WEDNESDAY, July 8, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Probiotic supplements may help ease symptoms of depression in some people, a new study suggests.
The researchers found that in seven small clinical trials, various probiotics appeared to improve symptoms in patients with clinical depression – at least in the short term.
The studies build on growing interest in research on the role of gut health – in particular, the balance of the bacteria that live there – and brain health.
But experts pointed out that probiotic trials had a number of limitations and that it was too early to draw any conclusions.
On the one hand, a “placebo effect” cannot be ruled out, according to Sanjay Noonan, the lead author of the research journal.
And, he said, apart from being small, the trials weren’t intended for the longest term – all of them lasted around two to three months.
Noonan said “no definitive statement can be made” on whether people with depression can benefit from probiotics.
“It would be a guess to try to suggest anything about the long-term effectiveness of probiotic therapy,” he said.
Noonan and colleagues from Brighton and Sussex Medical School in England reported results on July 6 in the newspaper BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health.
Probiotics are living bacteria and yeasts that naturally live in the body. Probiotic supplements are marketed as a way to restore a healthier balance of good bacteria.
The digestive system, in particular, is home to a wide range of bacteria and other microbes – known as the “gut microbiome”. And these organisms are said to do more than just help with digestion.
Research suggests that microbes are involved in everything from immune defenses to the production of vitamins, anti-inflammatory compounds, and even chemicals that influence the brain.
Meanwhile, a number of studies have linked the makeup of the gut microbiome to the risks of various health issues. These include brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
In a 2019 study, researchers found that people with depression had differences in specific gut bacteria, compared to those without depression. Levels of two types of bacteria – Coprococcus and Dialogue – have been reported to be “constantly exhausted” in people with depression.
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