Hippocrates was way ahead of his time when he said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Here’s the deal: clinical studies have shown a positive effect on stress-induced stomach-aches when a diet is supplemented with probiotics Lactobacillus helveticus (Swiss cheese, Parmesan and cheddar), and Bifidobacterium longum (yogurt, sauerkraut). Now, there’s also a study in the British Journal of Nutrition that says probiotics can help with mood disorders! In other words, it may be the case that you can improve your depression and anxiety symptoms by balancing out your gut. That’s super exciting news for everyone unhappy with anti-depressants! You have to keep in mind though, the bacteria itself acts as a medication; it’s just not synthetic.
The study enrolled a group of human volunteers, as well as (non-volunteer) lab rats, to find how probiotics influenced anxiety, depression, stress and coping levels. After a two-week probiotic treatment in rats, scientists observed a significant reduction in anxiety-like behaviors. The human subjects receiving a 30-day probiotic ‘treatment’ reported a reduction in stress.
Here’s more evidence of good news: a study in the journal of Gastroenterology tied food ingestion to brain function. Specifically, the focus was on women who ate yogurt regularly. Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, lead author of the study, noted, “Our findings indicate that some of the contents of yogurt may change the way our brain responds to the environment. When we consider the implications of this work, the old sayings ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘gut feelings’ take on new meaning.”
So now we not only know that the mind affects the gut, which can cause stress-induced GI symptoms but that the gut send signals to the brain!
Although it’s still in preliminary stages, I’m ecstatic about the news. I’m not a stranger to depression or anxiety, and I’ve taken medication for both in the past. Over the course of last year, I’ve shifted my focus to health and nutrition, and albeit this is just personal experience, there’s a definite difference between my psychological well-being and stress management. In addition to whole, fresh produce and plenty of yogurt, I also started taking probiotics and a multi-vitamin. I’m sure that doesn’t hurt.
Feature Photo: Annie Leibovitz for Vogue UK ‘Hansel & Gretel