Probiotics For Mental Health: How Gut Health and Mental Health Are Connected [transcript][audio]


Guest: Teresa Mitchell-Paterson

Presenter: Tabetha Moreto

Guest Bio: Teresa Mitchell-Paterson is the nutritional advisor for Bowel Cancer Australia. She is an educator of final year clinical studies for Bachelor of Health students (Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine). Ms. Mitchell-Paterson is qualified Nutritionist who also holds a Masters of Health Science in Human Nutrition; is herself a bowel cancer survivor and works as a member of Bowel Cancer Australia’s patient services team.

Segment Overview: In today’s interview, Teresa discusses about how probiotics appear to show a beneficial effect on general signs of stress, mild anxiety and low mood. She also explains the connection between our gut health and mental health.

TRANSCRIPT – Gut and Mental Health

Tabetha Moreto: Hello everyone, welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host for today, Tabetha Moreto. Our guest today is Teresa Mitchell-Paterson, the Nutritional Advisor for Bowel Cancer Australia. Today we’re going to talk about a very interesting topic. We’re going to discuss about how probiotics appear to show a beneficial effect on general signs of stress, anxiety and even low mood. Without further ado, welcome to the show Teresa. I’m so happy you can join us today.

Teresa Mitchell-Paterson: Thank you, Tabetha. It’s really a pleasure to be on the radio and be talking to you about this very important subject.

T: Yes, it’s my pleasure Teresa. So let’s get started, please tell us especially the audience more about yourself and your organization.

P: Yes, okay. Look, I’ve actually got a number of jobs and yes one of them is the Nutritional Advisor for Bowel Cancer Australia and looking at probiotics and bowel health certainly, but I’m also a Naturopath and Nutritionist in an integrated medicine practice. So what that means is I work with a number of doctors, assisting people with their health. And I’m also a Senior Lecturer in the Bachelor of Health Science, Natural Therapies for a College in Sydney.

T: Wow, you have a lot of jobs indeed. You must be good at multitasking.

P: I certainly am. I am female and I will multitask.

T: I agree with you, women are better multitaskers. I hope the men don’t get offended.

P: They certainly are. No, me too.

T: Anyway, can you tell us this interesting connection. What is the connection between probiotics when it comes to mood elevation and depression and even anxiety?

P: Well it’s really interesting because we have traditionally treated anxiety or low mood with medication. But recent studies have actually proven that gut microbiota play a really important part in reducing anxiety. And one study was conducted in generally otherwise healthy people who were suffering from anxiety and they were given a particular strain of probiotic. And when they took this particular strain of probiotic, it found that their anxiety levels actually dropped. And the more we read into this and the more papers we read from a scientific point of view, the more we understand that the probiotics in our gut will actually affect two nerves in the nervous system which are the vagal nerves and the adrenergic nerves which then affect our brain. So the probiotics in your gut will have a very strong connection to how your brain functions.

T: I see. This is very interesting because probiotic or something that people associate with our digestive system, not necessarily with mental health or with even depression. This is why I find this as a very interesting topic. So by the way Teresa, aside from helping people with mental illness or specially depression, what are the other health benefits of probiotics?

P: Well traditionally we use them for gastrointestinal disorders and that can range from bowel cancer to IBS, to Crohn’s Disease and just general bloating. Those are the main things that we look at and have a lot of research around. But we’re also finding that probiotics are very useful as pretreatment for ladies who wanted to fall pregnant, to make sure that the baby gets the good probiotic which will help them to set up their health later in life.

T: That sounds excellent. And speaking of these gut microbiota, can you please explain to us what is this exactly?

P: Okay. So when we eat fermented foods or if we eat fermented food we get little bacteria that are beneficial to our gut lining. And the little bacteria in our gut lining help us to reduce inflammation in our gut and also help us to breakdown food. Now the thing is that modern life doesn’t support this very well. We have foods that are lacking in fiber and we have plenty of alcohol which can ruin that gut bacteria. And we tend to take some medications that might interfere with the gut bacteria.

T: I see, this is very interesting. And I agree with you Teresa, unfortunately modern life wrecks our health like what you said earlier when people drink alcohol, it messes up our digestive system and it messes up our internal organs. And unfortunately a lot of people eat too much processed food, fast food so we’re not getting enough probiotics or fiber in our diet.

P: That’s correct. The evidence is supporting both probiotics and prebiotics. So not just really good probiotics that you can take from food but also from supplements and it has to contain something called helveticus, so that’s the lactobacillus strain helveticus and it has a number, it’s R0052 and in combination with bifidum longum R00175, but also prebiotics. So lots of fiber and ensuring that we get a various strain – a various mix of fiber. It’s not just the fibers that you get in bran but some of the soluble fibers that you find in oats and resistant starches as well.

T: That’s sound good. And speaking of probiotics, I want to ask you something, since I’m a mother myself, I have a child. Are probiotics safe for children?

P: Yes, they are. But you do need to make sure that you talk to a healthcare professional before you start to taking probiotics. Because as I mentioned, there are a number of different strains. So if we’re talking about specifically anxiety and certain gut, brain, low mood types of conditions, then something like the Eagle Cytopro Balance is a very good probiotic. But it’s not necessarily one that I would use for other conditions such as, let’s say constipation.

T: Yes, that’s right. I agree with you on that. And this is very interesting because like what I mentioned earlier I never imagined that probiotics could be good for people especially when it comes to mental illness. Because probiotics, people usually associate this with our stomach not necessarily our mental health.

