Psychobiotics: Probiotics as Treatment for Mental Health

Psychobiotics are actually probiotics that are given to people with the goal of improving their moods and overall mental health. The term was introduced by a team of Irish scientists in 2013 to encapsulate certain probiotics.  

A study showed how participants who were given a specific probiotic experienced significant changes in their brain activity, which led to a reduced risk of developing a low mood compared with people given a placebo. As a result, many new theories have developed how probiotics and other interventions that target the gut could be used to improve mental health.  

If this sounds surprising to you, you need to understand the brain-gut connection. If you’ve ever felt something in your gut when trying to make an important decision, or “butterflies in your stomach” when nervous, you’re actually picking up signals from what scientists call your second brain. Residing deep inside your digestive system, this second brain shows a connection between your digestion and daily moods -- both positive and negative - and even what you think.  

Scientists refer to the second brain as the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS is composed of two layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your entire gastrointestinal tract. Its job is to regulate digestion, from the release of enzymes that break down food to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption, to elimination. While the enteric nervous system isn't capable of thought, it does communicate back and forth with our big brain—with incredible results.  

The ENS has been shown to trigger low moods and certain emotions in people struggling with IBS and functional bowel problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, pain, bloating and upset stomach. In the past, doctors and researchers believed that depression and other mood disorders contributed to gut problems. However, current studies suggest that it may actually be the other way around!  Researchers discovered that irritation in the gastrointestinal system send signals to the central nervous system, which can lead to mood changes. These discoveries help explain why so many people with IBS and other bowel problems develop depression and other mood disorders.

Today, some practitioners are attempting to treat IBS, bowel disorders and other gut problems with antidepressants and mind-body therapies. It's not because they think the digestive problem is all in the patient’s head, but evidence shows these medications can calm symptoms by acting on specific nerve cells in the gut. 

Psychobiotics and Mental Health

Probiotics hold promise for improving mental health due to their ability to promote overall gut health. In fact, there have been more than 20 clinical trials examining probiotics as a treatment for mental health, especially depression and anxiety. While there have been many positive studies that showed probiotics may help with depression, more large scale human studies are needed. So far, the evidence suggests that psychobiotics are more beneficial in a clinical setting for people who have been diagnosed with severe depression. As research into psychobiotics continues, we'll have more evidence that shows specific strains of probiotics are helpful for mental illness. 

At Purevee Organics, our high quality probiotics contain 25 billion live cultures and 10 probiotic strains, which is more than can be found in any food.  

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