The Connection Between Microbes and Mood
Over the past few years, scientists have been discovering that microbes in the GI tract may in fact alter human and animal anxiety and stress responses. What we are learning is that there is a very clear “brain to gut” communication that is bi-directional, and that the gut microbes play a very important role in regulating this axis. Some researchers are now calling this:the microbial gut brain axis.
As for the probiotics for anxiety connection, these studies have been focused primarily on the probiotic strains Lactobacillus, Bifido bacterium, and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Studies in Canada and Ireland looked at the relationship between the neurotransmitter GABA (one of the main calming, inhibitory neurotransmitters) and GI bacteria, which was able to affect the receptors.
According to one of the researchers J.F Cryan, “It is one of the things we were most surprised at, that we were able to get such a pronounced effect, similar to the effects as if the animals had been given some pharmaceutical agent. The effects on behavior were very similar to what we would see if we’d given these mice an acute injection of valium.” (Regulation of the Stress Response by the Gut Microbiota, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, April, 2012)
A human study in France published last year, and another human study conducted at the University of California at Los Angles this year found that changing the environment in the gut can change what happens in the brain. This further supports the evidence of the microbial gut brain axis, and reinforces the studies done on mice which have shown the microbe and mood connection.
It’s important to note that all these studies used live and viable probiotics, as measured in CFUs (colony forming units). We know that for horses, we need a minimum of 100 billion CFUs for colonization of the GI tract.
Stress causes imbalances in the intestinal microbial populations, so it’s imperative to maintain healthy GI tract microbiota through diet and probiotics. This is not only important for the gut, but for mood and the reduction of anxiety as well.
We all need to keep eating our yogurt!