Probiotics: Bacteria can be good for the soul

Probiotics: Bacteria can be good for the soul

Grime, strep throat, UTI, E. coli – that’s where most of us go when we think about bacteria. However, research continues to show it can be an important player in managing mood and anxiety disorders. Here’s what I mean….

…although depressive symptoms decreased in all participants due to antidepressant use, the improvement was greater in the participants given probiotics.

My guess is the vast majority of those of us dealing with a mood or anxiety disorder are using meds. I’m also thinking many of us participate in therapy.

But healthy lifestyle habits, aromas, devices, supplements – there’s so much more we can consider adding to our personal treatment program.

Like probiotics.

“Good bacteria to tackle depression”

Scouting about for relief-oriented material to share with you, a research press release from the University of Basel and the University Psychiatric Clinics Basel (Switzerland) grabbed my attention.

Entitled “Good bacteria to tackle depression,” the release summarizes research regarding probiotics and depression treatment.

The findings were recently reported in the journal, Translational Psychiatry.

The microbiome-gut-brain axis

To set the table for our discussion we need to review what’s known as the microbiome-gut-brain axis.

Simply, the microbiome is the collection of all microbes – including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and their genes – that naturally live on and in our bodies.

Part of our microbiome is intestinal flora – microorganisms, predominantly bacteria, that populate our intestines.

Now, there are multiple and very sophisticated pathways of communication between the intestines and the central nervous system. And that’s how our microbiome and gut influence our brain – our psyche.

A little more table setting

Let’s keep these additional bits of background information in our back pockets as we review the research…

Previous studies have shown that folks enduring depression have an above-average prevalence of intestinal and digestive problems. Perhaps you can relate.

And how ‘bout this? If intestinal flora from someone with depression is implanted in mice raised with no intestinal flora, the mice develop depressive-like behavior.

Those realities have led researchers to suspect the bacterial community in the gut plays a significant role in depressive symptoms.

Now to the research 

gut brain axis

Probiotics can amp up the action of the microbiome-gut-brain axis

Okay, the research team, led by Dr. André Schmidt and Professor Undine Lang, systematically investigated the effects of probiotics on patients with depression.

All 47 study participants were inpatients at the University Psychiatric Clinics Basel. For 31 days, 21 of them were given a probiotic, the remaining 26 received a placebo. All participants were using an antidepressant. It was a double-blind study, so neither the participants or the study team knew who got what.

As we’d expect, the team conducted a series of tests on the participants before, right after, and four weeks after the study.

The results

The post-study analysis brought some very important information to light.


First and foremost, although depressive symptoms decreased in all participants due to antidepressant use, the improvement was greater in the participants given probiotics.

But there’s more. The composition of the intestinal flora of the members of the probiotic group changed. Analysis of stool samples revealed an increase in lactic acid bacteria, which contributed to the reduction in depressive symptoms.

It has to be noted, however, that the level of these health-promoting gut bacteria decreased again over the following four weeks. According to one of the lead study authors, Anna-Chiara Schaub…

It may be that four weeks of treatment is not long enough and that it takes longer for the new composition of the intestinal flora to stabilize.

Makes sense to me.

Emotional processing

An interesting effect of taking probiotics was seen in relation to brain activity when viewing neutral or fearful faces. The team investigated this effect using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

In those enduring depression, the brain regions responsible for emotional processing behave abnormally. For participants in the probiotic group, this activity normalized by the end of the study.

Final thoughts

Although the microbiome-gut-brain axis has been the subject of research for a number of years, the exact mechanisms are yet to be fully clarified.

That being the case, the team believed it was important to use a wide range of bacteria in the form of probiotics, such as formulations already available on the market.

From Anna-Chiara Schaub…

With additional knowledge of the specific effect of certain bacteria, it may be possible to optimize the selection of bacteria and to use the best mix in order to support treatment for depression.

She emphasized that using probiotics as a solo treatment for depression isn’t effective.

Give ‘em a go?

We may be using meds. We may be participating in therapy. But we may not be doing enough.

Meditation, exercise, yoga, visualization – it’s not as though we don’t have options when it comes to bolstering our personal treatment program.

