The Effects of Probiotics on Depressive Symptoms in Humans:
A systematic review
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a complex psychiatric disorder that will affect up to 20% of the population at some point in their lifetime. Numerous studies have linked psychiatric disorders such as MDD to changes in the gastrointestinal microbiome. A recenlty published review analysed the findings of these studies and shows a promising role for probiotics.
Patients suffering from MDD experience significant mood, anxiety and cognitive symptoms. As a result, MDD can significantly impair the daily functioning of these patients. The underlying cause of this complex psychiatric disorder is still unknown.
In the last decade, research has revealed that the gastrointestinal tract communicates with the central nervous system, also referred to as the ‘gut-brain axis’. Furthermore, several central nervous system disorders such as MDD have been linked to changes in the gut microbiota.
Since probiotics are known for their ability to influence the gut microbiota composition they could be a potential new antidepressant treatment.
Gut-brain communication. Source Nature
Several rodent studies have already demonstrated the ability of probiotics to alter neurotransmitter activity (the chemicals by which cells from the central nervous system communicate). Also, probiotic consumption has shown to induce behavioral and psychological changes such as reduced anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors.
A recently published review analyzed the current body of research assessing the effects of probiotics, on symptoms of depression in humans.
The review included 10 studies on probotics and depressive disorders among which a study with Ecologic® Barrier from Steenbergen et al. The researchers analysed the effect of probiotics on:
stress and anxiety
The majority of the studies showed positive results on all measures of MDD, with reduced anxiety symptoms and an improved mood. Although, the strain of probiotic, the dosing and duration of treatment varied widely, the researchers conclude that the evidence for probiotics alleviating depressive symptoms is compelling and probiotic consumption might offer a new, therapeutic option to treat MDD.
The use of probiotics as an alternative or adjuvant treatment for relieving symptoms of MDD and anxiety could be a critical turning point in the management of the disorder
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