Probiotics fight depression: Healthy gut bacteria found to reduce symptoms
01/14/2018 // Earl Garcia // Views

Taking probiotics to improve intestinal health may come with a bonus, as a new animal study revealed that the beneficial gut bacteria may also reduce depressive tendencies. A team of researchers at the Aarhus University in Denmark examined the effects of lactic acid bacteria in rat models as part of the study. The rats were divided into four groups that received either an extra fatty and fiberless diet alone or an unhealthy diet with probiotics-enhanced water.

The findings revealed that rats given probiotics exhibited neutral behavior after a swimming test despite their unhealthy diet. In contrast, rats that were not given the probiotics drink appeared more depressed following the test. The researchers also observed a significant increase in white blood cells in the brain tissues of untreated rats, which may indicate the onset of chronic inflammation.

Lead researcher Dr. Anders Abildgaard cited mounting evidence that link an unhealthy diet to the onset of depression. According to the expert, patients suffering from depression have a generally unhealthy lifestyle than average as they probably fall short on the necessary resources that promote a healthy one.

"Specifically in this study, the rats offset the consequences of the fatty diet with the help of probiotics, so that they were on a par with their peers in the control group. This is a fascinating discovery which supports the conclusion that probiotics, which normally do good in the intestines, also affect the brain. This makes the result interesting for the treatment of depression," Dr. Abildgaard concluded in a Nutra Ingredients article.


The study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

Probiotics may alleviate depression minus the unwanted side effects

Another animal study revealed that stressful events lead to a significant loss of probiotics in the intestinal tract. Researchers observed that inadequate levels of probiotics resulted in the manifestation of depressive symptoms. However, feeding mice with food containing the probiotic strain Lactobacillus reuteri helped the animals return to almost normal. (Related: Probiotics found to reverse depression without the violent side effects of SSRI antidepressants.)

The scientists explained that probiotics might influence the levels of kynurenine, a blood metabolite known to trigger the onset of depression. According to the experts, a decrease in probiotics resulted in a simultaneous increase in kynurenine levels. This in turn lead to the onset of depressive symptoms in the animals. The research team cautioned that maintaining high levels of kynurenine might otherwise diminish the beneficial effects of probiotics.

“The big hope for this kind of research is that we won’t need to bother with complex drugs and side-effects when we can just play with the microbiome. It would be magical just to change your diet, to change the bacteria you take, and fix your health – and your mood,” lead researcher Alban Gaultier said in a university press release.

Another study showed that probiotics consumption may improve mood. A team of Dutch scientists enrolled 40 healthy participants to carry out the study. The participants were classified into two groups. One group was given probiotics, while the other served as the placebo control. The results showed that patients in the probiotics group exhibited less reactivity to sad moods compared with those in the placebo group. The findings appeared in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

“Even if preliminary, these results provide the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood. As such, our findings shed an interesting new light on the potential of probiotics to serve as adjuvant or preventive therapy for depression," study author Lorenza S. Colzato told Medical Daily online.

Check for more stories about mental health and wellness.

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