The psychological strain that has accompanied this year has been profound for many. People are experiencing symptoms associated with mental trauma; anger, an inability to sleep well, emotional distress, grumpiness, mood swings, stress, depression and anxiety.
A study published in the journal Globalization and Health estimated that 31.9% of our fellow citizens are experiencing anxiety specifically. That means almost one in three people have ongoing symptoms like excessive fear, catastrophizing and an inability to let go of negative thoughts. Panic attacks can strike. A racing heart may be accompanied by hot or cold flushes. Breathing can quicken. A sense of restlessness, tension or edginess can settle in. These unpleasant signs and symptoms can lead to avoidance of situations that could trigger stress. This can lead to work, relationship or social avoidance and isolation.
So, what can you do to calm anxiety; to get back on a level footing?
Probiotics may offer an unexpected, safe and effective answer.
Probiotics and anxiety: The gut and the brain talk
While we tend to imagine that anxiety occurs strictly in the brain, the incredible human body and mind are far more complex. In fact, you might have experienced this in your own life. If you’ve developed an upset tummy or a queazy feeling when you feel anxious, you’ve already felt the intricate link between your gut and your brain in action.
A study published in the journal PLoS One stated, “The severity and duration of abdominal pain are associated with elevated anxiety.” This might be what you’ve personally noticed, too?
In scientific terms, this amazing connection is called the microbiota-gut-brain axis. In short, it means that the gut bugs, the digestive system and the brain “talk”.
Can probiotics act as therapy for anxiety?
The impact of anxiety on quality of life can be significant. Therefore, finding safe and effective remedies is key to successful treatment and living well. Which begs the question, “Can probiotics act as therapy for anxiety?”
A study published in the journal, Nutrients, investigated the effects of probiotic supplementation in adults exposed to chronic stress; students prepping for the national medical practitioners exam. The researchers found that ongoing probiotic supplementation significantly lowered both anxiety and sleep disturbance, a symptom of anxiousness. They concluded that probiotics “may improve mental state, sleep quality, and gut microbiota of healthy adults under stressful conditions.”
A further study was published in the journal, Nutritional Neuroscience. The researchers investigated patients who had a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. Each participant took the medication, sertraline, a member of the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor family. Half also took a probiotic, while the other half also took a placebo. After only eight weeks, those who had taken both sertraline and the probiotic experienced a larger drop in anxiety symptoms than those who had taken the sertraline-placebo combination.
A third study published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology concluded that, “Probiotics had a significant effect on the scores of patients with… anxiety, suggesting that probiotics may be adjunct therapies for deep mental illness.”
Anxiety can be difficult to treat and its signs and symptoms can gouge away quality of life. Yet the research suggests probiotics might be a missing piece in the mental illness puzzle; an evidence-based way to find solace and calm in our crazy, overwhelming world.