In recent years, neuroscientists have become increasingly interested in the idea that there may be a powerful link between the human brain and gut bacteria. And while a growing body of research has provided evidence of the brain-gut connection, most of these studies so far have been conducted on animals.
Now, promising new research from neurobiologists at Oxford University offers some preliminary evidence of a connection between gut bacteria and mental health in humans. The researchers found that supplements designed to boost healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract (“prebiotics”) may have an anti-anxiety effect insofar as they alter the way that people process emotional information.
While probiotics consist of strains of good bacteria, prebiotics are carbohydrates that act as nourishment for those bacteria. With more evidence that gut bacteria may exert some influence on brain function and mental health, probiotics and prebiotics are being studied for the potential alleviation of anxiety and depression symptoms.