Probiotics: give ‘em a go?

Hey, I’m not a physician and this isn’t a recommendation for use. However, if you want to pursue probiotics to supplement your mood or anxiety treatment program, here are two that my sources say merit consideration: Bifidobacterium Longum and Lactobacillus Rhamnosus. Do some research and check in with your doc, okay?

Be sure to read the press release from the University of Basel: Good bacteria to tackle depression.

A few related Chipur pieces you may find interesting and helpful…

Probiotics in That Gut of Yours | Soothing the Mood and Anxiety Disordered Beast

Cool tattoo: Who knew it was your second brain?

Psychobiotics: “Whaaa?!” Yep, and ya’ gotta’read this!

The Top 9 Supplements for Your Optimal Mental Health

And if you’d like to read even more Chipur mood and anxiety disorder inspiration and info articles, don’t let me stop you.

Content image: Suganya, Kanmani, and Byung-Soo Koo, no changes made
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License

Healing crystals: Why they may help you feel better

Healing crystals: Why they may help you feel better

Mood and anxiety woes can be brutal. So who could blame a sufferer for considering any and all relief options? I recently heard from someone who’s benefited from using healing crystals. Let’s talk about why they may help you feel better…

An example of crystal healing in action is the practitioner placing the appropriate crystals on different parts of the body…

Dusted-up an article last week that I’d written in 2018: 21 grounding techniques to get you back in the moment. As usual, I took it to social media, which included our private Facebook group, Chipur: Living with the Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

It wasn’t long before a member commented that she’s used grounding techniques frequently. She went on to say she carries a bloodstone in her pocket and rubs it as needed. She also uses other healing crystals. Her take? “Not every one believes in healing stones, but I feel why not?”

I agree with her. So much so that I decided to do some digging and bring the scoop to you.

What are healing crystals?

Healing crystals (stones) are semiprecious crystals and stones used to facilitate what’s known as crystal healing. Crystal healing is considered to be a pseudoscientific alternative medicine intervention. You guessed it, though it’s been used by tens of millions for thousands of years, there’s no scientific basis for its healing power (kind of like antidepressants, right?).

An example of crystal healing in action is the practitioner placing the appropriate crystals on different parts of the body, which may correspond to chakras. It’s all about the promotion and movement of healing energy in the body and mind, while removing negative energy.

There are many other healing crystal applications, such as using them during meditation and mindfulness sessions. You’ll also find them in personal items like prayer beads, jewelry, and water bottles.

Types of healing crystals

what is a bloodstone


Healing crystal selection is based upon personal need and claimed benefit. And I’m sure color and shape are significant factors. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re the primary decision-makers.

Keep in mind, assorted crystals are frequently used together for a desired effect.

Makes sense that there are plenty to go around. But let’s take a look at 12 popular healing crystals…

  • Clear quartz: A white crystal considered to be a “master healer.” It’s believed it amplifies energy, as well as aiding in concentration, memory, and immune system stimulation.
  • Rose quartz: The pink crystal is thought to restore trust and harmony in relationships and self. It’s claimed it assists in providing calm and comfort during times of grief.
  • Jasper: A smooth typically reddish crystal, it’s known as the “supreme nurturer.” It’s believed it repels negative energy, as it promotes courage, quick thinking, and confidence.
  • Obsidian: This black or blackish-green volcanic glass is thought to aid in forming a shield against negativity. It’s claimed it promotes the strength, clarity, and compassion needed to find one’s true self.
  • Citrine: A yellow to orange crystal thought to bring joy and enthusiasm to all parts of one’s life. It’s believed it encourages optimism, creativity, concentration, warmth, motivation, and clarity.
  • Turquoise: A light blue mineral, it’s claimed it has mind, body, and soul healing powers. It’s thought to balance emotions, helping one find their spiritual groundings. It’s often used as a good luck charm.
  • Tiger’s eye: The striped gold and brown crystal is believed to rid the body and mind of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. It’s also thought to promote the harmony and balance needed to make clear decisions.
  • Amethyst: A violet-colored crystal, it’s claimed it protects, heals, and purifies. It’s also thought to help promote sleep and relieve stress and pain. Supporting sobriety is another claim.
  • Moonstone: This pearly opalescent “new beginnings” crystal is thought to encourage inner growth and strength. It’s claimed it promotes positive thinking, intuition, inspiration, and good fortune.
  • Bloodstone: A dark green with red splatters mineral, it’s believed it helps cleanse the blood by drawing-off negative environmental energies and improving circulation. It’s claimed it encourages selflessness and creativity, as well as repel irritability, aggression, and impatience.
  • Sapphire: This most often blue mineral is said to attract prosperity, happiness, and peace. It’s thought it eases depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
  • Ruby: This pink to red mineral is believed to aid in restoring vitality and energy levels, which may improve sensuality, sexuality, and intellect. It’s also believed it encourages self-awareness and the realization of truth.

