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Probiotics...better than valium?
March 21, 2013 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Why the bacteria in food like yogurt may be the answer to anxiety and depression. Probiotic-rich food is good for your gut, but it may also be good for your brain, say researchers.
posted by cherrybounce (51 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe the mice were just pleased to have healthy poops. I know that it pleases me.
posted by angrycat at 6:40 AM on March 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


The paper.
posted by Segundus at 6:43 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had to go on a huge course of some nasty antibotics to rid myself of a months-long sinus infection and it certainly did make me depressed and withdrawn.

Mostly cause of the terrible cramps and wildly unpredictable bathroom breaks keeping me on the couch for weeks.
posted by The Whelk at 6:50 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


FLATOW: And so people are going to want to say, of course, and I'm sure you've been asked: Should I go out and eat a lot of yogurt with bacteria in it, and will it have the same effect?

CRYAN: So what I want to impress on the listeners today from this study is that its just early days. This is the effects of one specific bacteria, one specific lactobacillus strain. And we're learning a lot about how these bacteria affect health and physiology, but we also know there's lots of difference between the different strains.

And so, this one isn't one that is currently commercially available in your supermarket. So it's different, although, you know, it's not unrelated to some of the ones that are there. But it is - we haven't tested this one in any human population yet.

posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:02 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had to go on a huge course of some nasty antibotics to rid myself of a months-long sinus infection and it certainly did make me depressed and withdrawn.

Were you not told to take probiotics?
I have been, every time I have taken antibotics in the last 15 years.

But I have never had any side effects from either, that I know of.

People tend to be down when on antibotics because they're sick.
posted by Mezentian at 7:04 AM on March 21, 2013


Are not the claimed health benefits of commercial probiotic drinks etc not highly debatable?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:05 AM on March 21, 2013


Are not the claimed health benefits of commercial probiotic drinks etc not highly debatable?

Yes they're not... er, no, they are...er, uhm. I dunno.

I'm confused.
posted by Floydd at 7:09 AM on March 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


Are not the claimed health benefits of commercial probiotic drinks etc not highly debatable?

Yes and no. If the problem you are suffering from is lack of a proper balance of probiotics in the gut, and the product you consume actually contains what you are missing, then the effects will probably be beneficial. But if you aren't, on either count, then it won't do anything.

I certainly know that I feel worse when my blood sugar is all out of regulation, and one way that happens is to have not-optimal digestive health. Slow and steady wins the digestive race.
posted by gjc at 7:26 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Previously
posted by stoneweaver at 7:33 AM on March 21, 2013


Aren't probiotics basically fibre and would it not therefore be as effective if you just ate a lot of raw veg?
posted by Segundus at 7:36 AM on March 21, 2013


Probiotics are definitely not fibre. Fibre is entirely different.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:42 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wonder if any of these initial findings would be applicable to those getting fecal transplants.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:42 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, Segundus. You're possibly thinking of prebiotics (but who knows). Have another carrot, though, by all means.
posted by Segundus at 7:43 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Maybe the mice were just pleased to have healthy poops. I know that it pleases me.

I have this fragment of a memory of reading a novel or article about the Vietnam war where one of the things mentioned to highlight the misery of the situation was that the soldiers, because of endemic diarrhoea, were denied the basic pleasure of a good solid bowel movement. When I read it I had never ever thought of it as a basic pleasure but then I thought to myself, "Yes, that is true". It was a precursor to the ordinary living unspoken truth observation memes that are popular now.
posted by srboisvert at 7:45 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, Segundus. You're possibly thinking of prebiotics (but who knows). Have another carrot, though, by all means.
posted by Segundus


What just happened here?
posted by ook at 7:58 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Learning. Learning happened. Sometimes it makes people disassociate and refer to themselves in the third person. In addition to making better dietary choices.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:04 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I speak in the 3rd person because I am talking for my microbes.
posted by The Whelk at 8:06 AM on March 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


"If the problem you are suffering from is lack of a proper balance of probiotics in the gut, and the product you consume actually contains what you are missing, then the effects will probably be beneficial."

