What are Psychobiotics?

Important Points:

  • Psychobiotics
  • Mental disorders
  • Probiotics

What are Psychobiotics?

Ever since the discovery of the Gut-Brain Axis within this decade, researchers are in a race to explore new treatments for psychiatric conditions. Over the past years, a lot of research was successful in shining a light on the effect of gut microbiome on mood and memory. Most of these covered the use of probiotics, which are basically bacteria used as a food supplement.  At first, research on the role of gut microbiome appeared to be limited to its use as a supplement, however, a new study from Oxford University suggests that gut microbiomes can have a bigger role other than solely as probiotics.

In the study, researchers are urging the scientific community to consider live bacteria as a new form of psychiatric treatment. This new drug class of “psychobiotics” may hold the key to safer and more effective treatments for mental disorders.

The concept of using probiotics as an alternative to hard drugs may not seem as far-fetched as it sounds. Numerous studies have pointed out that probiotic activity can improve inflammation, reduce depression and even control social anxiety much like typical drug store formulations. Although most of the studies are still in its early stages, it certainly warrants serious consideration. Given how most psychiatric medications have innumerable side effects, a safe and accessible alternative is definitely welcome in the field of mental health.

For now, as the push to make psychobiotics a legitimate treatment for mental disorders is just gaining momentum, we can still enjoy the benefits of a healthy gut-brain axis by consuming foods that are rich in probiotics. It may take a long time before we see psychobiotics written on a prescription pad, but the researchers are optimistic that this is eventually the next step in psychopharmacology.

Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood?

Psychobiotics and the Manipulation of Bacteria–Gut–Brain Signals

The Gut Microbiome and the Brain

Probiotics May One Day Be Used To Treat Depression

Sauerkraut Could Be The Secret To Curing Social Anxiety


Does gut microbiota fuel metabolic inflammation and dysregulation?

Important Points:

  • Probiotics
  • Microbiota
  • Diabetes
  • Antibiotics
  • Prebiotics

Does gut microbiota fuel metabolic inflammation and dysregulation?

Given that obesity and the associated disorder type II diabetes mellitus have reached epidemic proportions worldwide, the development of efficient prevention and therapeutic interventions is a global public health interest. There is now a large body of evidence suggesting that the micro-organisms colonizing the human gut, known as gut microbiota, play a central role in human physiology and metabolism. Understanding how gut microbiota affects and regulates key metabolic functions such as glucose regulation and insulin resistance is an important health issue. We will highlight how prebiotic/probiotic interventions affect these bacterial processes and are now considered as promising approaches to treat obese and diabetic patients.

1. Obesity, Diabetes, and Dysbiosis

Obesity is a chronic, complex, and multifactorial disease representing the fifth leading cause of death in the world accounting for almost 3.4 million deaths each year. Low-grade inflammation is the hallmark of metabolic disorders such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Microbiota is now recognized as a real functional “organ” due to its immense impact on human health and has become the subject of intensive research over recent years. The vast majority of microbes reside in the intestinal tract, where they influence host physiology by playing fundamentally important roles in digestion, nutrition, immune regulation, and metabolism.

Gut microbiota composition and activity can fluctuate over time and is affected by genetics, sex, age, health status, and drug/antibiotic consumption. Over the last decade, a large number of publications have reported a prominent role of microbiota in metabolic diseases.

Notably, accumulated evidence suggests an association between a dysregulated gut microbiome and obesity, glycemic control impairment, and therefore Type 2 Diabetes pathophysiology.

The preservation of a normal and healthy gut microbiota plays a critical role in maintaining good health. Alterations of both composition and function of the microbiota, termed dysbiosis, are common features of several pathologies including metabolic diseases such as obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.

A number of preclinical and clinical studies have attempted to describe the differences between gut microbiota in obese and lean individuals and have reported that obesity is related to lower microbial diversity and greater depletion.Microbiota studies report that an increase of body weight in early obesity is associated with a microbiota shift.

Although Type 2 Diabetes is generally attributed to obesity, some studies have correlated glycemic control impairment and insulin resistance to specific gut microbiota composition. Furthermore, antidiabetic drugs liraglutide and metformin have been recently shown to significantly lower body weight and improve glucose metabolism while considerably modifying the composition of gut microbiota. Liraglutide decreased obesity-related microbial phenotypes and increased lean-related phenotypes while metformin modifies the intestinal microbiota composition by inducing the growth of several bacteria.

There is proof that gut microbiota is involved in the beneficial glucose-lowering effects of antidiabetic agents and that it is a promising therapeutic target in Type 2 Diabetes and any glycemic control impairment context.

