Scientists Say Prebiotics Might Help Battle Anxiety And Depression

It is not uncommon for anxiety and depression to occur together. People who feel depressed are also likely to experience bouts of anxiety, and vice versa. The symptoms and cause of these two mental health issues are well-studied by psychologists and psychiatrists, but the cure behind these debilitating conditions remains a mystery to most experts. Symptom-controlling drugs don’t fully rid a person of these conditions, while psychotherapies are often hit or miss. Fortunately, studies continue to show promising results that may solve long-asked questions about anxiety and depression cures.

A recent mental health study is shedding light on an unlikely source that may possibly give answers to psychiatry’s million-dollar question. Early evidence of a connection between gut bacteria and mental health has already been established, although scientists are wary of any final conclusions regarding the relationship between the two.

A study conducted by English scientists seems to strengthen the gut bacteria-mental health connection. According to results acquired by Oxford University’s department of psychiatry, consumption of “good bacteria” called probiotics or prebiotics (good bacteria food) proved to be beneficial in battling bouts of anxiety and depression.

According to Live Science, the study consisted of 45 healthy people aged 18 to 45, who were tasked to take in prebiotics or a placebo each day for three weeks. A computer test was done at the end of the study to assess the subject’s emotional responses to positive or negative words.

The researchers found that people who took prebiotics paid less attention to the negative words, focusing instead on positive stimuli. The placebo group, on the other hand, didn’t discriminate between the positive and negative words. Similar results come from those who took depression and anxiety medications, suggesting that the consumption of prebiotics might actually be akin to the efficacy of anxiolytics in controlling the symptoms of anxiety and depressive conditions.

Additionally, those who took prebiotics had less cortisol levels in their saliva compared to the placebo group. Cortisol is a hormone connected to stress, anxiety, and depression.

This made scientists wonder if probiotics and prebiotics could be the holy grail cure for anxiety and depression. However, experts warn against immediate conclusions, saying that further investigations into the real link between the two is needed to arrive at a proper conclusion.

Despite clear evidence that intestinal bacteria are playing a role in one’s mental state, psychologists haven’t discovered the nature of the relationship between the two. Some believe that the connection is established in the immune system. Gut bacteria affects the immune system, which in turn influences mental health. Nevertheless, most answers remain as conjectures and further study into the matter is required to arrive at a precise answer.

[Image from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory/Flickr]