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Could ‘psychobiotics’ be the new antidepressant?

Pshycobiotics
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You’ve heard me talk before about the two way communication between your gut and your brain (the gut-brain axis): how what goes on in your GM can influence your mood. Now, new science builds on this idea.

What on earth are ‘Psychobiotics’?

The word ‘psychobiotics’ was introduced by Irish scientists in 2013, to mean types of probiotics that can help people dealing with some mental illnesses. More recently, the same scientists are seeking to broaden the term out, so that it encapsulates prebiotics + other ways that your GM can be changed, with the aim of improving your mental health.

The thinking is that specific psychobiotics might be able to help you handle stress, dial down feelings of anxiety and even aid those with depression.

Is there evidence?

Some. A review of existing studies examining the use of probiotics for depression found that they were associated with a reduction in symptoms of the condition, for example.

How exciting – what psychobiotic should I take?

Not so fast. We’re still a way from really gripping the exact ways that all of this works, and what treatment plans using psychobiotics might look like. We still need more large scale human studies – these are currently underway! – before we can make specific recommendations, basically. Plus, mental health conditions are super complicated and it’s unlikely that this will be a ‘quick fix’ for conditions.

So, what do I do?

Look, this is exciting and COULD end up redefining how we treat and manage mental health conditions. While we figure this all out, though, I think the key is to take this as a reminder of how important a happy gut is.

Nourish your GM by:

  1. Eating a diverse, plant-based diet (remember that isn’t necessarily plants-only)
  2. Relaxing your gut-brain axis with deep breathing, yoga and meditation
  3. Getting enough sleep
  4. Making time to move your body

(Image: Sarkar et al.)