A team of experts at the Shanghai Mental Health Centre at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine set out to investigate the role that gut bacteria plays in maintaining our mental wellbeing.
Of all the papers they analysed, 14 chose probiotics to regulate the intestinal microbiome, while 7 chose alternative methods (e.g. adopting a diverse diet.) In over 50 per cent of the studies, this approach proved useful in reducing symptoms of anxiety.
And while non-probiotic interventions were found to be more effective than taking a probiotic supplement alone (which could be because different foods = the growth of different strains of gut bacteria), both had a significant impact.
“We find that more than half of the studies included showed it was positive to treat anxiety symptoms by regulation of intestinal microbiota,” the researchers added.
“There are two kinds of interventions (probiotic and non-probiotic interventions) to regulate intestinal microbiota, and it should be highlighted that the non-probiotic interventions were more effective than the probiotic interventions.”
More research needs to be done to clarify what this means for the treatment of mental health issues going forward. Still, the researchers suggest that in addition to regular medication, we look at “regulating intestinal flora to alleviate anxiety symptoms.”