotic after receiving an antibiotic didn’t return to normal right away, researchers assumed the probiotic might cause ”harm” by increasing their risk of intestinal disorders. Moreover, researchers suggested patients “personalized probiotics” in the form of fecal transplants might lessen any risks.

Unfortunately, this phase of the study set up patients for more health problems like diarrhea down the road, merely by giving them antibiotics.

Plus, antibiotics change the composition and balance of bacteria in the gut, which may increase the activity of enzymes that trigger a faster absorption of carbohydrates, leaving you more vulnerable to obesity and diabetes.

Remember those extra carbs and fats feed poor dietary habits that disrupt your gut-brain axis, the biological connection that links your intestines, brain and emotions.

One more variable this research team didn’t consider in either study: The contribution of prebiotics, the non-digestible starches that feed the bacteria in your gut contained in a lot of probiotics, including EndoMune Advanced ProbioticEndoMune Junior Probiotic and EndoMune Metabolic Rescue.

Prebiotics have been shown to offer a number of health benefits connected with probiotics, like improving your sleep and giving your body some extra protection from type 2 diabetes.

Also, I have to take issue with the use of fecal transplants to engineer the results of this study. Fecal transplants may have performed better among three options in this second study, but going this route isn’t without its risks, especially if you’re receiving fecal matter from another donor.

In one 2015 report, a patient was successfully treated for a recurring C. diff infection with a fecal transplant from an overweight donor (her daughter) only to gain 34 pounds in just 16 months.

In other cases, people who have tried “do-it-yourself” fecal transplants from donors have suffered brand new health problems they never expected from people who seemed to be very healthy, but were carriers of germs they could pass on to others.

I cannot stress enough that using these results from both studies to imply that probiotics in many cases are “useless” or “harmful” just isn’t accurate.

As a physician specializing in gastroenterology, I’ve seen firsthand how the use of probiotics has changed the lives of patients suffering from simple problems like constipation and hard-to-treat ones like IBS. Also, patients who are on a strong course of antibiotics may avoid the risks of experiencing life-threating infections just by taking a probiotic too.

a woman meditating ocean side

Gut Health May Play a Role in PTSD

For a long time, many people have associated posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a condition that develops in some who have experienced a dangerous, shocking or frightening event — with soldiers and police officers who deal with life and death situations on a daily basis.

Some experts who understand it intimately, however, believe PTSD is a public health problem that’s triggered by painful events other than war-related experiences.

That wider perception of PTSD symptoms has evolved over the years to include a broader scope of direct traumas — like experiencing a serious car accident, life-threatening illness, violent physical assault or other traumatic events — as well as indirect ones (hearing about the death of a loved one).

By the numbers, 60 percent of all men and half of all women in America will experience at least one traumatic event and roughly 8 percent of all Americans will face PTSD during their lifetimes, according to the National Center for PTSD.

Now that modern science better understands the gut-brain axis (the connection that links your intestines, emotions and brain) more fully, it’s not at all surprising to learn the balance of bacteria in your gut may predict if you’ll experience PTSD or not, according to a study appearing in Psychosomatic Medicine.

The gut bacteria drop-off

Researchers at the University of Colorado and Stellenbosch University (South Africa) teamed up to compare the microbiomes of 18 patients with PTSD with a control group of 12 patients who experienced significant trauma but not PTSD to identify any abnormalities in the gut.

PTSD patients had dramatically lower levels of three bacterial species (Actinobacteria, Verrucomicrobia and Lentisphaerae) compared to the control group. Additionally, patients who experienced childhood trauma had lower levels of two species (Actinobacteria and Verrucomicrobia).

This second finding interests and worries researchers because people who experience childhood trauma are at a higher risk of facing PTSD later in their lives. In fact, these changes in gut health balance may have happened much earlier in response to childhood trauma, says lead researcher Dr. Stefanie Malan-Muller, according to a press release.

Another problem with this gut bacteria drop-off: All three are responsible for regulating the body’s immune system, and inflammatory markers soon after a traumatic event are an indicator that predicts the development of PTSD later on, says Dr. Malan-Muller.

Hopefully, more research will determine if this specific fall in gut bacteria makes patients more vulnerable to PTSD or if it occurs as a result of PTSD.

Could probiotics be used to treat PTSD? Researchers at the University of Colorado were impressed by the results of their 2016 study on preventing a PTSD-like syndrome in mice by adding beneficial bacteria to their tiny microbiomes.

Currently, this team of researchers is studying the key factors that lead to the development of PTSD in hopes their findings can lead to better treatments. A potential treatment the team is looking is one that alters microbiome with the use of probiotics containing a strain of Lactobacillus (one of the families of beneficial bacteria contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior Probiotic for kids) and prebiotics.

Stay tuned to the EndoMune blog for more news about PTSD and other health information that affects your gut health.

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