2. How can Gut Microbiota be moderated?

Through several mechanisms, gut bacteria influenced the chronic low grade inflammation that culminates in insulin resistance and the increase in fat deposits and body weight gain characteristic of obese individuals. With the acknowledgement of these obesity and inflammation induction mechanisms, several strategies to block or attenuate them are being developed and tested, in order to benefit obese and type 2 diabetic patients. Here are a few of these mechanisms and their effects:

2.1. Antibiotic Therapy

The use of broad spectrum antibiotic therapy greatly modifies the gut microbiota profile although the prevalence of surviving bacteria and the benefits for the host have not been determined, as the concept of a “healthy” gut microbiota is still under investigation.

The main mechanism suggested by antibiotic administration is a reduction in circulating LPS levels, which lessens inflammation and improves the insulin resistance induced by obesity in the liver, muscle, and adipose tissue. Improved intestinal function has also been noted as a benefit of the administration of antibiotics.

However, even with this striking metabolic improvement in antibiotic therapy experiments, it seems that translating this strategy to humans is not the best option, as there are complex issues such as antibiotic resistance in chronic administration panels and evidence that indicates a relationship between chronic low-dose antibiotic therapy and body weight gain.

2.2. Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be consumed through fermented foods or supplements. More and more studies show that the balance or imbalance of bacteria in your digestive system is linked to overall health and disease. Probiotics promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and have been linked to a wide range of health benefits.

As obesity is a key cause of diabetes, probiotics can help with weight loss through a number of different mechanisms. An example is that some probiotics prevent the absorption of dietary fat in the intestine, the fat is excreted through feces rather than stored in the body. Probiotics may also help you feel fuller for longer, burn more calories, and store less fat. This is partly caused by increasing levels of certain hormones, such as GLP-1.

Probiotics may also help with weight loss directly. In one study, dieting women who took Lactobacillus rhamnosus for 3 months lost 50% more weight than women who didn’t take a probiotic. Another study of 210 people found that taking even low doses of Lactobacillus gasseri for 12 weeks resulted in an 8.5% loss.

It is important to note that not all probiotics aid in weight loss. Some studies have found certain probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, can even lead to weight gain.

2.3. Prebiotics

Prebiotics are classified as the non-digestible food ingredients that probiotics can feed off. They are used in the gut to increase populations of healthy bacteria, aid digestion and enhance the production of valuable vitamins. Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) are the most advanced form of prebiotics which belong to a group of particular nutrient fibers that feed and encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

The major source of prebiotics is dietary fiber occurring naturally in fruits and vegetables, but you can also take them in the form of nutritional supplements.

2.4. Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery is an important method in the treatment of obesity. It is quite effective in achieving and protecting weight loss. This effectiveness of obesity treatment after bariatric surgery is not only related to food consumption; the altered microbiota after bariatric surgery has an impact on its effectiveness too. Malabsorption status after bariatric surgery, changes in the metabolism of bile acids, changes in gastric pH, and changes in the metabolism of hormones all lead to gut microbiota changes. Changes in microbiota also affect energy homeostasis. Because of these reasons, body weight loss is achieved after bariatric surgery.

  • What role will gut microbiota play in the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes in the future?

It is becoming increasingly clear that gut microbiota has profound impact on general health and well-being. It is now well-established that imbalanced gut microbiota is linked to host glycemic control impairment and Type 2 Diabetes development. Although the precise role of gut microbiota remains incompletely understood, further investigation is likely to be very helpful in the treatment and control of obesity and resultant Type 2 Diabetes.

Current treatments of this complex chronic disease are far from being ideal since in a majority of patients, Type 2 Diabetes remains poorly controlled in the long run. Using pre/probiotics to control blood glucose has been considered for a long time, and the discovery of the key roles of gut bacteria in Type 2 Diabetes has boosted research efforts in this field.

A better understanding of how gut microbiota impacts general health will help in outlining new treatment strategies. These strategies will help in identifying probiotic strains with antidiabetic activities or nutritional interventions that can increase helpful microbiota in the gut.


  1. Hindawi (2013): Influence of Gut Microbiota on Subclinical Inflammation and Insulin Resistance. Retrieved from
  2. Frontiers in Endrocrinology (2019): Impact of Gut Microbiota on Host Glycemic Control. Retrieved from


Can probiotics treat gastrointestinal conditions?

Important Points:

  • Probiotics
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Diarrhea

Can probiotics treat gastrointestinal conditions?


Probiotics are substances that contain microorganisms that are similar to the beneficial bacteria normally found in the human gut.  Probiotics work by restoring the balance of the GI flora that has been altered by lifestyle, diet, toxin exposure or prolonged antibiotic use. Since the gastrointestinal ©system and the immune system are closely tied together, restoring balance within the gut has beneficial effects on our body’s ability to defend itself from inflammation and infection.

