Study Finds That Probiotics May Help Lift The Blues

The discovery that consuming probiotics can help relieve symptoms of depression, as well as boosting our immune systems and easing our allergies, is another reason to celebrate these health-giving microbes.

Apr 18, 2020

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We’re all familiar with the expression: “You are what you eat.” We know that we should be mindful about the food we put in our bodies, since diet affects many aspects of physical health, from our risk of cancer and heart disease to overall longevity. But we may not be aware that diet has a big impact on mental health, as well.  A study by researchers in Iran found that people with major depressive disorder reported a meaningful improvement in their emotional states after a two-month course of daily probiotics

The study involved 40 adults who self-reported as being seriously depressed, scoring high on the Beck Depression Inventory Scale that evaluates key symptoms such as self-dissatisfaction, pessimism and, social withdrawal. Half of the group were given a placebo, and the other half were given probiotic supplements which they consumed three to four times a day. After two months, researchers found that those who’d taken probiotics scored significantly lower on the depression scale, indicating that their symptoms had lessened and their overall mood was boosted

Surprisingly, there was also a physiological correlation between probiotics and improved physical health. Blood tests showed that patients who’d taken probiotics had lower levels of C-reactive protein, a common cause of inflammation and often an indicator that a person is under heavy stress.

The discovery comes on the heels of an earlier study by researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, which found that consuming probiotics helped people suffering from anxiety manage their symptoms. While the researchers made it clear that people with anxiety disorders should seek treatment from mental health professionals, they concluded that the connection between a decrease in anxiety and probiotic consumption was important enough that dietary changes should be considered a legitimate tool in helping manage mental health.

But reducing depression symptoms isn’t the only benefit that probiotics can offer us. A 2019 study concluded that adding probiotics into one’s diet majorly boosts the immune system.  Probiotic bacteria can strengthen our immune cells, making them more robust, and streamlining cell-to-cell signaling. Probiotics also help the cells that regulate our immune responses, which reduces inflammation and enhances barrier function. Additionally, probiotics act as “good” bacteria in the gut, and their presence can mitigate the effects of harmful bacteria and ease digestion.

Probiotics can help allergy sufferers too. A 2017 study by researchers at the University of Florida linked probiotic consumption with relief from seasonal allergies. The study, conducted at the peak of spring allergy season, involved 173 adults who suffered from mild symptoms. Half of the group was given probiotics to take daily, and the other half were given a placebo. Those who took probiotics reported a decrease in nasal symptoms, experiencing less sniffling and sneezing than usual.

The discovery that probiotics can help relieve allergy symptoms is significant. Because allergy medicine can cause side effects like drowsiness and dry mouth in some people who are prescribed them, probiotics may be presented to patients as an alternative solution. People who are prone to experiencing side effects from medication now have an all-natural tool at their disposal for battling their allergies.

Now that we know probiotics can be super beneficial for our health, how can we get more of them in our diets? Easy. Pass the cheese, please. Found in yogurts and cheeses, the L. casei and L. acidophilus microbes are important probiotics that can help balance gut bacteria to its ideal state. While cultured dairy products like kefir are the best probiotic boosters, pretty much any cheese or yogurt you buy will contain probiotics. Probiotics are also present in fermented products such as Kombucha, pickles, Kimchi, and Sauerkraut, great options for people who are lactose intolerant.

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LAUREN MARCUS, CONTRIBUTOR
Fascinated by storytelling since childhood, Lauren is passionate about the written word. She’s a freelance writer who has covered everything from the latest developments in tech to geopolitics. When she’s not writing, Lauren is interested in genealogical research and family folklore.