Improve the health of the gut microbiota to improve… sleep! Yes, because our gut is connected to our brain and taking probiotics to support good gut bacteria can help fight anxiety, depression and insomnia! This is what emerges from a scientific research published in the journal Nutrients by a Korean team (Lee et al, Nutrients, 2021).
Microbiota and brain
The intestinal microbiota is the set of bacteria that populate the intestine. Good microbiota health affects not only digestion but, research shows, also affects the brain and mental health. In fact, an alteration in the microbiota could cause a different response to stress that leads to anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances. Probiotics are live enzymes capable of overcoming the intestinal barrier and supporting the microbiota, enriching the population of so-called good bacteria. Therefore, it is plausible to expect that taking probiotics can also bring benefits in terms of mood and sleep quality. To date, few studies have explored this aspect. That is why Korean researchers have thought about filling this gap.
Scientists recruited 156 adults, all between the ages of 19 and 65, with anxiety and insomnia problems. The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to take a preparation containing two probiotics, Lactobacillus reuteri and Bifidobacterium adolescentis, every day for two months. The second group, on the other hand, took a placebo for the same period of time. At the beginning, during and at the end of the experiment, the researchers subjected the study participants to tests to assess the quality of sleep, the degree of anxiety and any changes made by probiotics at the microbiota and blood level.
Probiotics counteract anxiety and insomnia
What has emerged is that probiotics have actually modified the intestinal microbiota, favoring the development of good bacteria and counteracting those that could be more harmful. Not only that, in the blood of the volunteers who had taken the probiotics, the indicators of inflammation had decreased, demonstrating that the probiotics were able to counteract the levels of chronic inflammation. And that's not all, at the end of the experiment the group that took the probiotics have a reduction in the symptoms of depression and anxiety and an improvement in the quality of sleep, with a decreased level of insomnia.
So, what we eat also affects mood and sleep quality. Green light therefore to probiotics, taking them both as supplements and as food, for example by eating yoghurt that have probiotics on the label.