Use and Regulation

The use of probiotics to treat gastrointestinal conditions has long been regarded as a safe and effective alternative to conventional medicine. It has been shown to be effective in treating diarrhea, both infectious and antibiotic-associated types, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. However, despite much evidence of its effectiveness, there is still a lack of clear guidelines physicians can follow in using them on patients largely due to its relative newness and overlaps in regulating agencies.

When probiotics are used as dietary supplements, they are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. When used as drugs with therapeutic intent, the jurisdiction falls under the US FDA using Current Good Manufacturing Practices and Investigational New Drug approval processes.

Conditions treated with Probiotics

  1. Acute bacterial diarrhea and Antibiotic-associated diarrhea

Acute bacterial infectious diarrhea has been found to be susceptible to probiotic treatment. In a review conducted by Cochrane of over 63 randomized controlled trials, researchers found that the use of probiotics reduced the duration of diarrhea by about 25 hours without any negative side effects. It was also determined that probiotics can also decrease the risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea by as much as 15 percent if probiotic treatment is started two days before travel and continued for the duration of the trip. It is important to note that probiotics seem to exert its effect only on bacterial diarrhea and does not improve the outcome of diarrhea caused by viral infections like the ones associated with rotavirus. Another study of over 3,938 participants found that children who are given probiotics experience a reduction in the risk of developing antibiotic-associated diarrhea by at least 11 percent.

  • Ulcerative Colitis

Probiotics can also be used as a supportive treatment for cases of ulcerative colitis. In a meta-analysis of 23 randomized controlled trials with 1,763 adult participants, it was shown to increase the rate of remission by a rate of 12 percent. In another Cochrane review, it was found that probiotics were able to match the effect mesalamine, a standard drug for ulcerative colitis, with no significant difference.

  • Constipation

Constipation can be effectively treated with probiotics specifically those containing the probiotic Bifidobacterium. A randomized controlled trial involving 165 adults was able to determine that yogurt containing the Bifidobacterium probiotic was able to alleviate the symptoms of constipation.

  • Necrotizing enterocolitis

Necrotizing enterocolitis is a serious condition in which the intestinal tissue becomes damaged and begins to die. This condition commonly affects infants who are born prematurely.  Compared to a control group, the group treated with probiotics experienced a reduction in the risk of severe necrotizing enterocolitis by as much as 0.43 and was able to decrease the mortality rate by 0.65.


Although probiotics are generally considered safe, it is prudent to exercise caution when using it in immunologically vulnerable populations.  The findings from Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality states that in over a total of 24,615 participants, they did not show a significant increase in the reporting of side effects or adverse effects versus the control group. However, it is important to note that the studies only covered the short-term use of probiotics, and the long-term effects are still largely unknown.  Populations cautioned with the overuse of probiotics include those with impaired immune conditions like those suffering from cancer. In a systematic review of 17 studies involving 1,530 cancer patients, five cases of probiotic associated bacteremia were confirmed via blood culture.

Like any other treatment, the risk must be weighed against the benefits, and as for the current evidence, it would seem like the use of probiotics has a positive future in the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases.

Necrotizing enterocolitis


 Probiotics for treating acute infectious diarrhea

Probiotics for Gastrointestinal Conditions: A Summary of the Evidence.



Can probiotics help those with Alzheimer’s?

Important Points:

  • Probiotics
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Cognitive function

Can probiotics help those with Alzheimer’s?

With the discovery of how the gut microbiome directly effects brain functions, it is inevitable that in time new alternative treatments for cognitive disorders will be coming. A clear example of this was recently published in the journal Frontiers. In the study, researchers were able to show that the probiotics Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria have a positive effect on the participants diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The study followed a double-blind controlled structure involving a total of 52 participants over the age of 60. Half of them were given a daily serving of 200ml probiotic milk while the other received the placebo. Baseline blood chemistry and cognitive functions were taken for the end comparison.

At the end of the 12-week experiment period, the group given the probiotic supplement performed significantly better in taking the Mini-Mental State Examination which is the standard test used in measuring cognitive impairment.  Those in the probiotic treatment group also showed marked improvement in their triglycerides, lipid and C-reactive protein parameters as compared to their initial measurements. Researchers think that these lowered levels in their blood chemistry are the metabolic adjustments produced by the intake of probiotics, suggesting that their cognitive improvements go hand and hand with metabolic and gut health. Their response is to say that the next step would be identifying the exact mechanism on how supplementing with probiotics produced a remarkable improvement in patients with serious cognitive problems.

It is important to note that although the improvements seen are significant, the resulting changes are moderate. However, these findings help build confidence that probiotic treatment is definitely the next big thing.

Probiotics Improve Cognition in Alzheimer’s Patients