What’s crystal clear?

So what are we to make of this? Can crystals and stones really wield the kind of power we just reviewed? I mean, it’s considered pseudoscience – no scientific evidence to support it whatsoever.

What’s crystal clear?

All too often traditional remedies for the mood and anxiety disorders don’t cut it. So if a suffering soul decides to turn to – believe in – healing crystals for relief, who could possibly pass judgment?

Just think about the beauty and feel. Is it difficult to understand why they equate to healing for so many?

Yep, mood and anxiety woes can be brutal. And those dealing with them have the right to consider any and all relief options.

Are healing crystals for you?

I appreciate the resource material from Emily Rekstis, whose article, Healing Crystals 101, appeared on Healthline.

Speaking of resource material, how ’bout hundreds upon hundreds of Chipur mood and anxiety disorder focused titles?

Cannabinoids & Chronic Pain: Pushing Away from Opioids?

Cannabinoids & Chronic Pain: Pushing Away from Opioids?

The dilemma of chronic pain. Shoot, as though the agony isn’t enough, there’s the remedy. And my heart goes out to those who’ve had to turn to opioids, especially for the long-haul. But maybe there’s another option, one that produces true and lasting relief. Let’s talk about cannabinoids...

The cannabinoids, particularly cannabidiol (CBD), are being praised as non-addictive alternatives to using escalating doses of opioids to treat chronic pain.

Zipping around the web in search of something worthy for this week’s article, Psychiatric Times came through with “Cannabinoids for Chronic Pain: An Opioid Alternative?”

It’s actually a research update for psychiatrists, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals written by Thomas R. Kosten, MD and Coreen B. Domingo, DrPH. Both are professors at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX.

Hey, much to review, so let’s get right into it. As usual, I’m skipping all of the “Drs. Kosten/Domingo said…” formality. What you’re about to read is my summary of their work. Okay?

Chronic Pain Management Realities & Cannabidiol (CBD)

Psychiatrists and other addiction specialists are well aware of the challenges of chronic pain management. Fact is, according to a recent JAMA Network Open survey, almost half of primary care providers are refusing to treat chronic pain.

This reality has presented a new challenge: assessing the use of cannabinoids for the relief of “chronic benign pain.” What’s that? It’s pain generated by inflammation, stress or damage to organs, or other physiological processes not associated with the spread of disease (such as cancer).

The cannabinoids, particularly cannabidiol (CBD), are being praised as non-addictive alternatives to using escalating doses of opioids to treat chronic pain. But there’s one little kink: 10% of the population who use tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is not in CBD, become addicted to it.

Cannabidiol (CBD): Facts

Just about two years ago I posted “CANNABIDIOL: What Is It? Why Should a MOOD or ANXIETY DISORDER Sufferer Care?.” I’m referring you to that article for lots of foundational information (link at the end). Still, we need to go over a few things here.

CBD is derived directly from the hemp and marijuana plants. And though CBD is one of approximately 100 cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant, it doesn’t cause a “high.” Indeed, CBD exhibits no effects that would indicate any abuse or dependence potential. All 50 states have laws that legalize CBD with varying degrees of restriction.

Cannabidiol (CBD): Dosing

CBD for pain

It’s important to note that FDA (US) action pertaining to CBD began earlier this summer. The work includes legislative hearings concerning regulation.

