Several scientific studies have been conducted using an approach to modify the nutrition of subjects to evaluate the association between diet, the gut microbiome and mental health. These studies have linked psychiatric disorders such as depression to changes in the microbiome of the gastrointestinal tract, making probiotics a supportive solution for targeting mental well-being. Probiotics have shown the ability to improve behavior, mood, anxiety, stress, and improve depression-like symptoms (Liu 2019, Del Toro-Barbosa 2020, Tremblay 2021).
Probiotics use to support mental health have their own name: psychobiotics. Both terms (probiotic and pyschobiotic) refer to live microorganisms that, when ingested in adequate amounts, produce a health benefit on the host. For psychobiotics, the health benefit is more precisely geared towards mental health issues. The term psychobiotic has been widely adopted by neuroscientists conducting research on neurodegenerative diseases and depressive disorders, to describe the use of probiotics to tackle depression, stress, anxiety, and other mental health complaints through the brain-gut axis.
What is the most documented psychobiotic for mental health?
Cerebiome® helps alleviate the physical and psychological symptoms of stress and feelings of anxiety to help with mood balance. It is the first and still only probiotic with approved health claim in Canada and in Brazil for those effects. Probiotics’ benefits on mental health range from helping to cope with occasional stress, anxiety-like, depressive-like symptoms, and sleep issues.
Mental health in a nutshell
Mental health is the talk of the town, but do we really know what it means? Mental health encompasses three major components: emotional well-being (to feel positive emotions, to be optimistic, having good self-esteem), social well-being (to develop nourishing relationships), and psychological well-being (to be able to cope well with daily stressors and challenges and bounce back). Consciously or not, we navigate through life, from childhood to the oldest age, trying to maintain these components in relative equilibrium in unremitting quest of this state of well-being. In other words, to live a happy, fulfilling life.
Consequently, an imbalanced mental health can affect how we feel, think, interact, and behave. Over time, neglected mental health can lead to a mental health problem, which includes a range of diagnosed conditions, such as anxiety or depression.
Different strategies can be adopted to optimize mental well-being. Exercising regularly, eating healthy, sleeping sufficiently, maintaining meaningful social interactions, contributing to the community, are actions that can all have a direct impact on mental well-being.
What’s the link between the food we eat and how we feel?
The brain and the gut are physically connected through the vagus nerve. The gut is sometimes referred to as our “second brain”, because of its capacity to work without direct commandment from the brain. An increasing amount of scientific research demonstrates a bi-directional dialogue between our nervous and digestive systems. Eating healthily fuels the whole body, including brain functions. Once in us, nutrients mix with trillions of other absorbed microorganisms: this bacterial community is called the microbiome. Within the microbiome, bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses coexist peacefully in homeostatic state. Moreover, they each play a key role in promoting a healthy state and insuring the smooth running of body operations, from physical to mental health. Nutrients, such as short chain fatty acids from the digestion of carbohydrates by bacteria, will provide energy, will reinforce the immune system, will provide the drive to accomplish various tasks, all this on top of the satisfaction we take from a good meal, hence triggering happy feelings.