Probiotics reduce stress levels and anxiety

Probiotics reduce stress levels and anxiety

Probiotics reduce stress levels and anxiety, according to the latest research from University of Missouri.

Probiotics are microorganisms, often called ‘good bacteria.’ They are found in various fresh and fermented foods. Probiotics are believed to be essential to digestive and gut health because they maintain and balance essential bacteria in the digestive tract. The most common forms of probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. They can also be found in supplement form.

The digestive, immune support, weight loss, and skin health benefits of probiotics are well known.

Using a zebrafish model, the researchers examined a common probiotic found in supplements and yogurt to see if it affected stress and anxiety.

The researchers believe that understanding how gut bacteria affects behavior in zebrafish can uncover the way probiotics can affect the human central nervous system.

Zebrafish are an emerging model species for neurobehavioral studies and their use is well-established in drug-screening,” said Aaron Ericsson, director of the MU Metagenomics Center and a research assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology. “Our study has shown that simple probiotics that we normally use to keep our digestive tract in sync, could be beneficial to reducing our stress levels as well.”

The researchers studied how zebrafish behaved after doses of Lactobacillus plantarum, a probiotic often found in supplements and yogurt.

Each day we introduced a different stressor — tests that are validated by other researchers and cause higher anxiety among zebrafish,” said Elizabeth Bryda, professor of veterinary pathobiology in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. “These are common environmental stress patterns, such as isolation stress and temperature change, so it made the tests relevant to humans as well.”

The research team found that the zebrafish who were given the supplements showed less stress.

By measuring the genes associated with stress and anxiety, our tests were able to predict how this common probiotic is able to benefit behavioral responses in these fish,” said Daniel Davis, assistant director of the MU Animal Modeling Core. “Essentially, bacteria in the gut altered the gene expression associated with stress- and anxiety-related pathways in the fish allowing for increased signaling of particular neurotransmitters.”

The researchers also found that the fish spent more time at the top of the tank, instead of the bottom. Fish often stay at the bottom of the tank when they are stressed.

Using zebrafish, we’ve developed a relatively inexpensive platform for testing of other species of bacteria and probiotics and their potential benefit on different systems of the body,” Ericsson said.

The study showing that probiotics reduce stress levels and anxiety was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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1. “Common Probiotics Can Reduce Stress Levels, Lessen Anxiety.” University of Missouri. University of Missouri, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.
2. “Lactobacillus Plantarum Attenuates Anxiety-related Behavior and Protects against Stress-induced Dysbiosis in Adult Zebrafish.” Macmillan Publishers, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

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