Gut Bacteria and Mental Health

Stress and Anxiety Linked to Gut Bacteria in Preliminary Study


Relief Report 010: Survive and Thrive Despite Digestive Issues with these Quick & Simple Tips from Your Digestive Dietitian Stephanie Clairmont

Posted by Stephanie Clairmont, RD on Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Research Update

New Study Suggests Gut Bacteria May Affect Anxiety

Headline: Could gut bacteria affect your mental health?

What You Need To Know:

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Cork in Ireland found a connection between gut bacteria and mental health. In their study performed on mice, the researchers found that the bacteria in the gut seemed to influence the parts of the brain associated with depression and anxiety.

The study used both mice and rats to see if the results obtained were specific to one species but not the other. This is an important detail in the design of scientific studies especially when it comes to the question of how applicable results might be to humans. The mice were raised in a sterile environment, meaning they weren’t exposed to bacteria they would normally encounter in their natural habitat. This is important because exposure to different bacteria impacts the makeup of the gut microbiome. Limited or no exposure means that the gut microbiome will be less diverse, and less healthy. The researchers found that these mice exhibited signs of stress and anxiety, and they think this was related to the lack of diversity in their gut bacteria. By adding bacteria back into the gut, these symptoms seemed to be resolved.

Similarly, the rats used in the study had their gut bacteria wiped out using antibiotics. This is a more relatable situation for us human, as many of us have had to take antibiotics at one point or another to help our bodies fight off an infection. In the study, they found that reducing the diversity of the gut bacteria with antibiotics caused similar signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety in the rats.

Anyone with IBS knows that stress and anxiety often cause symptoms to appear or worsen due to the close interrelationship between the gut and the brain, so it’s not entirely surprising that this relationship could work in reverse as well with certain gut bacteria contributing to depression and anxiety. The results of this study also highlight the importance of finding ways to cope with and manage stress and anxiety, as these aspects of our mental health can really influence how we experience the physical symptoms of IBS.

The Relief Report: Gut Bacteria and Mental Health

There has been a lot of preliminary research in this area, especially related to probiotics and their effect on mental health. While the results of this study are interesting, more work is yet to be done before any recommendations can be made for humans. We still need to get more clear on what specific bacterial strains are beneficial and in what doses, but this is definitely an exciting and emerging area of research for those of us learning to cope with IBS.

Related Links:

Prebiotics and Probiotics: The Answer to Your IBS?

Stress and IBS

Canned and Fermented Foods & FODMAPs



New Low FODMAP Milk Alternatives From Australia

Headline: The Nutty Milk Company has created 4 FODMAP Friendly certified nut milks

What You Need to Know:

The Nutty Milk Company is an Australian based food company that specializes in organic milk derived from nuts. Their aim is to produce milks that only contain natural ingredients, have a longer shelf life, and contain more nuts!

All of their beverages are cold-pressed, which means they use pressure instead of heat to process the milk and make it safe for consumption. This high pressure pasteurization method helps preserve the nutrients and flavour of the milk while extending its shelf-life.

Their Organic Fresh Macadamia Milk, Organic Fresh Cashew Milk, Biodynamic Fresh Almond Milk, and Chem Free Almond Milk are all certified FODMAP Friendly. Biodynamic refers to a variation of organic farming practices which focus on a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, and their Chem Free label simply refers to the product being additive and preservative free.

The Relief Report: Gut Bacteria and Mental Health

When it comes to cutting out foods to relieve symptoms of IBS, lactose-containing dairy is something that can cause discomfort for a lot of people. When our bodies don’t produce enough of the enzyme required to digest milk sugars (lactose), the bacteria in our gut end up digesting the sugars instead. This process creates gas and leads to the build up of those awful symptoms, often including diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain.

Deciding that you’re better off without dairy in your life is one half of a plan to get you feeling better, but the other part of the equation lies in what you plan to replace those dairy foods with? If you used to drink milk and eat yogurt, you will need to find some suitable low FODMAP alternatives to help ensure you aren’t missing out on any important nutrients and also so you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself or missing out!

When you are cutting out many different foods, or in the case of dairy, a big chunk of an entire food group, it’s important to get the support and guidance of a Registered Dietitian to ensure you are finding a way to replace those missing nutrients from your diet. Milk is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and vitamins D and B12, so when looking for a lactose-free milk alternative, it’s important that these nutrients are taken into consideration.

There are a ton of dairy-free milk alternatives on the market nowadays, but not all are low FODMAP! Soy milk can be a great protein and nutrient rich option, but at least here in Canada, the type of soy milk that’s low FODMAP (made from soy protein not the whole soy beans) doesn’t seem to be readily available in stores. Luckily, many nut milks are low FODMAP. While options like almond milk, cashew milk and macadamia milk are low in FODMAPs, they are not high in protein and do not naturally contain adequate amounts of calcium or vitamins D and B12. Some brands of nut milks are fortified with these important nutrients, meaning they are added to the milk during processing to boost its nutritional profile. We recommend looking for a brand of low FODMAP nut milk that is fortified with calcium, vitamin D and B12.

Related Links:

Digestive Enzymes and IBS: Lactose Intolerance

Dairy Free Part 2: Hold the Lactose!

Dairy Free Part 1: Where is Lactose Lurking?


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