If you read this blog, you know that I’m a fervent proponent of probiotic supplementation for a whole host of reasons. And now I have just one more to share with you. And, as a person who has experienced a lot of major life stressors in the past two years (I score a 272 on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale – eek!), I’m encouraged about current research in the study of probiotics and their effects on stress response.
New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal demonstrates that lactobacillus probiotic-laced food has a calming, anti-stress effect in mice. In an interview with NPR’s Ira Flatow, the author of the study, John Cryan, says that the research, “gives us the idea that the concept of treating stress-related disorders by modulating gut microflora can happen, and this can happen in a positive way.”
The researchers are calling the means by which the gut and brain communicate, the “microbial gut-brain axis,” saying, [I]t’s been long known that the brain and the gut communicate, as you mentioned, in terms of feelings of hunger, et cetera. And so what’s becoming clearer over the last while is that this brain-gut communication or gut-brain, it’s a bidirectional communication, but also that the microbials, which is the gut’s flora within the gut, can actually also play an important part in regulating this axis.
Cryan says the effect they noted was an increase in the levels of receptors for GABA, a calming neurotransmitter in the brain; and that the effect on the mice was so pronounced, that it was similar to the effect of a valium injection. He adds that, “studies from the U.S. have also shown that stress can affect the makeup of your microbiota and gut flora and the composition of it.”
In the interview, Cryan is careful to point out that these studies are in the early stages, and haven’t been conducted in humans, but he’s encouraged by how they’re going. Many alternative practitioners, myself included, have for a long time operated under the assumption that gut health and neurological health are intimately connected, so this news from the research industry doesn’t necessarily surprise us. But I am pretty excited by the research that’s going on, working out more of the details of how humans depend on healthy gut microbes for good health .
We’ve been preaching the benefits of probiotics for years, and they’re not only for digestive and immune health, but also for neurological health, and indeed, total body wellness. So, down the hatch with your probiotic bugs, live active cultures, and fermented foods.