Improving the gut bacteria, especially with a varied diet, could help to control anxiety, according to an overview of medical studies by researchers in Shanghai.

Improving gut bacteria can help curb anxiety, according to an overview of medical studies.


Probiotics and maintaining a balanced diet have both a positive effect on the symptoms.

Eating more fruit and vegetables appears to be the most beneficial intervention to stimulate & # 39; good bacteria & # 39 ;, scientists say.

The Chinese study is the latest in a long series of studies to link mental health to microorganisms in the gut.

Improving the gut bacteria, especially with a varied diet, could help to control anxiety, according to an overview of medical studies by researchers in Shanghai.

Improving the gut bacteria, especially with a varied diet, could help to control anxiety, according to an overview of medical studies by researchers in Shanghai.

Researchers from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine reviewed 21 studies that looked at 1,503 people all together.


About two-thirds of them, 14, had chosen probiotics as interventions and seven for non-probiotic ways, such as adjusting daily diet.

Probiotics are found in foods such as kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, miso and pickles, and are also processed into supplements with different strains.

In general, more than half (52 percent) of the studies, 11, indicated that regulatory gut microbiota had a positive effect on anxiety symptoms.

Of the 14 studies that had used probiotics as an intervention, more than a third (36 percent) found that they were effective at reducing anxiety symptoms.

Six of the seven studies that had used non-probiotics as interventions found that they were effective – an effectiveness rate of 86 percent.

Some of the 21 studies had tried to improve intestinal bacteria, while also allowing the usual treatment, such as anti-anxiety drugs. But there were only reductions in anxiety symptoms with non-probiotic studies, compared to probiotic ones.


  1. Eat a varied range of foods that contribute to the growth of different types of bacteria. The more types of bacteria you have, the more health benefits they can contribute.
  2. Fibrous food is believed to improve intestinal bacteria. Fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes are high in fiber. Choose whole-grain products such as brown pasta and rice in white to get more fiber.
  3. Sugar, alcohol and artificial sweeteners are often advised to be cut to improve intestinal bacteria.
  4. Probiotics, which are living microorganisms, can improve your health by changing the overall composition of the microbiota. They are found in a range of natural food sources, in particular fermented foods.
  5. Prebiotics are foods that fertilize & # 39; and feed the probiotics. They include leeks, onions, garlic, chicory, beans, and cold potatoes.

The researchers believe that interventions to improve intestinal bacteria without probiotics, thus ensuring a varied range of foods, are more successful for bacterial growth.


They wrote in the General Psychiatry magazine that further tests are needed to confirm the findings.

She added: & # 39; There are two types of interventions (probiotic and non-probiotic interventions) to regulate intestinal microbiota.

& # 39; It should be noted that the non-probiotic interventions were more effective than the probiotic interventions.

Within the 14 studies that use probiotics, between one and five types of probiotics were used.

The researchers said that this could lead the probiotics to fight against each other to work effectively.


It can take a long time – more than the length of the studies – to significantly increase the abundant desired bacteria.

The authors acknowledge some limitations, such as differences in study design, subjects, interventions and measurements.

But they said the quality of the studies was high, and they suggest considering regulating gut bacteria to relieve anxiety.

There are indications that billions of bacteria in the intestines affect parts of the brain that are related to emotions through a communication path known as the & brain's intestinal axis & # 39 ;.

Physical and chemical connections between your gut and brain, including millions of nerves and neurons, influence the role of each & # 39; organ & # 39 ;.


The close interaction between the two can explain how digestive juices are produced when our brains see or begin to eat, or why we feel sick when we are nervous or anxious.

Most people have feelings of anxiety on points, but it is considered a mental health problem if it affects a person's ability to live his or her life.

Physically, people who suffer from anxiety regularly have panic attacks, sweats, grinding teeth, nausea, or dizziness.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults, with another 8.2 million cases in the UK, according to charities

Does diet influence mental health?

Much scientific research into mental health focuses on the brain, but some scientists believe that our intestines can also play an important role.


The gut microbiome, an ecosystem of organisms such as bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses and protozoa that live in our digestive tracts, has been linked by many studies to many mental disorders, including autism, anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.

Dr. Ayesha Akbar, from St. Mark's Hospital in London, explained how the microbiome might be the key & # 39; is for the treatment of mental disorders in the future.

Although this part of the treatment is currently theoretical, there are certain foods that can improve the health of the microbiome, and possibly your mental well-being.

Foods rich in prebiotics such as bananas, raw onion and Jerusalem Jerusalem artichokes are beneficial. In the meantime, those that contain a lot of emulsifiers, such as processed foods, are best avoided because they can hamper intestinal health.

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