Health knowledge and news provided by doctors.

Taking probiotics for depression shows promise

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Yogurt, fermented foods or probiotic supplements for depression

Several animal and some human studies have suggested probiotics could offer a natural treatment for depression.


Could probiotics help treat depression, anxiety and other types of mental health problems? New research suggests ingesting adequate amounts of live bacteria that lives in our gut could indeed alter behavior.

Probiotics for depression studies reviewed

According to researchers who conducted a review of studies, microflora that are in our intestines and determined at birth can be altered in ways that have a tremendous impact on our health and well-being.

The study authors write: :As a class of probiotic, these bacteria are capable of producing and delivering neuroactive substances such as gamma-aminobutyric acid and serotonin, which act on the brain-gut axis."

Anyone taking probiotics for depression should know it takes adequate amounts that may not yet be known to help treat the disorder.

Timothy Dinan and his colleagues from University College Cork in Ireland, call probiotics that can change a person's behavior psychobiotics that they define as "a live organism that, when ingested in adequate amounts, produces a health benefit in patients suffering from psychiatric illness."

In their study review that is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, the researchers discovered a specific probiotic, B. infantis, helped normalize behavior in rats that were separated from their mothers', in addition to stabilizing the rat's immune response that was also affected by maternal separation.

The study authors say there is also strong evidence that probiotics might help treat depression and other mental illnesses because of their anti-inflammatory properties.

Follow eMaxHealth on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Please, click to subscribe to our Youtube Channel to be notified about upcoming health and food tips.

According to the authors, "the intestinal microbial balance may alter the regulation of inflammatory responses and in so doing, may be involved in the modulation of mood and behavior."

Evidence from some human studies also point to the role of probiotics for modifying behaviors.

Probiotics might calm stress

One study compared the probiotics L.. helveticus R0052 and B. longum to placebo. Study participants given the live bacteria reported lower stress levels.

In a separate study, people given yogurt reported improvement in mood.

Human studies showing probiotics can treat depression are difficult to find, but some show promise that ingesting live gut bacteria can alter mood. Until more large-scale studies are done anyone taking probiotics for depression should continue their current therapy.

Consuming yogurt, fermented foods or taking probiotic supplements might also help quell anxiety and has been suggested to boost immunity.

Timothy G. Dinan, Catherine Stanton, John F. Cryan. Psychobiotics: A Novel Class of Psychotropic. Biological Psychiatry, 2013; 74 (10): 720 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.05.001