Research over the past 20 years continues to demonstrate the importance of probiotic bacteria in human health. The benefits from probiotics have been studied and documented for gastrointestinal ailments for many years. A new Irish review article suggests that ingesting adequate amounts of live bacteria that lives in our gut may some day be able to treat anxiety, depression, and other types of mental health problems.
The research was conducted by Timothy Dinan, from the University College Cork in Ireland. Dinan and his colleagues conducted a review of various studies done on probiotics in an attempt to summarize the current state of understanding on how ingesting certain probiotics can be used as a treatment for depression and other stress-related disorders.
The researchers coined the word "psychobiotic" to describe a live organism that produces a health benefit in patients suffering from psychiatric illnesses when they ingest adequate amount. According to Timothy Dinan, one of the co-authors of the study, only a small percentage probiotics, have an impact on behavior and may qualify as psychobiotics.
The word "probiotic" is a compound of two Greek words: "pro," to signify promotion of and "biotic," which means life. Probiotics are mostly live bacteria that help maintain a healthy digestive system because they live in the gut and can assist in the maintenance of the natural balance of microorganisms (microflora) in the intestines. USDA defines a probiotic as "any viable microbial dietary supplement that beneficially affects the host." The bacteria that live inside our bodies are believed by scientists to be essential for life because they help digest our food, keep us healthy by protecting us against disease-causing bacteria, regulate our immune system, and produce certain vitamins. There are many foods that contain probiotics, including plain unflavored yogurt, kefir, kombucha tea, miso, pickles, tempeh, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
An average human digestive tract has approximately 400 types of probiotic bacteria which can reduce the harmful bacteria and this means that probiotics can prevent infections in the digestive tract and reduce inflammation.
The researchers noted in their study that the estimated species number gut bacteria varied greatly but it was generally accepted that the human microbiome, the collection of microbes - bacteria, viruses, and single-cell eukaryotes that inhabit the human body, consisted of greater than 1000 species and more than 7000 strains.
The researchers observed that existing data indicated that babies born by caesarean section developed a different microbiota with aberrant short-term immune responses and a greater long-term risk of developing immune diseases. This observation appeared to correlate with the fact that children born by cesarean section or who were formula-fed had very different intestinal bacteria than breastfed infants who had a normal birth. Some health experts believe C-section infants are more likely to be colonized by potentially harmful bacteria and breastfed infants have more good bacteria and fewer bad bacteria in their intestines than formula-fed infants.
The researchers wrote that in a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, the study volunteers receiving the probiotic combination L. helveticus R0052 and B. longum reported significantly reduced psychological distress.
The researchers found that that several well-designed studies of probiotics had identified a specific probiotic called Bifidobacterium infantis that could bring significant improvement in people who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a disorder of the brain-gut axis and is associated with a high degree of depression and anxiety. However, L. salivarius was found to have little impact on IBS symptoms, according to the researchers.
The researchers also identified another study that found that the consumption of a probiotic-containing milk drink improved mood after 10 and 20 days of consumption.
In another study identified by the researchers found significant improvement in anxiety among those taking the active Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota compared with the placebo and this suggests that a probiotic may have psychotropic effects.
The study authors say there is emerging evidence that probiotics might help treat depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and other mental illnesses because of their anti-inflammatory properties and they opined that "the intestinal microbial balance may alter the regulation of inflammatory responses and in so doing, may be involved in the modulation of mood and behavior."
Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles who is not connected in any way to the new research, believes that our gut microbes may help mold brain structure as we are growing up, affecting what goes on in our brains and moods.
The research on the benefits from probiotics is growing. Adding probiotics to most diets can have an great impact on health. Gut health research is finding more and more evidence that the benefits from probiotics begin as life begins and continue to be an essential part of gut health throughout life.
Enemas can be considered when under supervision if you are constipated and other means like digestive enzymes, magnesium, or senna leaves don't help. Make sure you drink at least 8 glasses of water and have enough fiber in your diet. Advanced AFS sufferers should be very careful as enemas can have side effects.