Stressed? Perhaps a Probiotic will Help.

Here’s something to help you appreciate the little things. Bacteria. I saw this little blurb in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and I thought it was pretty neat. Also, I have that weird feeling like I’ve heard information like this somewhere before. Unfortunately, I could not get too many details, as its telling me UMM does not have the proper subscription.

Researchers were recently looking at Lactobacillus rhamnosus in mice. Yes, Lactobacillus. You know it. It’s that genus of bacteria you find in yogurt, some cheeses, and probiotics. It lives inside you, and you enjoy a mutualistic relationship with it. Well, it turns out you might be getting a better deal from this prokaryote than you thought.

Mice given lots of bacteria displayed less stress behavior than those who received none. They also showed physiological differences. The happy mice, as I shall joyfully call them, had higher levels of GABA-B, which apparently has an inverse relationship with depression, and lower levels of GABA-A, high concentrations of which are associated with stress or anxiety. The vagus nerve, which carries information from the GI tract to the brain, has been implicated and this phenomenon. In fact, disconnection of the vagus nerve prevented the bacteria from having this behavioral effect on the mice.

It really makes me curious as to whether this same kind of phenomenon works in humans. Well, I’m hungry. I’m thinking Dannon.