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Psychobiotics: what you need to know about the latest frontier in gut health

0 2 years ago

BY CLAUDIA CANAVAN

Spend any amount of time looking into the world of gut health and you’ll be struck by the reported links between your digestive system and your mental state.

Recently illuminated by a rapidly growing field of science, this biological phenomenon is known as the gut:brain axis – a phrase which refers to the way that your gut microbes (the bacteria that live in your digestive tract) seem to carry a degree of sway over how you feel.

What are psychobiotics?

This link has been indicated in a few ways, but let’s take one example. A landmark 2013 study showed how healthy people given a specific probiotic experienced significant changes in their brain activity, including a reduced risk of developing a low mood, when compared with people given a placebo.

Naturally, these discoveries have galvanized a stack of new theories as to how interventions that target your gut could be used in improving your mental health.

‘Psychobiotics’ are one such concept. This is a cool-sounding name for a relatively simple idea: probiotics that might be given to people with the specific aim of improving their mental health. The term was introduced by a team of Irish scientists in 2013, with this same team more recently broadening it out to encapsulate some prebiotics (plant fibers that are a source of food for healthy bacteria in your gut, and which so help these bacteria to flourish.)

What does the science say about psychobiotics?

So, is there any merit to this idea? To find out, WH asked Dr Megan Rossi (@theguthealthdoctor), a gut health research fellow, dietitian and the author of Eat More, Live Well, for her thoughts. ‘There have been over 20 clinical trials looking at probiotics in mental health, specifically, for anxiety or depression,’ she explained.

That’s not to say, though, that firm evidence to support their use has been gathered. ‘There have been a number of positive studies which showed that probiotics may help with depression, but there’s also been a number of negative studies – that means studies that showed no benefit.’ More research, specifically more large scale human studies, are needed to confirm their usefulness (a number of these are currently underway.)

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#Guthealth #mentalwellness #probiotics #depression #anxiety

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