Probiotics can reduce stress, UCC team finds
Good bacteria can be beneficial for your gut - now researchers have discovered they can reduce stress as well.
Scientists at University College Cork (UCC) discovered that a special kind of probiotic may help reduce stress, improve memory function, and even counteract symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
A probiotic is a supplement containing live bacteria that provides health benefits.
Their study was published only yesterday at the prestigious Neuroscience 2015, a global meeting about brain science and health.
Previously, the team of 10 researchers, led by Dr Gerard Clarke of the Department of Psychiatry and Neuro-Behavioural Science and the APC Microbiome Institute at UCC, had discovered that a particular strain of bacteria reduced stress, anxiety, and depressive-like behaviours in mice.
To see whether the strain Bifidobacterium longum 1714 would have similar effects on humans, the scientists had 22 healthy male volunteers take the probiotic strain daily for four weeks and a placebo for another four weeks.
"One of the things we're interested in is how bacteria in the gut can impact on our mood - they can influence our emotions and the way we think, and how we can translate this into the development of something that is meaningful from a clinical perspective," explained Dr Clarke.
"We looked at the concept of a psycho-biotic. This is a bacteria that can potentially be of benefit for patients with stress-related disorders."
Over the course of their four weeks on the psycho-biotic, Dr Clarke says, the 22 males filled in a daily online questionnaire about their stress levels.
"Then we brought them into the laboratory and checked their stress response.
"We found that the psycho-biotic reduced the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) produced in the body following a stressful activity. This tied in with what they had reported on the questionnaire."
The benefits of this psycho-biotic may hold the promise of a new treatment for stress-related disorders.
However, he emphasises, the research is still at a very early stage. "Depression is a very typical stress-related disorder with high levels of cortisol, so we believe this psycho-biotic could be of benefit because it actively reduces cortisol levels in the body."
The main author of the study, Dr Andrew Allen, says the team is excited about the long-term potential of the study.
"This research shows a single probiotic can alter central nervous system processes such as stress and memory in humans," he said.