Researchers uncovered a link between taking probiotics and lower anxiety levels in chronic fatigue syndrome patients, according to a new study published in the journal Gut Pathogens. "These results lend further support to the presence of a gut-brain interface, one that may be mediated by microbes that reside or pass through the intestinal tract," the researchers wrote.
Other recent studies have shown that gut pathogens in the GI tract can communicate with the central nervous system and influence behavior associated with emotion, anxiety in particular, even at extremely low levels and in the absence of an immune response, according to the researchers. The scientists also noticed that CFS patients often also experience irritable bowel syndrome, though the potential connection between the two is still mysterious.
The new randomized, placebo-controlled study, which was funded by Japanese probiotics company Yakult, followed 39 CFS patients who were given either 24 billion colony-forming units of a Lactobacillus casei strain or a placebo daily for two months. The researchers reported they found a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms among those taking the probiotics versus controls.
Though the study was small and broad conclusions cannot be taken from it yet, the researchers said the findings raise many questions regarding possible mechanisms whereby probiotics might influence anxiety and depression and "The results of the present study should be viewed simply as a stimulus for further research."