As another study on probiotics confirms their ability to improve mental health, we gain another small piece of the puzzle. It is an exciting time for Natural Medicine as scientific enquiry begins to confirm traditional naturopathic health care. Optimising digestive function has been one of the central tenants of naturopathic health care since its inception. In the past the existence of bowel microflora was not known but all naturopathic treatments set about reducing pathogenic bacteria in the gut and providing a diet full of prebiotics which ultimately gave the opportunity for friendly bowel microflora to flourish.
A study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology showed that probiotics reduce depression and increase quality of life. ‘The improvements were associated with changes in brain activation patterns’, stated researchers. Previous studies have shown that probiotics improve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome but had not assessed their impact on the other symptoms of IBS such as depression and anxiety. In clinic our patients repeatedly report back daily that their mood has improved and their IBS symptoms have lessened and ultimately disappeared.
The strain of probiotic studied was Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001. While a diverse array of commensal bacteria is ideal for a healthy GIT microbiome, research shows that particular strains have specific actions in the body that aren’t replicated by another probiotic strain. When choosing a probiotic it is therefore important to check that the patented strain used in a study is noted on the bottle. Without the correct numbers after the name of the strain the consumer cannot be sure that they are actually receiving the strain written on the bottle.
Bifidobacterium longum has been shown to inhibit growth of pathogenic species in the gut and maintain ideal function in the gastrointestinal tract. It has also been studied and shows promising results in relation to reduction of lactose intolerance, lowering cholesterol, diarrhoea prevention and reducing the impact of food allergies.
Probiotics and prebiotics are important parts of a comprehensive, evidence-based naturopathic treatment for irritable bowel syndrome and mild depression and anxiety.