This is such a huge point. I see this happen with so many findings... "latent viral infection might be associated with depression BUT 90 percent of people with depression don't have any latent viral infection so therefore now we no longer think latent viral infection is the cause of depression."

The problem here is seeing "depression" as an actual disease entity. It's not. It's a set of symptoms (that range HUGELY in specifics) and have many different origins and causes.

Probiotics- this one researched and likely others with likely benefit depressive symptoms that are the result of poor gut health. Brain functioning problems that are the result of a hormone imbalance or poor liver functioning or lung damage or adrenal malfunctioning will not be as benefited. The body is a system and imbalances in one area upsets the functioning of other areas of the body.
posted by xarnop at 8:09 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is... Is The Whelk actually Segundus' gut microbes?
posted by IAmBroom at 8:10 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sometimes it makes people disassociate and refer to themselves in the third person.

He does that a lot.
posted by Segundus at 8:11 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


You will have done that soon.
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I remember when I was prescribed antibiotics in Korea I was also given prescription probiotics. The last time I was prescribed antibiotics in the U.S., I asked about probiotics and I was laughed at by the doctor.

By the way, kimchi is rich in probiotics.
posted by needled at 8:13 AM on March 21, 2013


Through a lucky reading of askmetafilter I recently learned about the possible benefits of psyllium fiber as a diet supplement. Your mileage is gonna vary I am 99.9999% certain because if everybody's digestion system complex reacted in the manner that mine does then everybody in the freaking world would be consuming this stuff once a day. (I stir it into a cup of yogurt at breakfast.)

In my experience it is the magic elixir of pleasant pooping.
posted by bukvich at 8:14 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


The ooks mayan understand on-when any minute for a long time now.
posted by ook at 8:27 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Designer gut microbes, to pair with sanitized, industrial food. Nature, leashed and simulated in a yoghurt bottle.
posted by bonehead at 8:27 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's taking everything in my power to restrain myself from expressing more than my simple solidarity with bukvich on this.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:28 AM on March 21, 2013


Like for example I wouldn't be surprised is there is poor brain health that is the result of toxoplasma, latent viruses, bacteria, lack of nutrients, excess of nutrients/toxins---

Look at the gums for example-- gingivitis is caused by anything under the sun. It's not "a disease", it's a state of poor gum health by any cause. Why is it hard to consider that the brain also can have anything under the sun getting it out of wack? We keep looking for the "gene" for depression like depression is some disease unto itself. It's a state of poor health in brain chemistry (if we're defining depression as chemical depression in the brain and not other problems that cause the same symptoms). This can be caused by bad digestions, poor emotional development, poor diet, pathogens, poor ancestral health, trauma, cellular trauma (conditions that were temporarily damaging to the cells and caused long term alterations or cell death- such as a toxic exposure or lack of oxygen, blood flow, etc).

When you look at how depression is often reactive to environmental conditions there could be about a bazillion reasons for that. A person could have a small latent virus like EBV that is relatively harmless in small quantities while inactive but stress could give that latent virus an opportunity to grow stronger meaning that instead of normal mourning for a death, the virus grows stronger and you're looking at mourning that resulted in a physical disease.

Also mourning behavior itself rather than "stress" could be cause of the disease proliferation meaning staying indoors and out of sunlight, lack of exposure to other humans, or lack of healthy eating habits or exercise during mourning may be the mechanism by which disease process might be exacerbated. Once pathogen overgrowth has begun, behavior can spiral in the direction that facilitates pathogen growth rather than human cell health.

