If you’re going through a stressful time or are just feeling a bit anxious, you may want to start taking probiotics.

This is the advice from a new Griffith University study showing that consumption of probiotics may have advantageous effects on mental health by lessening the psychological symptoms of perceived stress, depression and anxiety.

Published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, the study reviewed the results of seven previous studies which tested for symptoms in over 300 healthy volunteers both before and after supplementation with a probiotic.

“We combined the data from a number of clinical trials to conduct a powerful analysis of probiotic research,” says dietitian Dr Natalie Colson from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

“The overall result was significant in demonstrating that taking probiotics in some form, for example tablet or yoghurt, can help alleviate symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety in otherwise healthy people.

“The research into the relationship between the gut and the brain is reasonably new however we are now starting to better understand this ‘gut brain axis’.

“We can see that if the gut microbiome is not operating at an optimal level, and it communicates with your brain, then it may well negatively affect the way that you feel and think.Therefore by adding what we believe to be a mixture of good ‘multi-species’ bacteria to your gut microbiome, this may reduce those negative feelings.”

Dr Colson says that more studies need to be conducted to determine if the consumption of probiotics could also assist with symptoms of diagnosed clinical depression.

“We don’t know yet how far this could be used in the treatment of depression, however the gut microbiome presents as a potential target for the treatment of cognitive and mood disorders.

“But it does appear that generally healthy people who are going through stressful periods could certainly benefit from adding probiotics to their diet.”

Further studies may allow for the development of novel probiotic treatment strategies for gastrointestinal-related disorders that are associated with impaired communication between the gut and brain, says Dr Colson.