So much for a last taste of summer: This Labor Day, I came down with the flu. A lot more time than I’d like to admit was spent curled up with The Hunger Games (yes, I’m completely hooked)–but I also finally had a chance to catch up on a whole lot of missed episodes of NPR’s Science Friday. Along the way, I found a great piece of news to pass along.
According to a new report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, mice who were fed a specific strain of probiotic exhibited fewer signs of anxiousness, had lower counts of stress hormones, and even experienced changes in the parts of their brains. Incredible, right?
There’s been a lot of talk about the gut-brain connection over the years (some scientists even refer to our digestive system as a mini-brain), and this study seems to provide further evidence that those two systems communicate through more channels than previously imagined. I really liked the way one of the researchers explained the new discovery: When we’ve got food poisoning, “bad” bacteria talk to our brains to tell us to be sick. This finding is a case of “good” bacteria helping our brains be well. (Given how rotten I was feeling, this spoke volumes to me.)
As with all animal studies, there’s no way to know exactly how this translates to humans. Notably, too, all probiotics work differently, and the lactobacillus strain used in this experiment isn’t even commercially available. But I think the findings are worth watching. And they’re definitely motivating me to keep taking probiotics for all their known benefits. For people (like me), who’re just starting to dabble with all the options out there, I thought a little informal poll might be helpful. So let’s hear it: Do you take probiotics? And if so, what strains/brands do you use?