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Can probiotics reduce symptoms of depression?

By Tim Sandle     May 27, 2017 in Science
Can probiotics help to reduce the symptoms of depression? The answer appears 'possible', based on new research. McMaster University scientists have shown a beneficial connection between the microbiota-gut-brain axis.
With the study, the scientists discovered that twice as many adults with irritable bowel syndrome reported improvements from co-existing depression after they took a specific probiotic. These findings were compared with other than adults who also had IBS who were given a placebo. IBS refers a group of symptoms—including abdominal pain and changes in the pattern of bowel movements without any evidence of underlying damage. The causes are multiple, and one could relate to an imbalance in the gut bacteria. For this reason one of the treatments tested is a probiotic.
Probiotics are microorganisms that are believed to provide health benefits when consumed. The term probiotic is used to name ingested microorganisms associated with intended benefits for humans (they are often described as 'good' or 'friendly' bacteria). Probiotics appear medically helpful in some cases; however, there is often little evidence to support many health claims made for them. In the case of depression, nonetheless, some supporting evidence is emerging.
With the new study, 44 adults with IBS and moderate anxiety or depression were examined over a 10 weeks period. During this time, 22 of the subjects received a daily dose of the probiotic organism Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001; the reamining 22 were administered a placebo. By week six, 14 of the 22 the patients taking the probiotic showed decreased depression scores. While this is a majority, the study was small and further research is needed.
Nonetheless, with the new series of experiments, lead researcher Dr. Premysl Bercik states: "This study shows that consumption of a specific probiotic can improve both gut symptoms and psychological issues in IBS. This opens new avenues not only for the treatment of patients with functional bowel disorders but also for patients with primary psychiatric diseases."
The research has been published in the journal Gastroenterology. The research paper is titled "Probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 Reduces Depression Scores and Alters Brain Activity: a Pilot Study in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome."
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