With the exception of two rare seizure disorders, the most effective CBD therapeutic dose for medical conditions, including pain, is unknown. However, some preliminary estimates are available, such as the 5 mg/kg twice-daily dose of Epidiolex (prescription CBD, more in a bit) to treat those two seizure disorders.

But there’s more. In comparing pain-relieving effects in a variety of medications a metric known as number needed to treat (NNT) is used. Tricyclic antidepressants and opioids have the lowest NNT (2.6 and 2.1, respectively) for treating neuropathic pain. That means that for every one patient showing a therapeutic response to the treatment agent, the NNT is the number of patients who need to be treated. In other words, for every two patients treated with opioids, one will have satisfactory relief from chronic neuropathic pain.

Bringing all of this to CBD, the oral CBD spray used in studies has an NNT of 5.0. Here’s what we find when comparing this to other meds for neuropathic pain: opioids 2.1, SSRI antidepressants 5.0, gabapentin 6.4. You can see that this particular CBD formulation, though not as powerful as the opioids, brings results.

Cannabidiol (CBD): The Foreseeable Future

Oh, you can be sure the pharmaceutical industry is ready to make CBD widely available, under state regulation, with and without prescriptions.

Epidiolex, an oral solution developed by Greenwich Biosciences, is available in the US for the management of refractory epilepsy. It may offer relief for chronic pain conditions, as well. Also, recent data shows that heroin cue-induced craving was significantly reduced in subjects given an oral CBD solution once daily for three consecutive days.

GW Pharmaceuticals markets nabiximols (Sativex), a marijuana extract approved in the UK for the treatment of neuropathic pain. overactive bladder, and other symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. A plan to conduct Phase 3 trials in the US is in the works.

Finally, Cara Therapeutics and Zynerba Pharmaceuticals are developing investigative synthetic cannabinoids that are showing promise for the treatment of specific psychiatric disorders and chronic pain symptoms.

All Set

Obviously, the cannabinoids, including cannabidiol, are getting a ton of well-deserved attention. Within the context of this article it’s about pushing away from opioids for pain relief. And there’s a lot going-on in the mood and anxiety disorder neck of the woods.

Much more research and development to be done, but I really believe we’re onto to something.

Those links…

From Chipur: “CANNABIDIOL: What Is It? Why Should a MOOD or ANXIETY DISORDER Sufferer Care?

From Psychiatric Times: “Cannabinoids for Chronic Pain: An Opioid Alternative?

And if you’re in the mood for more reading, scan through the Chipur titles.

Kratom: What & Why You Need to Know

Kratom: What & Why You Need to Know

Over the past few years the popularity of kratom has boomed. It’s being used for pain relief, opioid use disorder, health and wellness, and recreation. But what is kratom? Have you heard of it? And what does someone enduring a mood or anxiety disorder need to know? Let’s take a look…

I’m really trying to be objective in my presentation of kratom. Look, it appears to have some great qualities. But the fact is, there are major concerns.

Supplements can play a pivotal role in relieving mood and anxiety disorder symptoms. I use several. However, this supplement biz can become dicey for a number of reasons, including lack of regulation and seductive marketing. Still, who could blame a mood or anxiety disorder sufferer for pursuing a supplement that’s touted to relieve what ails them?

Let’s consider kratom…

Kratom: What Is It?

Kratom (mitragyna speciosa) is a tropical tree native to southeast Asia. The action is in its leaves, which contain forty-plus compounds. Among them are two alkaloids that act as opioid receptor agonists: mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. The latter is reported to be more potent than morphine.

Kratom is typically consumed in the form of capsules, pills, or extracts. Its leaves can be chewed or brewed as a tea, and it can be smoked or eaten in food. There are all sorts of varieties available for purchase, which most commonly takes place online. Kratom may also be available in local smoke, vape, and head shops.

Purchasing and using kratom is not illegal at the federal level. However, the US Drug Enforcement Agency lists it as a “drug and chemical of concern,” and word’s out that a Schedule 1 classification is just around the corner. Aside from federal status, kratom is legal in most states. In those that have banned it, kratom has been classified as a controlled substance or regulated drug.

