Stress and anxiety are common challenges in our world today, but there are ways to combat them. Interestingly, one of these ways is by caring for your gut’s health. Current research hints at some ways in which probiotics can help improve anxiety symptoms by promoting a healthy gut.
Common Sources of Anxiety Today
Both psychological and external factors can lead to feelings of anxiety, especially in the wake of polarizing events and issues. Some of the most common sources of anxiety today include:
- Worldwide events (such political, social, health challenges, etc.)
- Stress from work, school, relationships, finances, etc.
- Emotional or physical trauma
- Medication side effects
- Psychological disorders, such as panic disorder, phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, etc.
A developing body research also suggests that your gut’s health may have a relationship with anxiety and stress. Some types of bacteria in the gut have been associated with mental health, including our ability to handle stress.
How a Healthy Gut Can Help with Anxiety
There are a few connections between your gut and your mental health, including when it comes to anxiety.
Two Nervous Systems
It comes down in part to the fact that you have a specialized nervous system that regulates your gut. This nervous system interfaces with your brain through the vagus nerve, which means the two can influence each other in impactful ways.
The proportions of beneficial to harmful bacteria can play a major role in the kinds of signals sent to your brain. If there’s an imbalance, you may have a harder time coping with stress, leading to feelings of anxiety. Therefore, correcting that imbalance could make it easier to manage anxiety.
Inflammation may also play a role. An imbalance in gut bacteria may lead to inflammation, and that may contribute to increased feelings of anxiety. Conversely, introducing the right kinds of bacteria can reduce inflammation and curb the symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Anxiety and Probiotics – Can Probiotics Help?
There’s mounting evidence demonstrating how introducing certain bacteria into the gut can help you cope with anxiety and stress. It’s a fairly new area of research, but it shows some promise.
Some of the Research
Some of the current research in this area includes the following studies:
- A study published by the National Academy of Sciences showed that introducing bacteria that help regulate inflammation also reduced signs of stress and anxiety in mice.
- A probiotic called L. rhamnosus was shown to potentially have beneficial applications for anxiety in a review of various preclinical and clinical studies.
- A psychobiotic called B. longum also showed promise in reducing cortisol levels and anxiety symptoms in a study published by Translational Psychiatry.
While the research is still young, there is some reason to believe that probiotics—and specific strains of bacteria in particular—can help regulate symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Probiotics Vs. Psychobiotics
It’s worth noting that not all probiotics have a positive impact on anxiety. Only specific strains—referred to as psychobiotics—are associated with this particular area, which means those are the ones that should be introduced into your system if you’re trying to manage anxiety.
How Do Psychobiotics Work?
More research is needed before we’ll fully understand the relationship between probiotics and anxiety, but studies show that mental health benefits seem to come largely through the following processes:
- The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which regulates various systems in the body
- Inflammation and immune response
- Neurohormone and neurotransmitter production
Along with therapeutic treatments, probiotics could play a valuable supporting role in interventions for anxiety and stress.
Frequent Questions About Probiotics and Anxiety
Some of the most common questions people ask when it comes to using probiotics for stress and anxiety include the following:
How much probiotic should I take for anxiety?
There are no official recommendations set since it’s still an area under study. That said, one or two capsules per day is usually recommended for general usage.
How quickly can probiotics work for anxiety?
It depends on the quality of the product, but usually results won’t be immediate. Sustained usage over a few weeks or months is usually necessary for long-term results.
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