Probiotics for your anxious mind? Study shows a certain strain of bacteria could significantly reduce anxiety

There is no doubt that the hectic pace and demands of modern society foster anxiety. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the United States, affecting more than 40 million people – that’s 18.1 percent – of the population, each year. Statistics indicate that people suffering from anxiety are up to five times more likely to visit the doctor, and six times more likely to be hospitalized for a psychiatric disorder than those who do not suffer with this condition. Anxiety interferes with daily life to an excessive extent, negatively affecting relationships, school work and job performance.

Conventional anxiety treatment often involves the prescribing of anxiolytic or antidepressant medications. While these medications can certainly help in some cases, most are addictive and come with a slew of negative side effects, making many patients hesitant to take them – and rightly so. Fortunately, there are natural alternatives that have proven very effective in the treatment of anxiety. And now a meta analysis published in the journal PloS One has added another potential weapon to the arsenal of natural anxiety medications: the probiotic Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus.

Evidence that probiotics boost mood

Several studies have confirmed a link between probiotic consumption and improved mood. Researchers believe that this is because there is a strong link between the presence of healthy microbes living in the gut and improved physical and mental health. As reported by Psychology Today, a lack of such beneficial microbes in the gut have been linked to the development of depression, Alzheimer’s disease and irritable bowel disease, among other issues. Studies have found that intestinal infections and antibiotic use – both of which destroy beneficial gut bacteria – are associated with the development of anxiety disorders later in life.

With this in mind, the research team analyzed the results of 22 animal trials and 14 human clinical studies to confirm the effects – if any – of probiotic consumption on reduction in anxiety symptoms.

Psychology Today reported on the results of their research:

While researchers could not find conclusive evidence in human studies, they did find that probiotics, particularly those containing Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus, significantly reduced anxiety-like behavior in rodent studies. Probiotics particularly helped rodents exposed to stressful conditions or ones that had intestinal inflammation. …

While Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus is the probiotic strain with the most current data to reduce anxiety, there may be several other strains that could help, but more research is needed to identify these strains. Ongoing research will help unlock the promising potential of probiotics in the treatment of anxiety.

The study’s findings provide yet more evidence of the importance of regular probiotic consumption, especially during and after antibiotic use, to establish and maintain the proper balance of beneficial microbes in the gut. (Related: Using probiotics to prevent or eliminate Candida.)

The best natural sources of probiotics

Of course, probiotic supplements are available for purchase from most drug stores and natural health retailers, but consuming them in food form is another excellent way to ensure your gut microbiome remains healthy. (Related: Adding probiotics to your fruit salad is a delicious way to enjoy a nutrient-dense meal.)

HealthLine provides a list of the best natural sources of probiotics, including:

Yogurt: Be aware that not all yogurt contains live cultures, so be sure to look out for varieties that contain active or live cultures.

Kefir: This fermented probiotic milk drink is an even better source of live cultures than yogurt.

Sauerkraut: This traditional food is made from cabbage that is finely shredded and fermented, and is an excellent source of live cultures as well as several vitamins and minerals. Once again, it is important to choose unpasteurized sauerkraut because the pasteurization process destroys live, active bacteria.

Probiotics offer a myriad health benefits in addition to reducing anxiety, and are well worth including in your daily diet or supplementation program. Learn more about beating anxiety and depression at

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