Probiotics Could Ease Depressive Thoughts, Study Suggests

Researchers have discovered a pill that could help alleviate symptoms of depression, and no, it isn’t Prozac. A recent study published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity produced evidence suggesting that probiotic supplements could help elevate mood.

Researchers from the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition at Leiden University in the Netherlands evaluated 40 healthy adult subjects who had no personal or family history of psychiatric or neurological disorders. Half the participants were given a powdered probiotic containing strains of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Lactococcus – bacteria thought to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. The remaining participants were given a placebo. All participants believed they were given a probiotic supplement.

Before and after the study, all participants filled out a questionnaire to assess their reaction to sad moods and their vulnerability to depression. Two weeks before the study began, there was no difference between the two groups. However, at the end of the four-week study, the participants who had taken the probiotic supplements showed significantly reduced reactivity to depression, meaning they were less likely to experience distress and aggressive thoughts as a result of sad moods.

Researchers still haven’t discovered the means by which probiotics affect mood, but the study authors proposed that probiotics could increase tryptophan, an amino acid used by the body to produce serotonin. It is also possible that probiotics relieve symptoms of depression by decreasing inflammation and permeability in the gut.

Lorenza S. Colzato, study author and principal investigator at the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition says of the study, “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” (Source: Time).