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First Study Shows Tie Between Probiotic and Improved Symptoms of Depression

August 3, 2017

A new study from McMaster University has found that probiotics may relieve symptoms of depression, as well as help gastrointestinal upset. The study was published in the medical journal Gastroenterology (May 2). Researchers from the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute found that twice as many adults with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) reported improvements from co-existing depression when they took a specific probiotic than adults with IBS who took a placebo. IBS affects the large intestine, causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. It is the most common gastrointestinal disorder worldwide. The chronic symptoms of IBS often can lead to depression in patients.

The pilot study consisted of 44 adults with IBS and mild to moderate anxiety or depression who were followed for a 10-week period. Half of the participants took a daily dose of Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001, while the other half took a placebo. At six weeks, researchers found that 14 of 22 (64%) of the patients taking the probiotic had decreased depression scores, compared to seven of 22 (32%) of patients given the placebo. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) showed that the improvement in depression scores was associated with changes in multiple brain areas involved in mood control.
"This study shows that consumption of a specific probiotic can improve both gut symptoms and psychological issues in IBS," Dr. Premysl Bercik, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster and a gastroenterologist for Hamilton Health Services, said in a press release. "This opens new avenues not only for the treatment of patients with functional bowel disorders but also for patients with primary psychiatric diseases."