Relieving Depression May Lie in Your Gutadmin
A new review of research suggests that using probiotics to alter the trillions of microorganisms living in the intestinal tract could help ease symptoms of depression, IFLScience.com reports.
Researchers from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the United Kingdom reviewed seven different studies that examined how anxiety and/or depression were affected after individuals ingested probiotics and/or prebiotics that induce the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms in the subjects’ gut. All seven studies showed “significant improvements” in depression symptoms when measuring the effect of taking pre/probiotics compared to no treatment or a placebo, however, evidence was not solid enough to conclude whether or not the same supplements helped ease anxiety.
This review also did not examine why probiotics appear to ease depression, but, drawing on previous research, the team believes the connection may have to do with something known at the gut-brain axis. It’s also thought that gut microbes could help produce, degrade, or modify certain neuroactive compounds.
Independent experts also note that, while this is “good quality research”, this study was relatively small and short-term and warn that the strains of bacteria that are found in products on supermarket shelves may not actually help those suffering from depression or other mental health problems.
“Probiotics often contain different strains of bacteria and we do not know if the supplements, sachets and fermented milks you find on supermarket shelves will work, or only those probiotics used in the research studies,” Kevin Whelan, Professor of Dietetics and head of Department of Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London, said in a statement. Whelan was not involved in the study. He did go on to say: “Given that probiotics were not shown to worsen depression or cause other side-effects, then there is unlikely to be any harm in someone with depression trying probiotics in addition to the treatment recommended by their doctor.”