The Surprising Link Between Gut Bacteria and Anxiety

In recent years, there’s been an increasing interest in the possible link between the brain and gut bacteria. While a growing body of research provides evidence of this connection, most studies have been conducted on animals.

However, new research on humans conducted by Oxford University neurobiologists offers some evidence of a connection between gut bacteria and mental health. Among the findings, supplements designed to increase healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract (“prebiotics”) may have an anti-anxiety effect. More pointedly, this research examined how these supplements may alter the way people process emotional information.

Researchers found that subjects who took prebiotics had lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone linked with anxiety and depression) in their saliva upon waking up in the morning.

“Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,” said Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, one of the study’s lead authors. “Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”

It’s important to note that the Oxford study is only preliminary, leading to more research that examines this potential link. But it does establish a strong foundation for further studies on the subject.

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