Mood-enhancing Bacteria: A New Possibility for Treating Mood Disorders With Probiotics

  • Nature's Source

Probiotics have quickly become a hot topic in health food stores as well as in the medical community; even psychiatrists may very soon turn to these beneficial bugs for another unique application. Along with research to support probiotics in the treatment of gastrointestinal infections, seasonal allergies, and for constipation or diarrhea, new research now suggests that probiotics may help you feel happier and less anxious!


The Gut and the Brain Talk to Each Other?!

The connection between bacteria and mood seems farfetched at first, but a lot of scientific interest has focused on the “gut-brain axis”, a seemingly two-way highway in which the state of gut health directly impacts the brain and vice versa. This might make more intuitive sense if we look at some simple and obvious examples of this relationship at play in our own experiences. Can you remember the last time you got “butterflies in your stomach “or when you had to do public speaking in front of a big crowd and you had to run to the bathroom beforehand?! Just ask people with irritable bowel syndrome about the gut-brain connection, they’ll tell you their symptoms get way worse under stress. Turns out the gut can talk back. We see this clinically in people with liver failure as their mood and brain function can deteriorate dramatically.

It’s Complicated but Fascinating!

It turns out our gut bacteria can manufacture neurotransmitters, chemicals that send important messages throughout the body and in particular through our nervous system and brain, from dietary amino acids. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, GABA, and dopamine, which play pivotal roles in promoting mood, relaxation and motivation all, seem to be positively influenced by probiotic consumption. Additionally, what may prove to be a more valuable role of the beneficial bugs is their ability to reduce inflammation in the brain, having direct consequences on brain activity and the expression of certain behaviours such as anxiety, fear and sadness!

We don’t fully understand it yet, but what we do know is that when we look at the intestinal bacteria in people who suffer from depression or anxiety, they tend to have different proportions and types of bacterial strains compared to those without mood disorders. When we dig a little deeper we learn from animal studies that germ-free mice, mice lacking bacteria altogether, have much higher rates of cortisol (the stress hormone), and experience greater levels of fear, anxiety and depression. That’s pretty cool! Even cooler is what happens when we give probiotic strains to people with mood disorders. Probiotics have now demonstrated effectiveness in major and moderate depression, social anxiety and improving the response to stress in human clinical trials. Exciting stuff!

Where Can I Get My Hands on These Bugs?

I’m excited to tell you that for the first time in Canada, we have a specific probiotic formula designed to improve mood and support healthy stress response! The new Dr. Formulated Mood Plus by Garden of Life contains two strains that have been studied in numerous trials demonstrating improvements in mood, stress and anxiety. Dr. David Perlmutter, a well-known integrative neurologist and author of the best-selling book Brain Maker, developed the formulation, which includes Ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic herb with stress reducing properties, and Wild Alaskan berries which have been shown to boost mood &cognitive function. You can pick up Mood Plus today at any of our Nature’s Source or Nature’s Signature locations!