According to psychiatry.org, depression is defined as a common mental disorder that negatively affects how you feel, think, and act. It can present as excessive feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, and it can even cause physical reactions in the body.
Managing symptoms of this condition often requires a multifaceted approach. Recently, scientists have been investigating the relationship between our gut health and our mental health. As it turns out, they’re more related than we may have thought. Some experts even believe that taking probiotics for depression could help to significantly improve symptoms for people who are suffering.
Probiotics for Depression — What the Science Says
In one review of studies, researchers aimed to examine the existing evidence on the effect of probiotics-based interventions on depression. A number of randomized controlled trials were included in the meta-analysis. Results of the review indicated that probiotics significantly decreased the depression scale score (used to measure the severity of depressive symptoms) in subjects who took them. The researchers also discovered that probiotics had a positive effect on both the healthy population as well as patients with major depressive disorder.
The Gut-Brain Connection
The researchers theorized that probiotics could play a major role in the treatment of depression due to what they call the gut-brain connection. Bacteria in the gut may influence the production of certain hormones and chemicals that help to mitigate symptoms of depression.
“Gut microbiota (or the bacteria in the gut) may activate the immune and central nervous systems, including commensal and pathogenic microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract, as gut microorganisms are able to produce and deliver such neuroactive substances as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid,” the researchers explained. Serotonin, also sometimes called “the happy hormone” is responsible for stabilizing our mood and generating feelings of well-being, satisfaction, and happiness. It’s also involved in the communication between cells in our nervous system and brain, and affects bodily processes like eating, sleeping, and digestion. Interestingly, it’s said that 95 percent of the serotonin in the body is actually produced in the gut!
Similarly, gamma aminobutyric acid (also called GABA) is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger in the brain. GABA is considered an inhibitory neurotransmitter because it blocks certain brain signals and decreases activity in the nervous system. The studies that were reviewed all showed that the influence of probiotics on bacteria in the gut yielded positive results for symptoms of depression.
All in all, paying attention to your gut can clearly make a big difference in your mental health. As always, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement regiment. Once you’re cleared to start, check out this list of probiotic supplements we love.
Here’s to a healthy gut and a happy mind!