P: Yes, exactly. So obviously you have to support the body as well. You need to make sure that people have some good activated B vitamins as well. Because that supports the nervous system and a good probiotic. And that combination will definitely help somebody who’s perhaps struggling a little bit with their mood and their anxiety levels.

T: That’s right. It’s true because physical health is connected with our mental health. If your mental health is not in good condition, then your physical health is going to follow unfortunately.

P: Yes, that is true.

T: And I want to ask you something, Teresa. Are there any misconceptions regarding probiotics that you want to clear up on the show today?

P: Well one the misconceptions is that you can take any probiotic and that it’s going to assist you with a certain health condition. So most people will just wander in to a shop and buy any probiotic that they see in the fridge, and it’s not actually quite as easy as that. And you need to be talking to somebody who knows about probiotics before purchasing a probiotic, and you need to know a good time to take that probiotic. And how certain foods and of course alcohol could interfere with the probiotics working.

T: Yes, thank you so much for clearing up those misconceptions, Teresa. Because to tell you the truth, I know something a little bit about probiotics. But with all the information out there like on the internet and magazine articles, sometimes it gets confusing what advice to follow. But I agree with you that it’s better to your doctor or talk to somebody who really knows about probiotics.

P: Well there’s also quite a lot of information and that has been very well researched on the Eagle Natural Health website which is where people can get some very good advice about not only B vitamins but about the various types of probiotics and what they may be useful for.

T: Excellent. I really appreciate that – that you share this information with us. It will be very helpful to our listeners out there.

P: Good. Always happy to help with those sorts of things and I’ve been involved with assisting that particular health fight so I’m comfortable in talking about that health fight as a place to go.

T: Yes, that’s wonderful. Speaking of diet, how can we add probiotics to our diet? Do we have to take supplements or are there specific kinds of food that we need to take?

P: Well it depends on how serious the problem is and how long the person actually have that condition. So if it’s not a very serious problem, then we can support our digestive function by eating things like kefir yogurt and swift cheese which incidentally is where the helveticus strain that comes in that Eagle Cytopro Balance was actually found and we can also eat kimchi as an example and fermented sauerkraut. But there is a word of caution there, the fermented sauerkraut needs to be a salt fermented sauerkraut not a vinegar fermented sauerkraut, so there is a big difference. Obviously if you’re eating those types of foods you’ll get a very small amount of probiotics but if you feel that your condition or you’ve been told that your condition is a little bit more serious than taking a probiotic is necessary. And then on top of that, making sure that you have some good fibers which you’ll find in rolled oats, much better in the rolled oats than the minute oats and whole grain and also in resistant starches such as bananas and potatoes and rice that are allowed to go cold. And I know that sounds a bit strange but the recrystallization of those starches and the benefit to the bowel and the digestive system are only available when potatoes and rice actually go cold.

T: Yes, it is interesting.

P: It’s an interesting little anomaly.

T: Yes, thank you for sharing that, maybe next time when I eat rice and potatoes I’ll let them go cold.

P: Good idea.

T: Thank you for sharing that. I really appreciate that. Okay, so Teresa I want to ask you a personal question if you don’t mind?

P: Sure.

T: Why are you so passionate about this particular topic? Why are you so passionate about promoting probiotics to the people out there?

P: In clinic, I’m finding that most people present with some level of anxiety. And I think in our world at the moment we are encouraged to buy more, seek more, look better etc., achieve more and with squashing so much into a day that the levels of anxiety have actually increased. So for me, in clinical practice it’s really important to look at some gentle ways to support people who are suffering from anxiety without interfering with their general medication. And I find that a good probiotic can sit beside that and not interfere with their medications. And that’s a very important part that a probiotic can play particularly in people who are on multiple medications. And the same applies to the B vitamins, the activated B vitamins and by Eagle Natural Health. The majority of people can take those, you would still need to check with a healthcare professional to make sure that it’s safe to take.

T: Very well said Teresa, thank you so much. I agree with you on that. We live in a very fast paced world nowadays and people can get overwhelmed with all the things that their doing. So let’s just take it one step at a time and let’s take of our health in the process.

P: Yes, absolutely.

T: Excellent. So before we go, Teresa. What is your main takeaway message to all our listeners out there?

P: My main take takeaway message is that if you do want to help yourself reduce anxiety and help with a low mood situation then choose a good probiotic and the strain again is Helveticus R0052 and the Bifidum Longum R0175 because those are the ones that have been researched. And also supporting yourself with an activated B vitamin. And the reasons I’m talking about those particular products is because the research has been done on them. And I like to backup my statements with some very robust scientific research.

T: Excellent message, thank you so much. And last but not the least, for those who want to contact your organization, how they can get in touch with you?

P: They can go thru the website which is

T: Excellent. Thank you so much Teresa for coming on the show today. I really appreciate it.

P: You are welcome, Tabetha. Have a good day. And I hope all the listeners have a good day too.

T: Yes, thank you. And that was Teresa Mitchell-Paterson, Nutritional Advisor for Bowel Cancer Australia. We’ve just been talking about the wonderful benefits of probiotics when it comes to mood elevation, depression and anxiety as well as digestive health. If you like this interview, transcripts and archive are available at We are on all social media platforms, so don’t forget to follow, like and subscribe. We are also available for download on SoundCloud and iTunes. I’m Tabetha Moreto and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio.

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