We’ve all seen the advertisements that ardently boast the magical health benefits of probiotics, be it found in yogurt or sauerkraut.  Naturally, the question that I want to tackle today is:

Do probiotics significantly contribute to mental health?

For those who are unfamiliar with probiotics, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), probiotics are:

Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.

In other words, they’re good bacteria.  They function and affect the central nervous system by cruising up a highway (called the “vague nerve”) that connects our jelly belly with our brain, which is why our gut is sometimes considered our “second brain.”   Consequently, after you ferociously devour that entire bucket of finger lickin’ fried chicken, you’ll feel like a drugged-out blob.

Curious like me, researchers at University College Cork and Brain-Body Institute of McMaster University studied the effects of probiotics on mice.  If you’re wondering why mice, it’s because they have a nervous system that is very similar to ours (oh, the things you learn from Big Bang Theory).  The conclusion was simple:  the mice given the probiotics displaced fewer behaviours associated with stress, depression, and anxiety compared to the mice that didn’t receive probiotics.  An indicator was that the treatment group showed lower levels of corticosterone, a stress-induced hormone.  They also exhibited positive changes in receptors for GABA – a brain neurotransmitter that regulates anxiety and helps induce relaxation and sleep.

The Answer?

Yes, probiotics help with your mood.

However, it’s still too early to define probiotics as a way to manage depression and anxiety.  Nonetheless, here’s a list of probiotic-rich foods:

Yogurt

Kefir

Sauerkruat

Dark Chocolate

Microalgae

Miso Soup

Pickles

Tempeh

Kimchi (!!!!!!!)

Kombucha Tea