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Probiotics to Reduce Anxiety and Mood Disorders

Every year in the United States, doctors write approximately 48 million prescriptions for the anti-anxiety medication Xanax®. One of every ten Americans is on an anti-depressant drug. It is estimated 6.7 percent of Americans suffer from anxiety, and and 18.1 percent from depression.

A recent study found anxiety shortens the length of the telomeres on cells, and advances cellular aging. This is disturbing, because it shows uncontrolled anxiety can shorten your life. Reducing anxiety and mood disorders must be a public health priority.

Because even the most effective medications have unpleasant, and even dangerous side effects, researchers continue to see a safer way to treat mental health conditions. One of the most promising discoveries in this area is that two specific probiotic organisms have shown to cause dramatic reductions in occurence of stress, anxiety and depression. In human studies, these two probiotics have been shown to reduce depression scores by 50 percent in one, and anxiety by 55 percent in another. The two probiotics are Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175.

You might be surprised to hear that a probiotic – which affects the gastrointestinal tract – could affect mental health. However, scientists now know, through multiple studies, that the gut is a “second brain.” In fact, 95 percent of serotonin, the chemical that governs mood, actually lives in the intestines, while only five percent is located in the brain itself.

Until recently, doctors believed mental health disorders were entirely the province of brain function. Traditionally, science believed the brain was the center of thoughts, feelings and behavior.

Now we know the microorganisms that live in the gut affects other parts of the body, including the brain. There are almost 100 trillion individual organisms; they outnumber the cells in the body by a factor of ten, and they possess 100 times as many genes. Clearly, they play a powerful role. The relationship between the gastrointestinal tract and the biochemistry of the brain has given rise to the term “gut-brain axis.”

Introducing these two probiotics into the gastrointestinal tract through supplementation is a potent way to induce changes in brain function, including mood stabilization.

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