In humans, the relationship between gut microbes and mental health is beginning to become clear, and even more its direct relationship with gut flora is becoming more apparent.
A healthy intestinal flora can be very beneficial in improving the mental health of the patient, since the relationship between the intestines and the responses of the brain are very close.
A new study published in Psychopharmacology suggests that encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria helps modulate the way we process information and could perhaps help ease anxiety and depression.
Benefits of the intestinal flora to improve mental health
There are probiotics ("good" bacteria), and then there are "prebiotics", ingestible fibers that help increase the growth of our intestinal flora. Researchers are increasingly interested in knowing if it could be used (and how) to improve the patient's response to psychiatric drugs by improving the quality of the intestinal flora.
So, to study the effects of prebiotics on the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol, Philip Burnet of the University of Oxford, and his colleagues recruited 45 people between the ages of 18 and 45 to ingest either type. of prebiotics or a placebo every day.
At the end of the three-week treatment period, the volunteers completed several computerized tasks that allowed the team to assess how they processed emotionally salient information - and whether they were biased toward the positive or the negative. The researchers also sampled the cortisol levels in the participants' saliva after waking up in the morning - called the "salivary cortisol response on waking" - before and after the prebiotic (or placebo) was administered.
Influence of intestinal flora on mental health
Compared to the control group, people who took prebiotics and improved their gut flora tended to pay more attention to positive information, and their salivary cortisol response on waking was significantly lower.
The findings suggest that those in the prebiotic group have "less anxiety about negative or threatening stimuli," Burnet told Live Science. However, they did not find any change in the recruits' self-perceived levels of stress and anxiety. This could have been due to the short period of time they were on prebiotics; he adds.
This suppression of the stress response is consistent with previous findings of microbiota changes, although researchers are not yet sure how these changes might be affecting the brain. According to Burnet, gut bacteria may be affecting the immune system, which, in turn, could be influencing the brain.
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