Can Probiotics Protect Against Depression and Negativity?

woman thinkingProbiotics, which promise to boost “good” bacteria, have exploded into the world of healthy living in recent years. The body is home to colonies of millions of bacteria that help you digest food, fight infections, and even help you grow. Probiotics may also improve mental health. A small study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity has found that people who take probiotics tend to ruminate less on negative feelings.

Probiotics for Better Mental Health

Researchers gave 40 participants a pouch filled with a powdery solution, with half receiving a placebo and the other half getting a probiotic. Participants met with researchers once at the beginning of the experiment and again four weeks later. During both meetings, participants completed a questionnaire that tested their depression levels.

Those who took probiotics were, at the end of the four-week period, less likely to engage in negative ruminations. Ruminating on negative thoughts is a hallmark of depression, and the tendency to fixate on the negative may even cause depression. The study did not explore the possibility that probiotics might cure or reduce depression, but its authors highlight the need for more research into the ways the right internal bacterial balance may affect mental health.

Gut Health and Depression

For decades, research on depression has focused on the brain as the origin of the condition. Contemporary researchers have now begun taking a look at the gut. Research on mice suggests that the right gut bacteria balance could reduce anxiety. Other research suggests that chronic gastrointestinal inflammation might play a role in depression. If probiotics do help people feel happier, it could be because they’re restoring the right bacterial balance to the gastrointestinal tract.

Previous research has found that probiotics can reduce the frequency and severity of genital yeast infections, diarrhea, and urinary tract infections, offering a strong incentive to give probiotics a try.

References:

  1. Feher, J., Kovacs, I., and Balacco Gabrielli, C. (2011). Role of gastrointestinal inflammations in the development and treatment of depression [Abstract]. Orvosi Hetilap, 152(37), 1477-1485. doi:10.1556/OH.2011.29166.
  2. Health benefits of taking probiotics. (2005, September 1). Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics
  3. Law, B. M. (2005, November). Probing the depression-rumination cycle. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov05/cycle.aspx
  4. People less focused on recurrent bad feelings when taking probiotics. (2015, April 14). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150414083718.htm
  5. Rettner, R. (2014, December 24). Gut feeling? Probiotics may ease anxiety and depression. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/49248-gut-bacteria-mental-health.html

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  • Callie

    Callie

    April 18th, 2015 at 7:51 AM

    My son’s pediatrician recently recommended that I start him on a probiotic to try to combat some of the stomach issues that he’s been having but it sounds like it could be even more beneficial that that.

  • Ella

    Ella

    April 19th, 2015 at 6:49 AM

    I love seeing stories like this because I think that it goes a long way in showing how achieving balance in your life between the physical and the mental issues that this then creates a harmony in the body that is undeniable. When you are healthier physically then you are going to be healthier mentally, and vice versa. You can’t have one without the other.

  • stuart

    stuart

    April 20th, 2015 at 1:54 PM

    But this isn’t new information, I think that this theory has been floated around for quite some time now.

  • Valerie

    Valerie

    April 23rd, 2015 at 6:08 PM

    Honestly I have not hear one bad thing that probiotics can do so why not try it? You may try them for one thing and could end up helping yourself in numerous ways by benefiting from improvement with something else too. If they are good quality and can help then I say that it sounds like something that everyone could benefit from.

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