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Probiotics May Help Stressed Gut

‘Good’ Bacteria Might Prevent Intestinal Problems From Chronic Stress
WebMD Health News

April 25, 2006 -- Gut-friendly bacteria called probiotics may help prevent intestinal problems linked to chronic stress, a new study shows.

The study appears in Gut's "online first" edition. The researchers included Philip Sherman, MD, FRCP(C). Sherman works in the gastroenterology and nutrition division of Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

Sherman's team tested probiotics on rats, not people. Those tests showed that probiotics seemed to thwart some intestinal problems linked to chronic psychological stress.

"Stress is a common experience of daily living," the researchers write. The influence of stress on chronic intestinal disorders is "well documented," they write, spotlighting irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

However, the study doesn't make any recommendations about probiotic use in humans.

Water Laced With Probiotics

First, the researchers assigned male rats into two groups, lacing the drinking water of one group of rats with powder containing probiotics.

There are many types of probiotics. The probiotics powder used in Sherman's study contained a strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and a strain of Lactobacillus helveticus.

For comparison, the other group of rats got sterile drinking water with no probiotics.

Seven days later, the researchers put half of the rats in each group under psychological stress. The point was to see if the rats that had been drinking water containing probiotics had a different intestinal response to chronic stress than rats that had been drinking sterile water without probiotics.

Stress Test

To create psychological (but not physical) stress in the rats, the researchers put each rat on a platform in the middle of a plastic container filled with warm water.

The platform stood 1 centimeter above the water. Rats don't like to swim, so being on a little platform surrounded by water isn't their cup of tea.

The rest of the rats were placed on the same type of platform in an identical container but without the water. That setting was designed to be much less stressful for the rats.

The rats spent one hour a day for 10 days on their platforms. After that, the researchers checked the rats' intestines.

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