Stomach bugs can boost your mood

It's one of the most promising new mental health treatments in generations -- and you don't need to park yourself on a shrink's sofa to get it.

It's not a drug, so you don't need a prescription, either.

In fact, you don't even need a doctor at all.

All you need is a quality probiotic supplement, because new research on the benefits of probiotics confirms that a bellyful of these stomach-friendly bugs can protect your brain, ease stress, fight anxiety and beat depression.

They're being dubbed "psychobiotics" for their mood-boosting benefits, and the review of emerging science finds you can feel the difference in just a few short weeks.

One of the studies in the review shows that the benefits of probiotics can boost the mood of older folks in 21 days. In another, supplements with Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and B longum eased stress and reduced levels of the "stress hormone" cortisol in just one month.

And in a third study, an active strain of L casei taken three times a day eased anxiety in patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.

All three of these studies were placebo-controlled -- but what really stands out here is not just that the benefits of probiotics worked and beat the placebo.

It's that they worked so fast, taking effect in just a few weeks.

Psychiatric drugs, on the other hand, can take months to kick in-- and that's when they work at all. And whether they work or not, mood meds come with serious risks ranging from physical problems such as stomach disorders, sexual dysfunction and weight gain to mental ones such as personality changes and even suicide.

That's why I don't recommend these drugs to my own patients and prefer natural options such as probiotics instead.

That said, while the benefits of probiotics are an important piece of the puzzle, they're just that: one piece of a large and complicated puzzle.

The rest of the picture will be based on the cause of the problem, from life problems such as work and relationship issues to nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances and even undiagnosed illness.

Work with a holistic physician who can help determine the cause of your problem -- and once you narrow down that cause, you can get to work on correcting it naturally.

And whether you suffer mood disorders or not, a probiotic supplement is always a good idea.