Anxiety, stress, irritability and nervousness can be also counteracted in the gut. In fact, taking certain types of probiotics has been shown to improve mood and the ability to regulate emotions. However, the desired results are not always achieved. The reason? Not everyone responds to probiotics in the same way and to maximize the benefits of these substances it is also necessary to act at the level of lifestyle. But let's try to better understand this fascinating topic and what, concretely, we can do in everyday life on the basis of a very recent scientific research that appeared in the journal Nutrients thanks to the work of an American and Chilean team (Morales Torres et al, Nutrients , 2023).
The connection between gut, microbiota and brain
Brain and gut talk to each other, and this is a fact. It is not for nothing that experts refer to the gut-brain axis to indicate this association whereby intestinal health also affects brain health. The mechanisms that determine this connection reside in the gut microbiota, which is the set of bacteria that populate our intestines. In fact, good intestinal bacteria, when the microbiota is well balanced, produce anti-inflammatory substances that can also protect the brain. Conversely, an unbalanced microbiota fuels inflammation that can become neuroinflammation. Not only that, the intestinal microbiota can promote the synthesis of neurotransmitters, such as GABA, which stimulates relaxation and counteracts anxiety, or serotonin, also called the good mood hormone.
Therefore, given these considerations, it has been hypothesized that the intake of some types of probiotics, by bringing balance to the microbiota, can also improve mood and help counteract anxiety. Previous studies have shown that taking a mixture of probiotics of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium type actually brings benefits to mood even if the results have not always been unambiguous and this has made it impossible to define the right dosage and the mixture of probiotics to use. Precisely this conclusion suggests that the response to probiotics is not the same for everyone and that other factors may intervene to determine it. The study we are talking about today sheds light on this aspect.
the synergy between probiotics and lifestyle improves mood, the study
Scientists recruited 135 volunteers between 18 and 65 years old, all healthy. The study participants were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to take, for one month, a mixture of probiotics given by Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum. The second group took a placebo instead. The volunteers underwent tests to evaluate their state of anxiety and their ability to regulate emotions. What emerged is that, at first glance, it is not possible to link the intake of probiotics with an improvement in the emotional and anxious state. This shows that not everyone responds to probiotics the same way. At this point, the scientists went further and also analyzed the diet and lifestyle habits of the volunteers. And it is at this point that the researchers found an interesting result. In fact, the association between a healthy lifestyle and the intake of probiotics creates a synergy that turns out to be the winning combination to effectively improve mood and the ability to regulate emotions and to counteract anxiety, stress and nervousness.
What has been observed shows that our body is a complex mechanism and that it is not enough to take probiotics like a pill to improve mood and counteract anxiety. In order for the body, and the mind, to respond in the best possible way and to have benefits, it is important to follow a healthy lifestyle. Only when the lifestyle is healthy does the intake of probiotics become a valid ally against anxiety. But what is meant by a healthy lifestyle? The scientists of the research we talked about today explain that it is important to eat a balanced diet, which includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, foods containing omega 3, such as oily fish, nuts and flax seeds, and fermented foods. Not only that, a healthy lifestyle also includes moderate physical activity, a contact with nature and green spaces and healthy social contacts, abstaining from smoking and limiting alcohol and refined foods high in sugar. Finally, to improve the response to probiotics we can also eat foods containing prebiotics, which are substances that nourish good intestinal bacteria. Examples of prebiotics are onion, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, leeks, chicory, artichokes and oats.