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Probiotics are the good types of yeasts and bacteria that benefit the human body. Although their physical health benefits are commonly known, such as treating diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome, probiotics can aid our mental health as well.

Director of the University of Missouri Metagenomics Center and assistant professor Aaron Ericcson revealed that his research team saw reduced stress levels in zebrafish, a model species for neurobehavioral studies, that were exposed to a variable stressor while taking probiotic supplements. This was in contrast to zebrafish that were exposed to the same stressor but were not given the probiotic. The researchers measured stress levels of zebrafish through computer measuring and imaging tools to track fish movements in tanks. Because previous studies had confirmed that stressed fish were found swimming at the bottom of tanks, Ericcson’s team concluded that the zebrafish that were given probiotics and were found near the top of the tanks indeed had lower stress levels than the bottom-tank zebrafish that were not given probiotics. They then concluded that these results may be extended to the human central nervous system.

Furthermore, the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition at Leiden University in the Netherlands conducted a human study that suggested that probiotics may improve mood and further help those battling anxiety and depression. Among the 40 healthy young adults who partook in the experiment, half of the participants were given a probiotic supplement containing eight types of bacteria, and this group reported both an improvement in mood and less reactivity to sadness. Meanwhile, the other half were given a placebo and did not report any improvements in mood.

 Probiotic drinks

Image Source: Bloomberg

Probiotics can be easily obtained from a variety of sources. They can be found in different types of foods such as yogurts, milk, soft cheeses (Gouda), kefir, and sauerkraut. However, they are also available for purchase in probiotic drinks as well as in over-the-counter pills at local pharmacies and supermarkets.

Although it is not yet exactly known how gut bacteria affects the human brain, there are numerous studies that support anti-anxiety benefits from probiotic consumption. From improving mood to reducing stress levels, probiotics can help ameliorate mental strains that we may have in addition to helping our digestive system. Because probiotics can be obtained easily and inexpensively, they may become a natural alternative to psychiatric drugs.

Feature Image Source: Vegan Yogurt by 

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