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Fish show link between anxiety relief and probiotics

Fish show link between anxiety relief and probiotics 0


Evidence that probiotics offer natural anxiety relief has come in a surprising way—a study about anxiety in fish.

A fascinating new study from the University of Missouri (MU) shows that fish anxiety levels are impacted by the bacteria in their gut.1  And there’s good reason to believe it’s the same for us humans.

You might be asking: “How can they tell if a fish is anxious?”

They have been studying anxiety medications using Zebrafish for quite a while—long enough that there are standardized ways to measure the fish’s anxiety level.

The researchers place a single fish into a new-to-them tank and monitor how much time it spends in the upper and lower parts of the tank.

It is surprising to me how much the anxious behavior in fish parallels anxious behavior in humans. Just like an anxious human may tend to be less outgoing and adventurous, anxious fish tend to spend more time in the bottom part of the tank and less time in the upper region.

The study

The MU researchers gave the test group of fish the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus planetarium two times a day for a month before placing them individually into the observation tank.

Besides monitoring the level of anxious behavior exhibited by the test group and control group fish, samples were taken to examine gut bacteria present and neurotransmitter levels.

The results

The study results showed that the group given L. planetarium probiotics had

  • less anxiety, and
  • “up-regulation” of the pathways for the relaxing neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin

The researchers suggest that the friendly bacteria improved the action of the neurotransmitters and the neurotransmitters reduced the fish’s stress.

Humans have the same neurotransmitters and it is likely that we would have the same benefit from the probiotic bacteria L. planetarium.  


This study is part of an exciting and promising new field of research into the impact gut bacteria have on anxiety specifically and on mood in general.

The results are so encouraging that it has led to a new term: psychobiotics.

Psychobiotics are bacteria that have been shown to improve mental state including mood and memory.  

I’ll be writing more about Psychobiotics soon.

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  1. Davis, D. J., Doerr, H. M., Grzelak, A. K., Busi, S. B., Jasarevic, E., Ericsson, A. C., & Bryda, E. C. (2016). Lactobacillus plantarum attenuates anxiety-related behavior and protects against stress-induced dysbiosis in adult zebrafish.Scientific Reports,6.


Check out my books and hypnosis recordings for dealing with anxiety:

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A quick look at Anxiety







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What is anxiety?

What is anxiety? 0

Simply put, anxiety is heightened fear.

Anxiety can be fleeting, long lasting and debilitating, or it can fall somewhere in between.

Other words that label fear are panic, nervousness, and worry. Any of these levels of fear may also be felt as, or labeled as, “stress.”

It’s important to understand fear in order to better understand and deal with anxiety and stress.

In this post:

  • Fear’s message
  • Flight-or-flight
  • Types of anxiety
  • Anxiety related disorders and conditions
What are Anxiety Symptoms?

What are Anxiety Symptoms? 0

We feel anxiety emotionally and we feel anxiety physically.

Anxiety symptoms can be both emotional and physical.

What anxiety feels like emotionally

Anxiety is a fearful feeling that seems to get a hold of you and not let go.

It can drive you to act in a demanding or irrational way as you attempt to get relief from the fear. Or it can narrow your world as you reduce your exposure to situations that stimulate the fear.  

The emotional side of anxiety can be felt as:

  • fear,
  • apprehension,
  • tension,
  • agitation,
  • angst,
  • stress,
  • uneasiness,
  • worry,
  • nervousness,
  • a sense of impending doom,
  • trepidation,
  • foreboding,
  • panic, or
  • being trapped, controlled, or overwhelmed.

Where your anxiety falls on this list of emotion descriptions may be determined by how intense the anxiety is at any given time. (For example, panic is more intense than worry.)

What anxiety feels like physically

The physical side of anxiety can also be felt at different intensities, from an uneasy jittery physical feeling that accompanies worry, to full bore panic that feels like you are dying.

In fact, panic sends many people to emergency rooms because it can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. 

When anxiety hits its most intense form it is often called a panic attack. (Some call it an anxiety attack, but I think that panic attack is a better label. I see anxiety as less intense than a panic attack.)

A panic attack is very intense for a time—at least 10 minutes—but then usually subsides within an hour. After the panic feeling is reduced, an anxious feeling can remain, but the severity of physical symptoms is not as great as during the panic attack.

Physical symptoms of anxiety can include:
  • muscular tension, aches, and pains,
  • headaches,
  • upset stomach,
  • gastrointestinal problems (diarrhea, constipation, gas),
  • loss of appetite or increased appetite,
  • sweating,
  • trembling or shaking,
  • dry mouth,
  • feeling hot or cold,
  • hyper energy or low energy,
  • a lethargic worn-out feeling,
  • weakness in legs,
  • sleep disturbance (difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep),
  • inability to relax,
  • brain fog or difficulty concentrating,
  • hypersensitivity to noise or touch, or
  • a closed down feeling in throat.

 Physical symptoms of a panic attack can include any of the above plus:

  • chest pain,
  • increased heart rate,
  • shortness of breath,
  • extreme nausea,
  • extreme shift in body temperature, or
  • feeling faint or light-headed.

My own experience

I have experienced two panic attacks myself. They definitely are no fun.

Panic attacks are scary multiplied: they are caused by something scary and they are scary. 

My first panic attack lasted about a half hour. It was spurred by my receipt of a threatening email from an ex-boyfriend. The panic reduced when I called someone to help me deal with the situation and I felt more secure.

The second panic attack occurred about a week later when I received another email in which his threats escalated. That attack lasted for about an hour. During that attack, I laid down on the floor because I was worried that I might pass out and I figured if I passed out on the floor at least I wouldn’t fall and hurt myself.   

After the second attack, I took myself to a hypnotherapist friend. She fixed me up and I never had another panic attack.

I think that my personal experiences with anxiety and panic, combined with my professional education and experience as a counselor, give me an insight into anxiety that is more complete than most.

I know that my clients are often relieved to discover that I have experienced panic first hand and so have an understanding of what they have been through.

For more info and help with anxiety, check out products I created while I helped clients overcome stress and anxiety: 

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Panic Attack Symptoms

Panic Attack Symptoms 0

Panic typically starts with emotional causes but those emotions stimulate intense physical symptoms that mimic heart attacks and other scary physical symptoms.

One of the common repercussions of having a panic attack is that from that point forward you can get anxiety about the potential of having another attack. You get anxiety about the anxiety.

Journal Away Your Stress

Journal Away Your Stress 0

Studies show that when people write about stressful situations—and they include the emotional component—their physical health improves.

The studies’ control group that wrote about troubling situations, but did not include the emotional component, did not show health improvements.

As one of my clients recently described the benefit she found from journaling about a troubling situation that was stressing her out: “I felt so much better after I journaled about my feelings. It’s like it got the anxiety out of me instead of just having it churning in my head.”

Beware of taking on other people’s anxiety

Beware of taking on other people’s anxiety 0

Sometimes, we take on other people’s emotional overflow like a sponge absorbing a toxic spill. If you take on other people’s stuff, you may have no room left for yours. This can contribute to you getting overwhelmed and anxious relatively easy.

You may have absorbed other people’s anxiety if: