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"Friendly Bugs" May Boost Your Mood

A new study found that people who took a probiotic formula for 30 days reported relief from depression and anxiety
If winter doldrums or post-holiday blues have you feeling down, you may be interested in new research which links probiotics ("good" bacteria) to improving people's mood. A new study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that people who took a specific probiotic formula for 30 days reported relief from psychological distress.

Probiotics may protect your mind

A preliminary animal study by the authors of this study showed that the probiotic formulation reduced anxiety in rats. In this study, they looked at the effects of a probiotic formula on mood, stress, and coping strategies in humans.

A total of 55 healthy men and women were randomly assigned to a daily probiotic formula (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) or placebo for 30 days. Before and after treatment the participants filled out a variety of questionnaires about mood, stress, and coping and had a 24-hour urine collection for cortisol levels (one indicator of stress).

Results showed that compared with the placebo group, the probiotic group reported greater relief from depression, anger-hostility, anxiety, and the kind of worry that leads to physical symptoms (somatization). Urinary cortisol levels were lower in the probiotic group compared with the placebo group.

"Subject to the confirmation of these results, probiotics might offer a useful novel therapeutic approach to neuropathological disorders and/or as adjunct therapies in psychiatric disorders," said lead author Michael Messaoudi, from the Department of Neuropsychopharmacology, at ETAP-Ethologie Applique´e,Vandoeuvre-le`s-Nancy, France, and his colleagues. This study was funded by Rosell-Lallemand, the makers of the probiotic formula provided in this study.

Increasing benefits of probiotics

  • Healthy bacteria are important for our health. "Good" bacteria that live naturally throughout our body - including in our gastrointestinal tract and on our skin - are essential for our health. Although you can't see these bacteria they are helping to keep up our defense against illness and infection. Probiotic formulas introduce these "healthy" living organisms into the body and are one way to enhance the balance of "good" bacteria in our system.
  • Research shows increasing health benefits of probiotics. Probiotics have been shown to ease gastrointestinal illness and prevent winter colds, but researchers are learning that probiotics may have far-reaching effects on the body and may provide benefit for our central nervous system and brain as well.
  • We have more to learn. Although we are learning that probiotics administered in specific amounts may improve our health, we have more to learn about the adequate dose, timing and route of delivery to optimize health results.

(Br J Nutr 2010: doi:10.1017/S0007114510004319)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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