The general understanding of the microbiome is that it’s the microorganisms that live in or on the body, which include the intestinal flora. Intestinal flora plays a significant part in health, which includes mental health. A study has demonstrated that probiotics can help to alleviate depression by supporting the effect of antidepressants.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
It’s known from prior studies that individuals with depression have an above-average prevalence of digestive and intestinal issues. When the intestinal flora of depressive individuals is implanted in mice without intestinal flora, then they also develop symptoms of depression. It’s suspected that the composition of the gut’s bacterial community plays a significant part in symptoms of depression.
The researchers looked at the effects of probiotics on individuals with depression. All individuals were given a probiotic or a placebo for 31 days, as well as antidepressants.
Neither the study staff nor the participants knew which preparation was taken during the study period. A series of tests were performed on the individuals immediately before the treatment, at the end of the 31-day treatment, and again 4 weeks later.
The subsequent analysis revealed that although symptoms of depression decreased in all individuals due to the antidepressants, there was a greater improvement in the individuals in the probiotic group compared to in the placebo group.
Their intestinal flora composition also changed, albeit temporarily, a stool sample analysis revealed a lactic acid bacteria increase in the probiotic group at the end of treatment, together with a reduction in symptoms of depression.
The health-promoting gut bacteria levels however decreased over the subsequent 4 weeks. It could be that treatment for 4 weeks isn’t long enough and that a longer time is requiredfor the new intestinal flora composition to stabilize.
Specific brain areas for emotional processing also behaved differently in individuals with depression compared to in people with good mental health. The probiotic group’s brain activity normalized following 4 weeks of probiotic treatment, but not in the placebo group. This effect was investigated by making use of functional magnetic resonance imaging.
Although the microbiome-gut-brain axis has been researched for several years, the exact mechanisms are not yet completely understood.
The researchers point out that probiotics aren’t a suitable depression treatment on their own.
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