New Research Explores How Probiotics May Help With Cognitive Depression Symptoms
Mental health issues are discussed more openly than ever before. Yet, when it comes to mental health conditions like depression, many people are still searching for a treatment that finally brings them relief. A new study 1shows that a very common compound may be able to move the needle on certain depression symptoms. Keep reading for all the details.
Probiotics and depression
Symptoms of depression include apathy, guilt, hopelessness, changes in body weight, insomnia, and irritability. While these symptoms tend to be the primary focus of treatment, there's also a long list of cognitive symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating, indecisiveness, and memory issues.
A new study shows that a popular supplement may help with the cognitive issues associated with depression. This randomized controlled trial including over 40 patients showed that high-dose probiotic supplementation for four weeks significantly enhanced memory and affected brain mechanisms underlying depression-based cognitive issues.
Specifically, the results showed that people in the probiotic group have improved hippocampal function (the part of the brain in charge of emotion and memory) at the end of the study period. This is what the authors of the study predicted they would observe. As lead author Else Schneider, Ph.D., explained in an interview: "It supports our hypothesis that the hippocampus is the main structure that benefits from probiotics, and that's why we only see improvement in the episodic memory and not in other cognitive domains, which are less hippocampus-dependent."
Gut/mental health connection
While the study was small, the research, which was published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, adds to a growing body of evidence that there's a strong connection between the gut microbiome, mental health, and cognition.
For example, studies have shown2 that the gut microbiomes of people with depression are composed slightly differently than the gut microbiomes of those without the illness. We still don't understand exactly how gut microbiome composition and depression are connected—for example, we aren't sure whether an altered gut microbiome composition precedes or follows depression or how the two interact—but we know that the connection exists. Another study3 demonstrated that 30 days of probiotics led to a significant decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression.
This latest study can encourage all of us to support our gut health in honor of our mood, cognition, and mental health. Here are three habits to get you started:
Take a probiotic: For all the reasons mentioned above, probiotics may help support mental health and cognition. Be sure to take a probiotic that includes bacterial strains that have been studied in humans, like these nine Ph.D.-approved probiotic supplements.
Exercise: Exercise has benefits for our gut health and our mental health. In fact, studies have shown it's as effective at improving mood in the short and long term. Try one of these 14 easy at-home workouts for all fitness levels.
Reduce sugar: Too much sugar can cause imbalances in your gut bacteria that can throw off your mood4. Here are nine tricks for quitting sugar today.
A new study found that four weeks of probiotic supplementation may improve some of the cognitive symptoms of depression. While there's still more we have to learn about the gut-brain connection, this research is yet another reminder to tend to your microbiome for the sake of your mood.
Gretchen Lidicker is an mbg health contributor, content strategist, and the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. She holds a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University.