Ward Off Stress With the Help of Probiotics

Probiotics, often advertised for their benefits in maintaining a healthy digestive system, may also have an unexpected role in combating stress, according to new research. Timothy Dinan and his team from University College Cork in Ireland have coined the term “psychobiotics” to refer to live organisms that, when consumed in sufficient amounts, offer health benefits to individuals with psychiatric illnesses.

Their research reviewed evidence suggesting that certain bacteria, when ingested adequately, could potentially treat depression. For instance, one study they examined focused on the probiotic B infantis, which was administered to rats exhibiting depressive behavior due to maternal separation. The results indicated that probiotic treatment improved the rats’ behavior and normalized their previously abnormal immune response.

These findings, along with similar studies, support the notion that probiotics might have both behavioral and immunological effects. The authors propose that the balance of intestinal microbes could influence the regulation of inflammatory responses, thus playing a role in modulating mood and behavior.

However, the researchers caution that not all probiotics may have such effects. They suggest that only a small percentage of probiotics, known as psychobiotics, demonstrate an impact on behavior. This distinction underscores the importance of further research in understanding the potential of probiotics in mental health.

The review article was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry by Elsevier.