Taking probiotics can reduce symptoms of depression

Depression is becoming all too common, and so, too, are antidepressants. In today’s instant-gratification-obsessed world, doctors and patients alike are tempted by the lure of a “quick fix” like a drug that can tackle this serious problem. Unfortunately, antidepressants aren’t terribly effective, and the side effects can be even worse than depression itself. That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s nothing people can take to combat their symptoms.

In fact, two recent studies have found that consuming friendly bacteria in the form of probiotics can reduce people’s symptoms of depression. One study out of McMaster University in Canada revealed the antidepressant effect of probiotics in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Many IBS suffers also have chronic depression or anxiety as well. The researchers studied 44 adults who have IBS and mild to moderate depression or anxiety. Some were given the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum daily over the course of ten weeks in the study, while others were given a placebo.

Just six weeks into the study, the researchers discovered that 64 percent of the patients who took the probiotic had already seen their depression scores go down; this was twice the figure of those in the placebo group. Functional MRIs showed the score improvement was linked to changes in several areas of the brain related to mood control. It’s a promising finding, and the authors would like to see a larger-scale trial confirm their discovery.

While this news is great for IBS sufferers, it’s also something that can be applied to the general population, as senior author Dr. Premysi Bercik said: “This opens new avenues not only for the treatment of patients with functional bowel disorders but also for patients with primary psychiatric diseases.”

Scientists increasingly finding probiotics combat depression

Meanwhile, a study carried out by researchers at the University of Virginia Health System revealed that a probiotic in yogurt can reverse the symptoms of depression. In the study, researchers found that after mice had been subjected to stress, they experienced a loss of Lactobacillus, which then spurred their depression symptoms. When the mice were given Lactobacillus from live-culture yogurt, they returned almost to normal. In fact, just a single strain of Lactobacillus had the power to influence their mood.

One limitation of the study, of course, is the fact that it looked at animals, but the researchers are hoping to study this effect in humans very soon. Because Lactobacillus affects mice’s mood in much the same way it does humans, they have every reason to believe that the effect could be very similar.

Lead author Alban Gauthier, Ph.D., commented: “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.”

Similarly, a 2011 study found that people who consumed a probiotic formulation containing L. helveticus and B. longum daily eased their psychological depression. Moreover, a meta-analysis found that people who took probiotics had a lower incidence of depression than those who did not.

This is good news for almost everyone, from the depressed people who won’t have to subject their bodies to the dangerous side effects of antidepressants to their loved ones, who won’t have to face the unimaginable grief that so many others have because of the high risk of suicide these drugs cause. The general public will also benefit as people move away from antidepressants toward probiotics as many mass shooting perpetrators in the past several years have been under the influence of these scary, mind-altering drugs.

In fact, the only group that is not necessarily set to benefit from this discovery is Big Pharma. Will they find a way to formulate their own probiotic depression treatments, or will they do everything to discredit these studies to protect their profits?

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