Probiotics May Help Manage Symptoms Of Depression, Study Suggests
While many people take probiotic supplements to help manage bloat and support digestion, a recent review, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), found that gut-friendly bacteria may also help support mental health. Researchers from Brighton and Sussex Medical School found adults who took probiotics (both alone and in combination with prebiotics) felt improvements in depressive symptoms.
What does the research say?
The data was pulled from seven studies within the last 15 years. In each study, at least one group took a prebiotic or probiotic, and another group had a placebo or received no treatment. All seven studies analyzed the effects of prebiotics and probiotics on mood disorders, including depression and anxiety.
Each study included 12 strains of probiotics, including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidobacterium bifidum. In all of the studies, after participants took probiotics, they saw improvements in anxious symptoms and a change in the biochemical measures affecting depression and anxiety.
How do probiotics affect mood?
This is not the first study to point out a link between mental health and gut health1. It's also not the first to show the effects probiotics have on depression2. The reason for this link is the gut-brain connection, which is an interconnected system that allows the mind to communicate with the gut microbiome and vice versa.
According to the BMJ study, adults who saw the biggest improvement in depressive symptoms had preexisting gut disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This suggests that because their microbiomes were not well balanced, it negatively affected their mental health. Once probiotics helped increase good gut bacteria, both their digestive issues and moods saw improvements.
Mental health and gut health are intertwined through the gut-brain axis. Research continues to support the fact that supplementing with probiotics, and possibly consuming probiotic foods, may help manage depressed feelings.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.