It’s no great secret that a healthy digestive tract equals greater overall health, but you may be surprised by just how true this really is. A new MRI study has shown that regular ingestion of probiotics will impact one’s brain activity positively, reducing anxiety and negative emotions.
The study, published by Gastroenterology, tracked 36 women over the course of 4 weeks. Twice daily, 12 of these women ate a serving of yogurt containing the probiotics Bifidobacterium animalis subsp Lactis, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Lactococcus lactis subsp Lactis. The remaining women participating in the study ate either non-fermented yogurt, or no yogurt at all. (It’s also worth noting that the study was funded by Danone Research).
The participants underwent fMRI exams both before and after the 4-week period. Each woman was asked to view photographs of different faces, and to press a button if any of the photographs made her feel fear or frustration. Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, lead author of the study, and her team of researchers noted that after only a week of an addition of probiotics to the diet, the 12 women who had been taking them felt calmer and less likely to respond to outside stimuli with a negative viewpoint.
“This study is unique because it is the first to show an interaction between a probiotic and the brain in humans,” says Dr. Tillisch. “We can’t say whether the effects are beneficial; that will take larger studies with more complex designs. One of the areas this will move to is study of disease groups like irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety.”
Probiotics have previously been linked to cessation of anxiety in other studies involving mice. These new findings may serve as the basis for more studies whose ultimate function is to locate natural treatments for mental health issues. Probiotics can be found in supplement form or in fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi.