Just knowing you have a gut teeming with healthy bacteria may stave off anxiety. But wait, new research suggests those microbes may actually alleviate stress.
One report, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlined how mice consuming broth mixed with a strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus responded. The rodents showed less anxiety and stress but also produced less of the stress hormone corticosterone than control mice on placebo broth.
Gut bacteria, conjectured the scientists, may normalize neurotransmitters in the brain that would normally rise or fall depending on the animal’s anxiety levels.
Study author John Cryan discussed with National Public Radio how the gut influences the brain, and held out the possible action in humans.
“And what we found was that this bacterium was able to affect the receptors, which are the proteins in the brain that signal the chemicals, so they affected the levels of these receptors…. But it is one of these things that we were quite surprised at, that we were able to get such a pronounced effect and similar effects as if the animals had been given some pharmaceutical agents that are used to treat anxiety and depression.”
Cryan continued : “The effects on behavior were very similar to what we would see if we’d given these mice an acute injection of valium, yeah. “
“… what’s really neat about this and what’s important to reinforce, as well, is that the mechanism that we’re showing, in terms of what it’s doing to the brain and brain chemistry, is the same as what the pharmaceuticals are doing. So it’s not undermining the actual biology theories underlying anxiety or depression in any sense. It’s just showing that we can modulate them by maintaining good digestive health.”
While scientists are working out the particulars of this promising lead, it is best to cover your bases by including probiotic-rich foods and feed your microbes well with prebiotics which include inulin.
And don’t sweat the small stuff. Welcome them.