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Can gut health affect anxiety?

Can gut health affect anxiety?

Increasing evidence links our microbiome to both gastrointestinal and extra gastrointestinal diseases including mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

There are many studies that confirm improving our microbiome through supplementation with prebiotics and probiotics has a positive impact on our gut-brain axis and can lead to a reduction in depression, anxiety and improve our stress response.  Now, a new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, outlines how prebiotic supplements improved mental health, reduce symptoms of anxiety, and enhanced gut health in young women aged 18-25 years with sub-clinical anxiety.

This double-blind, placebo-controlled trial focused specifically on this age group, as late adolescence is a critical developmental stage for the emergence of social anxiety and emotional control.  Furthermore, gut dysbiosis in adolescence has been shown to have lasting effects on mental health. Therefore, nutritional supplementation during this developmental period has the potential to offset mental health-related illnesses in later life.

The prebiotic fibre used was in this study was Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), a dietary fibre derived from plant sugars and found naturally in dairy products, beans and some root vegetables.  GOS has been shown to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria Bifidobacterium and Lactobacilli.

The women who received the pre-biotic supplement recorded improvements their anxiety, while women with high-anxiety reported vaster improvements than those with low-anxiety compared with the placebo group.

Investigations into the changing microbiome of the women given the pre-biotic showed a marked increase in beneficial Bifidobacterium bacteria when compared to the placebo group. 

These positive findings add to the growing body of evidence that confirms improving the microbiome has a positive impact on the gut-brain axis and therefore conditions such as anxiety and mood disorders.

Prebiotics are an emerging therapy for mood disorders and continue to show promising results demonstrating anxiolytic, antidepressant and stress-reducing effects. 




Johnstone N, Milesi C, Burn O, van den Bogert B, Nauta A, Hart K, Sowden P, Burnet PW, Kadosh KC. Anxiolytic effects of a galacto-oligosaccharides prebiotic in healthy females (1825 years) with corresponding changes in gut bacterial composition. Scientific reports. 2021 Apr 15;11(1):1-1.

Yahfoufi N, Matar C, Ismail N. Adolescence and aging: Impact of adolescence inflammatory stress and microbiota alterations on brain development, aging, and neurodegeneration. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A. 2020 Jun 18;75(7):1251-7.

Posted on 17 August 2021
Author:Elemental Health
Tags:Preventative medicineGut healthMental health

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