And that is only one tiny process that can result in depressive symptoms-- the paths to disease processes come via a bazillion different angles. The human system is amazing at responding to disease and body damage but the more stress it's under and the less positive assets it has access too the more likely a disease process will get by without getting addressed by the super awesome system we have. Also many processes are in development, we can't fight off every pathogen or repair every type of cellular damage, but the system tends to grow in that direction.
posted by xarnop at 8:33 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know who else was probiotics? That's right: Steve Ausnin.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:51 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


My GP and the gastroenterologist I saw (in the US) both heavily emphasized taking probiotics for digestive health, especially when I was on antibiotics. I've gotten samples of them from the doctor at least once. The best stuff I've ever taken for gut health is kombucha, though; 3 days on and I'd be regular and solid, 3 days off and I'd go back to how it was before. I really have to get back to brewing that again.

I've had mixed experiences with antibiotics, usually I'm willing to put up with the discomfort of GI upset and bowel degradation (which happens to me sometimes even with probiotics) in exchange for the benefits. I had Clindamycin once, though, and fuck that. Terrible diarrhea for two weeks, then constipation and terrible acid reflux afterwards. The only thing that kept me sane every time I came out of the bathroom utterly drained was imagining it as a communist plot to steal our precious bodily fluids and laughing just a little bit. I know it doesn't happen to everyone, but it was not pleasant for me.

"This is one that isn't currently available in your supermarket."

There are a few strains of lactobacillus that are available in formulations; not sure if there's anything else that sets them apart from the ones she studied.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:55 AM on March 21, 2013


Oh god, bacteriostatics. I hope you wheren't planning on leaving the house this month or something.
posted by The Whelk at 8:59 AM on March 21, 2013


If the bacteria have so much control over us, why don't they just make us crave yogurt? Are they just assholes?
posted by orme at 9:10 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Were you not told to take probiotics?
I have been, every time I have taken antibotics in the last 15 years.


I've never been told to take probiotics when I've been prescribed antibiotics, any time, ever.
posted by stopgap at 9:17 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the bacteria have so much control over us, why don't they just make us crave yogurt? Are they just assholes?

If you already have a sustained population sufficient to assume control, why would we solicit additional competition? We might just find a great reason to suggest that you should try this yogurt, too, though. It will make you so very, very happy!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:24 AM on March 21, 2013


I am starting to think that Activia should have gone with Bonnie "I know you think of yourself as human beings, but I think of you as 90 or 99 percent bacterial" Bassler [previously and previouslier] instead of Jaime Lee Curtis as a spokesperson.
posted by maudlin at 9:29 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've never been told to take probiotics with antibiotics either. Heck, I only managed to finagle a Diflucan prescription along with my antibiotics once, despite the fact that finishing a course of antibiotics has generally been a guaranteed path to a yeast infection for me.

Between the nausea, loss of appetite, general digestive upset, and yeast infections, I'm really reluctant to take antibiotics now. Generally doesn't seem worth the trouble any more. The delicate, quick to anger ecosystem of beneficial bacteria in my body has clearly won.
posted by yasaman at 10:00 AM on March 21, 2013


Finally a yogurt that's suited for my needs.
posted by Think_Long at 10:38 AM on March 21, 2013


The juxtaposition of bare chests and yogurt is oddly off-putting. I say that as a fan of chests and yogurt.
posted by The Whelk at 10:50 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Florastor is good.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:50 AM on March 21, 2013


If anybody really wants to geek out over gut bacteria I'd recommend starting here Dynamics of the Interaction Between the Human Gut Microbiome and Immune System. I saw this guy present at a conference a week ago and was fascinated. As in he's been sending off stool samples to have his gut denizens analyzed by genetic sequencing and has kept track of them through antibiotic regimens.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:28 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The juxtaposition of bare chests and yogurt is oddly off-putting. I say that as a fan of chests and yogurt.

