A new study found that good gut bacteria can impact depression and mental health for the better.
The stomach and the brain have an interesting connection. The stomach is one of the first places to signal anxiety or excitement, with the reverse also being true; if the stomach is upset, the brain can interpret that as a signal of anxiety or worry, creating a jumble of emotions.
A new study shows that good bacteria in the gut can have a positive impact on depression and mental health.
The study, published in the journal Translation Psychiatry, was conducted by researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland who examined 47 volunteers with a history of depressive episodes — each given probiotic supplements over a 31-day period.
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Results showed that participants who took probiotics along with their antidepressants experienced greater improvement. Their intestinal flora also changed, increasing in lactic acid-producing bacteria.
Researchers conducted a check-up four weeks later, showing that the results stopped once the probiotics were no longer consumed. “It may be that four weeks of treatment is not long enough and that it takes longer for the new composition of the intestinal flora to stabilize,” said psychiatrist Anna-Chiara Schaub, from the University of Basel.
The study showed that probiotics impacted the area of the brain that processes depression. Via fMRI scans, researchers saw that probiotics had an impact on the way people react to faces with fearful or neutral faces. Researchers don’t fully understand why, but probiotics normalized the way in which brains with depression process these experiences.
“Although the microbiome-gut-brain axis has been the subject of research for a number of years, the exact mechanisms are yet to be fully clarified,” said Schaub.
Scientists have long believed in the brain-stomach connection, with this study only adding further evidence to the theory. Still, researchers make it clear that antidepressants are still necessary and that the study needs more evidence and research to provide a conclusive answer.