Probiotics can help improve digestive health by offering your body a dose of beneficial bacteria. But gastrointestinal improvement may only be the start of what probiotics can do, if current research is any indication.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri sought to determine whether there is a connection between a probiotic's effect on gut microbes and the body's central nervous system. The researchers gave zebrafish doses of Lactobacillus plantarum, which is commonly found in yogurt and many probiotic pills. They then introduced certain environmental stressors to this group of fish and a control group. These included draining water from the tanks in order to make the fish feel more crowded.
"These are common environmental stress patterns, such as isolation stress and temperature change, so it made the tests relevant to humans as well," explained Elizabeth Bryda, professor of veterinary pathobiology in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.
The results were positive. The zebrafish that had been given the probiotic handled stress better, and exhibited fewer of the metabolic pathways that are typically associated with stress. But there were also more obvious signs that something had changed. The fish spent less time in the bottom of their tanks, while those that were stressed tended to do the opposite.
Researchers believe that their adjusted gut bacteria may have actually altered the gene expression of stress in the fish. The result was that there was higher signaling of certain neurotransmitters that lowered stress.
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