Probiotics are primarily used to treat gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and maintain healthy levels of bacteria in the bowel. However, patients being treated with some types of probiotics have shown reduced depression as a side effect of the treatment for a bowel disorder.
Recent studies seem to confirm these results. In a study involving 44 patients suffering with both IBS and depression where half were given a placebo and the other half a probiotic, 64% of those receiving the treatment showed lower test scores for depression. MRI scans confirmed that areas of the brain linked to mood control showed increased activity.
But how is it possible that a treatment that is effective at treating bowel disorders can possible affect the brain and cure depression?
The gut has been proven to be sensitive to emotions. Falling in love or feeling nervous and excited can cause butterflies in your stomach. Particularly distressing situations can be nauseating. And a big fright can result in an unwanted and sudden bowel movement.
It should make sense that the brain is therefore just a sensitive to the gut. An unhappy gastrointestinal system may therefore result in feelings of depression or anxiety. It may be your brain’s way of informing you that all is not well in your gut.
A healthy gut should therefore lead to a healthy mental state. However, not all types of behavioral or mental health disorders linked to depression are due to gastrointestinal distress and probiotics should not be viewed to be a cure for wide range depression and /or anxiety.
It is also necessary to note that specific probiotics have been found to affect mental health positively whereas other types of probiotics may have no effect whatsoever. The probiotics that do have a positive effect are now being called psychobiotics.
While acting to improve overall digestive health, psychobiotics are also thought to have a stimulating effect on the brain itself. They may activate the production of certain neurotransmitters or chemicals that are involved with controlling mood. These probiotics may also play a role in regulating stress response and the HPA-axis which is largely responsible for the production of cortisol and other hormones or chemicals that play a stress-related function in the brain and the body.
Probiotics may also act as an anti-inflammatory in both the bowel as well as on the brain. It is believed that this anti-inflammatory property may reduce inflammation in the body and brain thereby reducing depression and some other mood related disorders. Chronic inflammation is a known cause of depression.
While it isn’t necessary to get a prescription for probiotics, it is highly recommended to discuss the treatment with a medical practitioner or doctor. This is to ensure that probiotics that have been proven to affect mood are taken in the right dosage. There are a wide range of probiotics available on the market.
It is also advisable to continue with any other treatment for depression, anxiety or other mood related disorder and not rely solely on a probiotic to resolve the issue unless otherwise told by a doctor.
Here are some of the best reviewed products to help you get out of that depression: