Psychobiotics are probiotics (i.e. intestinal bacteria) that can influence the psyche and are intended to help with mental illness. These microorganisms can influence our mood via the gut-brain axis. Bacteria that promise high psychobiotic potential are primarily strains from the genera Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Prebiotics can support these bacterial strains in their work and also prevent inflammation that can otherwise be associated with depressive moods. This is why synbiotics (the combination of probiotics and prebiotics) are of particular interest to scientists. However, research on psychobiotics is still in its infancy, but represents a fast-growing and extremely promising area of research.
Deep Dive - what exactly is it about?
The fact that our intestinal microbiome not only influences our digestion, but also influences a large number of our body systems and, above all, is in constant communication with our brain, is now considered proven. Because the microorganisms in our intestines influence the processes in our brain. Interesting connections between certain psychological and neurological problems and intestinal disorders have now been identified. For example, people with irritable bowel are also more likely to be depressed, people with Parkinson's disease are prone to constipation, and people with autism spectrum disorders are also more likely to suffer from digestive problems. We have often dealt in detail with the so-called gut-brain axis. Psychobiotics are probiotics that have a positive effect on the psyche when administered in the right amount. The term was only coined in 2012, so this branch of research is still very young, but is growing rapidly and is considered very promising - rightly so, we think! That's why we want to give you a little insight into some of the scientific knowledge that has been available so far and the potential that pro- and prebiotics have in this context!
And how do they work?
The ways in which our body systems communicate with each other are extremely complex, so it is assumed that psychobiotics also work in many different ways. On the one hand, they enable, for example, the synthesis of certain neurotransmitters that influence our behavior, including serotonin, which is known as the happiness hormone. On the other hand, they can regulate our stress response by preventing excessive release of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, psychobiotics can reduce inflammatory processes in the body and at the same time increase glutathione, a protein that is known for its strong antioxidant properties and can therefore prevent inflammation, among other things. Increased permeability of the intestinal mucosa is often associated with increased inflammatory activity in the body. This permeability can increase, for example, under acute stress. It is therefore assumed that this fact is also an explanation for the increased inflammation values measured in people suffering from depression or anxiety disorders.
Which bacterial strains have psychobiotic potential?
Intriguingly, most of the potential is attributed to bacteria of the genera Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, particularly species B. breve and b. longum, of which various specific strains are also contained in the Dailybacs, and the species L. rhamnosus and L. plantarum. Strains from this species are also found in the Dailybacs. Bifidobacteria appear to be able to prevent inflammatory reactions and are able to increase tryptophan levels in the body. This also makes them interesting for research into psychobiotics, because depressive symptoms are associated, among other things, with a lack of tryptophan - a precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is probably why tryptophan can have a calming effect and lift the spirits.
Like all bacteria useful for humans, the little helpers benefit if they are "fed" with prebiotics. Prebiotics can reduce the permeability of the intestinal mucosa and thus prevent possible inflammation, which, as already mentioned, is observed in patients with depressive or anxious moods, among other things. Particularly interesting as prebiotics in the psychobiotic context are fructooligosaccharides (FOS) - a polysaccharide that is part of the dietary fiber and is found in chicory, for example - and galactooligosaccharides (GOS), which are found in breast milk, for example. (By the way, we also use chicory root extract in the Dailybacs as an effective prebiotic.) It has been observed in both animals and humans that prebiotics from the Bimuno-GOS group (B-GOS) can positively influence emotional and cognitive processes. B-GOS, in turn, primarily promotes the helpful bifidobacteria.
All these findings lead researchers to the assumption that synbiotics, as a combination of pre- and probiotics, can be particularly interesting when it comes to psychobiotics. For example, it has been observed that synbiotics significantly reduce the so-called tumor necrosis factor TNF-α, which can trigger inflammation in increased numbers. And this effect lasts for several months after the treatment. This finding could not only help patients with inflammatory bowel disease, but also those suffering from mental illnesses. We can certainly look forward to further studies and findings in this area!
Psychobiotics as antidepressants?
In experiments on rats that were treated partly with antidepressants and partly with probiotics, comparable results could already be observed. However, since the data situation is still very sparse at the moment, psychobiotics do not yet represent a treatment alternative in humans. Too many questions are still open, which specific strains of bacteria can be helpful in which dosage and how they work in detail. It is not yet possible to say whether psychobiotics can be prescribed instead of conventional antidepressants in the future. A major advantage over classic antidepressants would be that, unlike these drugs, probiotics and prebiotics have hardly any side effects. In any case, the results so far are fascinating and scientists are (cautiously) optimistic! Taking medication or supplements can, after consultation with a doctor or therapist, complement psychotherapy, but not replace it!
Practical application - Use the gut-brain axis today:
It has already been proven that the microbiome can not only influence our intestines, but also our entire body including our brain. We also use this starting point for our products such as the Dailybacs or our Good Mood AddOn. The numerous strains of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria as well as the prebiotics of the Dailybacs are supplemented with our Good Mood AddOn by ashwagandha, saffron extract, vitamins and 5-HTP, which contributes to the formation of serotonin. In this way you are doing something good for your intestines and your mood. Because your intestines are the engine of health - if your intestines are not in balance, nutrients cannot be properly absorbed and therefore cannot be utilized by the body. The Dailybacs therefore provide the basis for a balanced intestinal flora and ensure that nutrients can be optimally absorbed. In addition, you can always support your body and mind with a balanced, high-fiber diet, exercise and meditation. This is a natural way to increase your overall physical and mental well-being!
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6255950/ Bambury A, Sandhu K, Cryan JF, Dinan TG. Finding the needle in the haystack: systematic identification of psychobiotics. Br J Pharmacol. 2018;175(24):4430-4438. doi:10.1111/bph.14127
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521058/ Bermúdez-Humarán LG, Salinas E, Ortiz GG, Ramirez-Jirano LJ, Morales JA, Bitzer-Quintero OK. From Probiotics to Psychobiotics: Live Beneficial Bacteria Which Act on the Brain-Gut Axis. nutrients. 2019;11(4):890. Published 2019 Apr 20. doi:10.3390/nu11040890
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5102282/ Sarkar A, Lehto SM, Harty S, Dinan TG, Cryan JF, Burnet PWJ. Psychobiotics and the Manipulation of Bacteria Gut-Brain Signals. Trends Neurosci. 2016;39(11):763-781. doi:10.1016/j.tins.201609.002