Probiotic consumption might relieve both depression symptoms, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), suggests a new study published in the medical journal Gastroenterology.
Probiotics are living bacteria and yeasts that are deemed salubrious upon consumption. The new research, conducted by a team from the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute, suggests that they might protect from depression.
Participants of the study, adults with IBS, were divided into two groups: 22 of them used a specific probiotic (a dose of probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 on a daily basis), and the rest were given a placebo. The former, reported relief from co-existing depression in greater numbers: 64% of them had decreased depression scores following the use of the probiotic while only 32% of those who were given placebo had lower scores.
The improvement in the depression scores was linked with changes in several brain regions playing a role in mood control; this was concluded from the study of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) results.
This study supports previous research linking intestinal microbiota and the brain, says senior author Premysl Bercik. According to him, the probiotic in question can improve gut symptoms as well as psychological conditions in IBS; patients with IBS will often be affected by depression or chronic anxiety. Therefore, the findings are considered to be promising for the treatment of patients with functional bowel disorders, and for that of primary psychiatric diseases.
“This is the result of a decade long journey—from identifying the probiotic, testing it in preclinical models and investigating the pathways through which the signals from the gut reach the brain,” said Bercik.
This was only a pilot study. Further research has to be conducted to confirm the findings. First author Maria Pinto Sanchez mentions a larger-scale trial to happen in the future.