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New Research Shows Probiotics Could Ease Depression Symptoms

It might be time to start adding more yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha in your diet.

New research suggests that probiotics could help ease depression symptoms in some people.

New Health Benefits of Probiotics?

You’ve likely heard about probiotics at this point. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that have long been praised for health benefits, especially in the digestive system.

So, I guess it should come as no surprise that probiotics might have another added benefit: they might help those of us with depression and anxiety.

Researchers from the University of Brighton and Croydon University Hospital in the United Kingdom did a new review of existing research. They believe that prebiotics and probiotics could ease depression symptoms — at least, in the short term.

This builds on a growing interest in the role of our gut health on our brain health.

The researchers looked at 71 studies that were published between 2003 and 2019. Those studies looked at how probiotics and prebiotics — which help probiotics flourish — might help adults suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.

“This is good quality research,” said Allan Young, a professor of mood disorders at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London. “But it is a review of relatively preliminary data.”

In other words, we need to see further research before we can draw any real conclusions. Even still, it’s pretty promising.

Young wasn’t involved in the review, but he is optimistic about the initial findings. The research is making a solid case for more research.

“While this systematic review of the research literature supports the notion that pre and probiotics may be helpful for people with anxiety and depression, more research is needed,” Young pointed out. But he added, “These data do make a case for larger trials to be carried out.”

Initial Trials Show Promise, But More Research is Needed

In the original trials, “significant improvements” were seen when measuring the effects of taking prebiotics and probiotics, especially when compared to no treatment or a placebo.

Probiotic supplements, both alone and in combination with prebiotics, showed measurable reductions in depression. However, prebiotics alone did not significantly reduce any depression or anxiety symptoms.

Even though the initial research suggests there could be a link, experts stress that the trials had a number of limitations. For instance, the studies were relatively short, and the number of participants in each study was small.

The limitations make it difficult to draw firm conclusions on overall effects or how long they could last.

But again, this initial data does make a case for more research. And that could open up new possibilities in depression treatments, and introduce a better understanding of what triggers depression.

Kat Sweet

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