Experts: Yogurt May Benefit Mental Health, Depression
The "good bacteria" in yogurt called probiotics may benefit more than just your gut. According to researchers these tiny microbes could potentially improve mental and psychological well-being.
Probiotics commonly found in yogurt such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are known to have numerous health benefits in humans. When introduced into the intestines these microbes help promote normal digestion, boost the immune system, and prevent infection from “bad” bacteria.
Now, new research from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center says that these benefits from may extend to improving mental function.
In a report published by BioEssays, researchers explain that probiotics play a role in producing, absorbing, and transporting neurochemicals (ie: serotonin, dopamine and nerve growth factor) which are essential for healthy brain and nerve function. Therefore, improving probiotic microflora in the intestines may be an important key to treating mental health conditions.
"Until recently the idea that probiotic bacteria administered to the intestine could influence the brain seemed almost surreal", said Professor Gregor Reid from the University of Western Ontario in his commentary written on research. "Yet in [this report] the concept is supported by studies showing that microbes can produce and respond to neurochemicals, which can induce neurological and immunological effects on the host."
Currently the treatment for many mental conditions, such as depression, rely upon the use of medications which either aim to replenish or reactive the production of neurochemicals in the brain. Now, with this new research experts believe that probiotic therapy may be an alternative option.
"Could this mean that [treatment] for people suffering from certain types of mental health problems is a fecal transplant?" mused Professor Mark Lyte, lead researcher and author of the report. A fecal transplant is a type of therapy which re-introduces healthy bacteria into the intestinal tract.
"This [research] proposes a new field of microbial endocrinology, where microbiology meets neuroscience," concluded Lyte. Although the research is preliminary, the experts believe that this could become an important part of clinical practice. The next step is now to identify which probiotics strains have an impact on mental function and begin developing treatment protocols accordingly.