What’s It Used For?

The list can go on and on, but let’s go with kratom largely being used for depression, anxiety, stress, pain, opiate/opioid withdrawal, diabetes, hypertension, inflammation, cough, diarrhea, and more. It’s also used for recreational purposes.

Action & Effects

does kratom work for depression
Kratom Leaves

Kratom seems to have stimulant effects at lower doses and leans more toward central nervous system depressant effects at higher doses.

The stimulant effects typically present as increased alertness, ramped-up physical activity, chattiness, and an increase in social behavior. The depressant effects at higher doses vary and are unpredictable. And it’s in this neck of the woods that mood and anxiety disorder sufferers may bump into trouble.

Many users anecdotally report a decrease in anxiety and stress, reduced fatigue, pain relief, and sharper focus. But are those users in the midst of mood or anxiety disorder circumstances?

The Dark Side

I’m really trying to be objective in my presentation of kratom. Look, it appears to have some great qualities. But the fact is, there are major concerns. After all, the DEA is looking to restrict it and it’s been banned in eight states, one county, and three cities.

What’s up?

Kratom use can bring side effects such as sedation, nausea, loss of appetite, constipation, dizziness, confusion, liver injury, jerky limb movements, hallucinations, delusions, aggression, muscle and bone aches, and thyroid problems. In fairness, however, the same could be said about antidepressants and antipsychotics. But in large doses kratom may generate breathing issues, brain swelling – and death.

FDA public health advisories in 2017 and 2018 cited the deadly risks associated with kratom use. It seems in many of these cases kratom was used in combination with illicit, prescription, and over-the-counter drugs. There have also been reports of contamination, as well as the possibility of the presence of additives such as caffeine and codeine. There was even a report not even two years ago of a salmonella outbreak attributed to a common source of kratom.

Finally, kratom is well-known to cause dependence when used regularly. And with that can come opioid-like withdrawal effects.

Now, I have to say there are plenty of kratom advocacy groups that want to protect your right to use kratom for legitimate purposes. One of them is the American Kratom Association. Please, if you’re interested in pursuing kratom for personal use, check them out.

We’ll Close

So there you have it, a primer on kratom. Again, supplements can play a vital role in the management of the mood and anxiety disorders, and kratom sure seems to possess a lot of desirable characteristics and actions. But, of course, the big question is: Is it safe?

And now it’s time for your due diligence…

Plenty more mood and anxiety disorder-related articles where this baby came from. Eyeball those Chipur titles.

Augmenting Traditional Psychiatry with Asian Medicine: Even Docs Are In

Augmenting Traditional Psychiatry with Asian Medicine: Even Docs Are In

If you’re wrestling with a mood or anxiety disorder, no one has to tell you it’s very rarely a single intervention proposition. Meds, therapy, lifestyle changes, meditation, and endless more. And as long as we’re making a list, let’s add Asian medicine. Hey, even psychiatrists are in…

…Lake highlights ‘Qi.’ According to Chinese medical history it’s the vital energy that circulates through the body in ‘energy channels’ or meridians. It’s the flow of Qi, influenced by internal and external factors, that creates imbalances that present as physical or emotional issues.

Millions doing their best to manage their mood and/or anxiety disorder are all too familiar with the practice of meds augmentation. For instance, adding an atypical antipsychotic, say, Abilify to an antidepressant to treat a tough case of depression.

Well, augmentation apparently works, as many experience relief. But what if something creative, effective, and safe could do the augmenting? Many psychiatrists say Asian medicine may be that something.

Bumped into some interesting info on Psychiatric Times the other day. “Integrating Biomedicine and Asian Medicine: Challenges and Opportunities,” a continuing medical education activity, was written by psychiatrist James Lake, MD. My takeaway was great and I think you’ll find the content helpful – especially since it was written by a psychiatrist, for psychiatrists, psychologists, and other health care pros.

So let’s see what’s up…

Integrating Biomedicine and Asian Medicine

Dr. Lake kicks things off by emphasizing the complex problems, as well as opportunities, that come with blending fundamentally different diagnostic and treatment approaches: Asian healing traditions and the biomedicine of Western culture.

