30 May 2019

The gut-brain axis is a fascinating area of study and is being investigated as a possible area of treatment to help a number of conditions individuals face, from cognitive decline to multiple sclerosis. One set of research suggests that regulating the microbiota in the gut could be a way of improving anxiety symptoms.

The research, published in General Psychiatry looked to identify a link between regulating gut microbiota and improving anxiety symptoms. In the research 21 studies were included which contained 1503 subjects. In the 21 studies, 14 chose probiotics as interventions to regulate intestinal microbiota and six chose non-probiotic ways such as adjusting daily diets.

"Overall, 11 studies showed a positive effect on anxiety symptoms by regulating intestinal microbiota, which indicated 52% of the 21 studies were effective, and there were five studies that used probiotic supplements as interventions and six used non-probiotic interventions. In addition, it should be noted that six of seven studies showed that regulation of intestinal microbiota could treat anxiety symptoms, the rate of efficacy was 86%," the authors write.

The authors were keen to stress that their research is not conclusive, as the causes of anxiety and mental health disorders are complex, it does suggest that more studies should be undertaken to clarify the role regulating intestinal microbiota could have on reducing anxiety. Like previous research it exposes a link between gut bacteria and anxiety symptoms that could be used as a potential treatment opportunity, researchers say.