Gut Bacteria Balance Decreases Anxiety Symptoms, Finds New Study

The gut houses millions of bacteria and while some of these are good, some are bad as well. For optimal health, the good and the bad bacteria need to be in a balance. This balance can be regulated by taking probiotics which are friendly bacteria that combat bad ones. Probiotics can be consumed as part of an alteration in one’s diet or by taking a probiotic supplement.

A new study has found out that both probiotic as well as non-probiotic sources which can improve gut health can reduce anxiety symptoms. Let’s dive into the details of this research below.

What Did This Study Reveal?

A new study which has been published in the journal General Psychiatry says that regulating the bacteria that thrives in the gut by eating foods that may help do so can reduce anxiety symptoms. This is not a new finding, in fact, it has been previously established that anxiety as well as some other mood disorders can be alleviated by balancing gut microbiome.

Anxiety is a medical condition which is characterized by extreme fear, apprehension, worry, and nervousness. Stats reveal that 18.1% of the American population every year is effected by anxiety and though there are easily available treatment options for it, only 36.9% of people receive help. It is known that the gut is connected to a number of systems in the body including the immune system, the central nervous system, and the digestive system.

It is connected to the brain via the gut-brain axis. When the gut microbiome is in a balance, brain health is benefited. But when it is not, one may have to suffer through side effects such as stress, symptoms of anxiety, etc. A bunch of researchers from the Shanghai Mental Health Center at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School conducted this later research to see what scientific support was there for this link between anxiety and gut health.

For this purpose, they looked at 21 studies involving an aggregate of 1,503 people. Of these, 14 studies used probiotics to maintain a healthy gut bacteria environment while 7 made dietary adjustments for improving gut health. Of all the 21 studies, 11 showed that improving gut microbiome balance with or without the use of probiotics worked to decrease anxiety which means 52% of the studies in this research showed the approach to be helpful.

Researchers also found that non-probiotic sources were more helpful than probiotic ones in this regard, though the cause behind this couldn’t be established. Most of the studies that were analyzed didn’t show any negative side effects associated with the change of gut balance. However, some did show adverse effects, mild ones, such as diarrhea and dry mouth.

Researchers said, “There are two kinds of interventions (probiotic and non-probiotic interventions) to regulate intestinal microbiota, and it should be highlighted that the non-probiotic interventions were more effective than the probiotic interventions. More studies are needed to clarify this conclusion since we still cannot run meta-analysis so far.”