Lake observes that biomedical (Western) psychiatry submits that mental illness can at times be explained by dysregulation of foundational neurochemical processes, and takes into account the influence of culture and religion on symptoms. Asian medicine is based upon different assumptions about the human body, the role of consciousness in healing, and the influences of biological, psychological, and “energetic” factors.

Does Chinese medicine work for depression

Going further, Lake highlights “Qi.” According to Chinese medical history it’s the vital energy that circulates through the body in “energy channels” or meridians. It’s the flow of Qi, influenced by internal and external factors, that creates imbalances that present as physical or emotional issues.

Lake underscores the growing dissatisfaction with conventional biomedicine, including its cost. According to him, that’s what’s led to the use of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) to address, for our purposes, psychiatric illness. And, of course, the poor efficacy and safety concerns of psychotropic meds are contributing factors.

So how does Dr. Lake feel about Asian medicine? He declares, “Ayurveda, Tibetan medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine are highly evolved, coherent Asian practices that have been empirically validated and refined over millennia…”

By the way, that’s Indian gooseberry in the featured image. It’s been used in Ayurveda medicine for thousands of years.

Integrating Biomedicine and Asian Medicine: Getting Started

Regarding the integration of biomedicine and Asian medicine, Dr. Lake gets the ball rolling by stating just about half of the physicians in the US endorse CAMs such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and homeopathy. In fact, many physicians are becoming certified in assorted CAMs.

To provide a balanced perspective, Lake goes on to point-out the safety concerns pertaining to Asian medicine due primarily to lack of info regarding combining herbal formulations with prescription meds. He cites the use of the Chinese medicinal herb ma-huang (ephedra) with antidepressants or antihypertensives. The consequences can be nasty, even fatal.

Still, how ’bout this? Lake tells us that psychotropics and traditional Chinese herbal formulations impact the very same neurotransmitters – serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA, etc. And, according to Lake, that calls for more research, which will hopefully lead to more integration.

Integrating Biomedicine and Asian Medicine: In Practice

In practice, when someone presents with a severe emotional or mental disorder, Dr. Lake believes it’s wise to first use a psychotropic. Only after they respond to the med(s) is it appropriate to add an Asian medical treatment (herbal formulations, acupuncture, etc.). If the individual isn’t diagnosed with a severe, life-threatening, or chronic condition, a referral to a qualified Asian medical practitioner is fine.

It’s important to note Lake’s call for special consideration for immediately, or historically, suicidal patients. Under those circumstances, he believes Asian medicine has to hit the back-burner.

The Advantages of Asian Medicine

First and foremost, according to Dr. Lake, all Asian healing traditions are highly patient-centered. And that means treatments address each patient’s unique imbalances that manifest as physical or mental symptoms.

He goes on to say that Asian medicine relies upon simple metaphors that are so much easier to understand than the language of biomedicine. For instance, “wind” is a metaphor used to describe the energetic principle of “rLung,” which in Tibetan medical theory is related to balance – harmony.

And he acknowledges that herbal formulations used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda (originated in the Indian subcontinent) have shown positive results in treating challenges such as depressed mood, schizophrenia, and neurodegenerative disorders.

Finally, Lake points-out that response rates for traditional Asian therapies range from subtle effects with few or zip negative consequences, to marked physiological or energetic changes with more potent therapies that may have more frequent or more serious adverse affects.

Let’s Wrap It Up

I’m still excited and hopeful regarding the information in Dr. Lake’s work. I mean, it’s one thing for him and other physicians – psychiatrists – to express marginal interest in augmenting psychotropics with Asian medicine. But we’re talking an endorsement here. In my mind, that opens many doors.

So how do you feel about it? If you’re interested, take it up with your doc. And why not do an internet search? Enter something like Asian medicine practitioners, with the name of your city. I’ll bet you’ll find some helpful results.

On with it…

You may want to read “Integrating Biomedicine and Asian Medicine: Challenges and Opportunities.” There’s a good bit of info that I didn’t include here.

Qi image:

And then there are those Chipur titles. Hundreds of them, in fact.