of anxiety and depression
The gut microbiota is essential to human health and plays a major role in the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain. Based on evidence, the gut microbiota is associated with neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, autistic disorders, anxiety disorders and major depressive disorders. In the past few years, a number of studies with human subjects have focused on the effects of probiotics on symptoms of depression. The results of these studies have recently been summarized in a systematic review.
Patients suffering from depression have an altered state of mind that is often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety and cognitive impairment. A depression can severely disrupt patients’ lives. The cause of this psychiatric condition is still unknown. Research conducted over the past few years has revealed that the so-called ‘gut-brain axis’ plays a role in depression. For instance, it is becoming increasingly clear that the gastrointestinal tract can communicate with the Central Nervous System (CNS) via a number of different pathways. In addition, certain changes in the composition of the gut microbiota have been linked to a number of CNS conditions, including depressive disorders.
These findings have resulted in a significantly stronger interest in probiotics as a potential treatment for depression. Many studies with mice have demonstrated that treatment with probiotics can lead to changes in the activity of neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers of the CNS). Mice studies have also demonstrated that probiotics can have a positive effect on the CNS by regulating the neurotransmitters involved in depression. In addition, administration of probiotics resulted in behavioural changes and a reduction in anxiety- and depression-related moods.
Furthermore, a number of studies with human subjects have focused on the effects of probiotics on symptoms of depression. The results of these studies have recently been summarized in a systematic review. (Wallace et al.)
The majority of the studies show that consumption of probiotics can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and can improve patients’ state of mind.
The diversity of the gut microbiota can change under the influence of drugs, diet and stress.
Improving cognitive health
Because the studies covered in the systematic review varied considerably in terms of the bacterial strains used as well as dosing and treatment duration, additional double-blind, randomized trials will be necessary to further investigate the effect of probiotics in patients with depression. Nevertheless, the findings in the systematic review do show that daily consumption of probiotics may lead to an improvement in patients’ state of mind and a reduction in the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Therefore, there may be a future role for probiotics as a new therapeutic option in the treatment of depression.
Read the systematic review
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