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Can Probiotics Help You With Stress?

girl eating yogurt
Over at Fit Bottomed Girls, we’re focusing a bit on unplugging and lowering our stress levels (we’ve even got an FBG Unplug Challenge that we’d love for you to check out!), and while there are plenty of actions you can take to get your stress under control (meditation, deep breaths, focusing on what you can control rather than what you cannot), there’s something pretty simple you might be able to do, and it even tastes good: Consume your probiotics!
A study that came out in 2011 and came to my attention recently via Peak Health Advocate showed that the probiotics Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175 (PF) taken in combination for 30 days resulted in decreased levels of anxiety and depression in human volunteers.
If that seems like a strange correlation to you, bear with me for a moment — it’s not as random as it might seem. Researchers believed that stress might disrupt the balance of intestinal microbiota, making it easy for various diseases to occur. Probiotics help to prevent that imbalance, and so they would not be as likely to experience the digestive discomfort that one who is dealing with that imbalance and those diseases would. And, you know, when your body feels good, that contributes to your general well-being. But does that really affect your mood? Does that really help you to feel less stress?
Researchers also concluded (although with less certainty) that the answer may come down to gut-brain signaling, meaning that your gut and your brain are closely connected, so gastrointestinal functions and emotions would also be closely tied.
Others believed that the probiotics have anti-inflammatory properties, and they could affect the way the brain processes emotions like anger, stress and anxiety. Or, it could have to do with a reduction of a neurotransmitter associated with pain and inflammation (Substance P) in your stomach, or it could be the way the probiotics react with specific targets in the central nervous system, or it could have to do with the way they regulate glycemic control.
If researchers don’t know, I certainly don’t have a solid answer for you, although considering the tests administered to test the effects of probiotics and stress (Hopkins Symptom Checklist, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Perceived Stress Scale, Coping Checklist, Hopkins Symptom Checklist and 24-Hour Urinary Free Cortisol), I can say with certainty that it’s probably not a bad idea to chow down on that yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha or your supplements!
Do you regularly ingest probiotics? Have you noticed any difference in your mood or stress level? —Kristen

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