What probiotics should I take to fight depression?

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Your body, mainly your digestive system, contains both helpful bacteria, also called probiotics, and potentially harmful bacteria. When the balance between these two types of bacteria is disrupted, it can result in illness. Probiotics exist naturally in foods like yogurt and kimchi. They’re also available as supplements in pill or powder form. There is a special group of probiotics, called psychobiotics, which can help to treat certain mental illnesses, including depression, and boost your overall mood (Raypole, 2019).

A bowl of fruit and a probiotic bar
Probiotic

How do probiotics work?

It can indeed be puzzling as to how the bacteria in your gut influence mental symptoms. The answer to it lies in something called the gut-brain axis (GBA). GBA links your gut to your brain.

In the opinion of some experts, probiotics play a role in the GBA by affecting these which play a crucial role in depression (Raypole, 2019):

  • Influencing the production and expression of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in your brain)
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Affecting cognitive function (that is, your mental abilities of learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem-solving, decision making, and attention)
  • Modulating your response to stress

Evidence for Role of Probiotics in Treatment of Depression

An article in Annals of General Psychiatry (Wallace & Milev, 2017) reviewed the available medical literature on using probiotics to treat anxiety and depression and looked in depth at 10 studies that were well done. The results of these studies were mixed; some suggested that there may be benefits of taking probiotics if you have anxiety or depression while other studies showed little benefit. The article concluded that “the evidence for probiotics alleviating depressive symptoms is compelling but additional double-blind randomized control trials in clinical populations are warranted to further assess efficacy.”

Another indication of the role of probiotics in treating depression is the fact that a higher-than-average number of people with irritable bowel syndrome also develop depression and anxiety (Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d.) and that the results of a 2017 study show that the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 may improve quality of life and reduce symptoms of depression in people with irritable bowel syndrome (Raypole, 2019).

Thus, the existing research on probiotics for depression and other mental disorders is largely promising, but more studies are needed to establish conclusive proof.

What probiotics should you take to fight depression?

Probiotics are generally safe to use. They seem to work best when used in combination with medication and psychotherapy.

You have to find out which probiotic strain works best for you. Also, keep in mind that current dosing guidelines on probiotics are for digestive disorders and not for mental illnesses. Clinical trials show that Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria are most helpful for restoring mental health. Additionally, you can try consuming more probiotic foods, such as yogurt, tofu, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso (Raypole, 2019).

Conclusion

However, probiotics are probably not a substitute for standard care such as cognitive behavioral therapy, or FDA-approved drugs to treat depression. More research is needed in the future, that should try to identify which strains of bacteria are the most effective and the best dose of bacteria to take to treat these conditions (Bousvaros, 2017).

References

Bousvaros, A., 2017. Can probiotics help treat depression and anxiety?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-probiotics-help-treat-depression-anxiety-2017072612085
[Accessed 24 Oct 2019].

Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d. Can Probiotics Improve Your Mood?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/can-probiotics-improve-your-mood
[Accessed 24 Oct 2019].

Raypole, C., 2019. Can Probiotics Help With Depression?. [Online]
Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/probiotics-depression
[Accessed 24 Oct 2019].

Wallace, C. & Milev, R., 2017. The effects of probiotics on depressive symptoms in humans: a systematic review. Ann Gen Psychiatry, Volume 16.

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Summary
What probiotics should I take to fight depression?
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What probiotics should I take to fight depression?
Description
There is a special group of probiotics, called psychobiotics, which can help to treat certain mental illnesses, including depression, and boost your mood.
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DepressionPedia.org
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