Psychobiotics: probiotics for your mood

Psychobiotics?

No, it's not antibiotics for crazy people. 

Psychobiotics - probiotic bacteria for mood

Irish scientists coined the term 'psychobiotic' in 2013 referring to a type of probiotic bacteria that had a positive effect on people's mood.

Since then, specific probiotic strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been studied for their impact on mood health

The gut bacteria: transferring the blues

This new area of research began when scientists found that when gut bacteria from anxious mice (yes, apparently they exist) were given to regular mice, the regular mice began acting anxious.

They were also able to induce symptoms of depression as well, by transferring gut bacteria from depressed mice into happy nice.

The recently-happy mice suddenly began exhibiting symptoms of depression: anxiety-like behaviors, social withdrawal, and reluctance to do micey things that they otherwise liked (looking for cheese? Hamster wheel, perhaps?)  

They also noticed that mice with poorly developed gut microbiome freaked out (they called it 'exaggerated response') to ordinary stressors. Sounds like mice road rage. 

Obviously, we can't randomly inject bacteria into people to find out if this works on humans too. Not ethically, anyway. 

Works on mice. What about humans?

We have pretty good proof that this work on mice. But how about us humans?

The best evidence we have so far comes from Belgium. Scientists there (brace yourself) measured the types of bacteria in poop - of 1000 depressed and non-depressed people.

Turns out there are big differences. 

Specifically, two types of bacteria, Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus bacteria were consistently associated with better moods and higher quality of life indicators. Where as Dialister and Coprococcus were very low in depressed people. None of these are available as supplements. It's early days. 

So what happens in your gut may affect your brain, too. 

Then the next question is: can probiotics improve mood?

It seems so.

But here's the catch... 

For a probiotic to help with mood, it must be strain specific and condition specific. 

What do we mean by that? 

Example: you've heard of Bifidobacterium longum. There are several strains of this bacteria. They're not all the same.

Bifidobacterium is the genus; longum is the species. And Rosell-175 is the strain. This particular strain was developed at the Rosell Institute and studied extensively for mood health properties. It has no known benefits for skin health or urinary tract infections. But it's been shown to have an impact on mood. 

Same for Lactobacillus helveticus 52ND,  Bacillus coagulans MCTT 5856 and Bifidobacterium longum 1714.

Other bugs noted to have an association with mood:

  • Lactobacillus casei subsp Shirota
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum W23
  • Bifidobacterium lactis W52
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus W37
  • Lactobacillus brevis W63
  • Lactobacillus casei W56
  • Lactobacilus salivarius W24
  • Lactococcus lactis (W19 and W58)
  • Bifidobacterium animalis
  • Streptococcus thermophiles
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Lactococcus lactis

Not all probiotics influence mood. L. rhamnosus JB-1 has been shown to have no effect on behavior. This is because different probiotics have different mechanisms of action. 

 

Stress? There's a bug for that.

Of course, we say that tongue in cheek. 

In fact, Bifidobacterium longum 1714 is a promising bacterial strain that has shown benefits in making adults immune to stress. As of this writing, this probiotic is not available in the US. 

All of this has not gone unnoticed by Big Pharma. Just like there are prescription fish oils, there will likely be prescription psychobiotics in a decade or so. There are several drug companies busily working on making this a reality. 

Don't forget Prebiotic fiber

The most studied prebiotics (these are fibers that probiotic bacteria consume as food) for boosting mood health are fructans and oligosaccharides. 

This means that providing your gut bacteria the right food may be important for supporting a healthier brain, too. 

In addition, including fermentable dietary fibers in your menus will help you to reduce cravings for salty and sweet foods.

The same Irish scientists have expanded the definition of psychobiotics beyond probiotics to include prebiotics and other means of influencing your gut bacteria for the benefit of mental health.

(Even exercise is being viewed as a psychobiotic due to its positive influence on gut microbiome diversity.)

To be fair, the research behind prebiotic and mood is still emerging. It's difficult to say with certainty how well these fibers influence mood. It is likely that there may be a specific type of fiber that works better than others. We'll have to wait and see. 

These new ways supporting mood health works for both depressed and healthy people.

Summary

  • Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety have multiple causes, but are also associated with disturbances in your gut microbiota.
  • Probiotics and prebiotics can do more than improve your gut health. They may boost your mental health.

 

References:

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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