There are numerous digestive health benefits of probiotics which include management of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), help with diarrhea that may occur if person is traveling or using antibiotics, if person is constipated, or would like to feel less bloated. In addition to digestive health benefits, research shows that probiotics can aid in oral and skin health, improve immune system, control weight fluctuations and reduce cholesterol.
Majority of bacterial cells in the human body are found in the intestinal tract and they serve many different purposes including production of certain vitamins (vitamin K), aiding in food digestion and regulation of immune system. Other parts of the body besides intestine that contain these bacterial cells would be skin and lungs, just to name a couple. It may be odd to think that intestine has its own separate nervous system, but that is exactly the case and scientists believe that intestine nervous system communicates with brain nervous system and both produce same neurotransmitters (including serotonin). As scientists believe that the brain and the gut can communicate, it is very likely that anxiety and depression may actually induce abdominal pain or other gastrointestinal symptoms, such as constipation or diarrhea. Or vice versa, that chronic constipation or abdominal pain may send triggers from the gut to the brain and result in depression and anxiety.
New studies have shown that eating the good bacteria found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir, may decrease or eliminate anxiety or depression. Results of the studies are mixed. Some suggest that there may be mild benefits of taking probiotics if you have depression or anxiety, other studies showed that it made no difference whether person was taking probiotics or not.
While studies are still undergoing and research needs to be done more extensively, the bottom line is that if you have a depression or anxiety you may take probiotics as they are relatively safe to take and they may help to the overall well-being. Probiotics can be added to daily foods that one should eat, and they are by no means a substitute for a cognitive behavioural therapy or other type of psychotherapy or approved drugs that are used in treatment of anxiety or depression. Further research is required to determine what strains of good bacteria would be the best in treatment of anxiety and depression along with its dosage required in order to adequately treat these mental disorders.
In the meantime, you may enrich your daily diet with yogurt and kefir that are probiotics that have dairy origin or sauerkraut and kimchi that are probiotics that have plant origin (fermented cabbage). If you have food allergies or intolerances, read the ingredient list before consuming as some probiotics may contain gluten, soy or milk. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist if you are unsure how much of probiotics you should consume a day and do not exceed recommended dose.