I just like that the big powerful man still holds his yogurt like a dainty teacup.
posted by Think_Long at 12:13 PM on March 21, 2013


Powerful Yogurt is 100% male.
posted by Nomyte at 12:19 PM on March 21, 2013


If I remember correctly, though, wouldn't you have to consume, like, a metric shit ton of yogurt to get any of the GABA altering effects?
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:36 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the interview the scientist says something about giving the mice 'chronic doses' of yogurt, something like 17 units, whatever that means. I think that's more than a proportional cup of yogurt for breakfast in human units. Plus he's testing some strain that's not in stores. I bet it'll be protected like crazy and not available to us common folk.
posted by Tacodog at 1:06 PM on March 21, 2013


Kefir is your friend. My 7 year old flips out if we don't have any around.
posted by PuppyCat at 1:44 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Be aware that probiotics can also cause side effects; here is one of them
posted by Vibrissae at 3:26 PM on March 21, 2013


As we discover more benefits of certain strains of bacteria and figure out which ones do what, I can imagine people tweaking their internal ecosystem with trendy new strains of bacteria. Eventually, I'd imagine people will even start genetically engineering new strains to provide different benefits. I recall seeing a case where someone proposed doing this with bacteria that would color your poo if you're sick.

It's kind of an odd thought, but after the aforementioned experience with the bacteriostatic medication (thanks for that info, The Welk) I was never more excited to have billions of bacteria colonize my innards. Any lingering germ phobia was annihilated when I realized just how much I depend on all those little buggers living inside me; thanks, bacteria!

In the interview the scientist says something about giving the mice 'chronic doses' of yogurt, something like 17 units, whatever that means. I think that's more than a proportional cup of yogurt for breakfast in human units. Plus he's testing some strain that's not in stores. I bet it'll be protected like crazy and not available to us common folk.

The great thing about bacteria, though, is all you'd need would be a handful (not literally, of course) and the knowledge of how to breed them. Of course, Intellectual Property rights might come into play, in which case I can imagine people illicitly breeding awesome bacteria with which to colonize themselves and their friends. I don't think I'd feel right buying home-brew on the street, though. For reference, most probiotic capsules have between 10-30 billion CFU (colony forming units).
posted by nTeleKy at 3:27 PM on March 21, 2013


There's a lot of question whether extant probiotic supplements actually provide any active colonizing organisms, or anything close to the right type- the Lactobaccilus in yogurt, for example, is distinct from the species that colonize the gut, though it can pass through and remain viable, as can some probiotic bacteria.

This isn't to dismiss the role of bacteria in the gut, which recent advances in sequencing technology have revealed to be a hugely dynamic population and affected by more than just antibiotic therapy. Fecal transplants (where a purified mixture of colonic organisms is introduced via nasoduodenal tube) have been recently reported to be extremely successful in treating Clostridium dificile colitis, which is a serious complication of antibiotic therapy. One can imagine a future where a more defined spectrum of 'ideal' organisms is introduced to supplement one's own extant compliment of gut flora, potentially providing antiinflammatory, metabolic, or hey, maybe, psychiatric benefits.
posted by monocyte at 3:43 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Needs more RePOOPulate!

Also, MixB from This paper seems like a promising avenue, at least if you're small, furry and fecund.
posted by aeolicus at 6:10 PM on March 21, 2013


"The answer"? An answer, maybe. The gut/mood connection is significant in my experience, though, and in lots of studies.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:16 PM on March 21, 2013


Metafilter: leashed and simulated in a yoghurt bottle.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:02 AM on March 23, 2013


As a person who suffers (and I mean SUFFERS) from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), I can say that I used probiotics regularly before antidepressants, and saw no difference in my mental state as a result.

IF the imbalance were due to a gut imbalance, then I may have, but for people reading this thread who are suffering with MDD and have tried 'natural' cures, I would urge them to see a qualified psychiatrist and get a prescription rather than go on a course of probiotics. MDD is not something to toy with.

I currently take probiotics to regulate my digestive system, and I think they may help for mild depression, but they do not solve the brain chemistry problem that I have.
posted by SarahBellum at 3:00 PM on April 3, 2013


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