Early Life Nutrition

Is the gut-brain axis the key to reducing maternal stress & anxiety?


Becoming a mother is a special journey for many women, but there’s no doubt it can also be a stressful process.  

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Our own international consumer research conducted this year found a variety of different worries and anxieties for pregnant women: including finances, the changes their bodies are undergoing, their diets and the impending responsibilities of parenthood. And that’s not to mention worries about the effects of anxiety on their pregnancy, which often leads to a vicious cyclical effect. Support for these women is clearly required, but could the gut play a key role in reducing their stress levels?

Research into the gut-brain axis has demonstrated that this bidirectional link between the brain and the gut microbiome is a game-changer for mental health issues.[1] Indeed, recent studies into the phenomenon have shown that the gut microbiome can be modified via “psychobiotics”: probiotics and prebiotics that, when ingested, might confer a mental health benefit. And this modification can reduce both stress responses and symptoms of anxiety.[2]

To understand more about this effect, and how it can benefit anxious women, FrieslandCampina Ingredients embarked on a first-of-its-kind scientific research programme with the University of Surrey to understand more about the effects of one lactose-derived psychobiotic in particular: galactooligosaccharides, or ‘GOS’. A cohort of 64 female participants, all with diagnosed anxiety, was placed on a four-week course of BiotisTM GOS (7gr/day) or a placebo. Changes in their mood and wellbeing were measured via self-reporting, behavioural testing and microbiome sequencing of stool samples.

To learn more about the study, and its exciting results, take a look at our feature on the topic in the October/November issue of Food & Beverage Asia.

And, of course, if you’d like to talk to a member of our team about our innovations and concepts for the maternal market, get in touch with us today: info@frieslandcampinaingredients.com



[1] Bindels et al., 2015; Dinan et al., 2013 and Burnett & Cowen, 2013

[2] The scientific definition of a prebiotic is “A substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit” (Gibson et al., 2017). The scientific definition of a probiotic is “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host” (Hill et al., 2014). Whether a prebiotic or probiotic claim can be made on a product depends on local legislation.

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