Good bacteria to fight depression

Summary: Probiotics can support the effects of antidepressants to help relieve the symptoms of depression.

A source: University of Basel

Intestinal flora plays an important role in health, including mental health. Researchers at the University of Basel and the University of Basel Psychiatric Clinic (UPK) have shown that probiotics support the effects of antidepressants and help relieve depression.

Winston Churchill could barely get out of bed when a man who called him a “black dog” visited. He had no energy, no interest, no appetite. Although this metaphor for depression was not invented by the British Prime Minister, it made it popular.

Specialists use medications and psychotherapy to help patients avoid the “black dog,” but it persists in some people. Researchers are therefore looking for ways to improve existing therapies and develop new ones.

One of the most promising methods is the microbiome-intestinal-brain axis. A microbiome is generally understood to be all the microorganisms that live in or on the human body, such as the intestinal flora. Intestinal bacteria can affect the nervous system, for example, through metabolic products.

A recent study by the University of Basel and the University of Basel Psychiatric Clinic (UPK) showed that probiotics support treatment with antidepressants.

They reported their findings to the journal Translational psychiatry.

Intestinal flora affects the psyche

Previous studies have shown that patients with depression have an above-average prevalence of intestinal and digestive problems. If the intestinal flora of people with depression is implanted in mice grown under sterile conditions, that is, in the absence of intestinal flora, the animals will develop depression-like behavior. For example, they are less energetic and less interested in the environment than their peers.

Researchers therefore suspect that the composition of the bacterial community in the gut plays an important role in depressive symptoms.

In their new study, researchers led by Drs. Andre Schmidt and Professor Undin Lang have observed the effects of probiotics on depression.

All participants were hospitalized in the psychiatric clinics (UPK) of the University of Basel and, in addition to antidepressants, were given probiotics (21 subjects) or placebo (26 subjects) for 31 days. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew how the subjects were prepared during the study.

The researchers performed a series of tests on participants before, at the end of 31 days and after another four weeks.

Subsequent analysis showed that although general antidepressant treatment reduced depressive symptoms in all participants, there was a significant improvement in the probiotic group compared to the placebo group.

In addition, the composition of their intestinal flora changed at least temporarily: in the probiotic group, analysis of feces samples revealed an increase in lactic acid bacteria at the end of treatment – an effect accompanied by a decrease in depression. symptoms.

However, the levels of these health-promoting gut bacteria dropped again over the next four weeks.

“Perhaps four weeks of treatment is not enough and it may take a long time to stabilize the new composition of the intestinal flora,” explains Anna-Chiara Shaub, one of the study’s lead authors.

Changes in the processing of emotional stimuli

Another interesting effect of probiotics was related to the activity of the brain when seeing neutral or fearful faces.

Previous studies have shown that patients with depression have an above-average prevalence of intestinal and digestive problems. Image in public domain

Researchers have studied this effect using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In areas of depression, certain areas of the brain for the emotional process are different than in people with good mental health.

After four weeks of probiotics, brain activity returned to normal in the probiotic group, but not in the placebo group.

“Although the microbioma-intestinal-brain axis has been the subject of research for several years, the exact mechanisms have not been fully elucidated,” says Shob.

This is another reason why researchers believe it is important to use a wide range of bacteria in the form of probiotics, such as formulas that already exist on the market.

“By learning more about the specific effects of certain bacteria, it is possible to use the best mix to optimize bacterial selection and treat depression,” says the researcher, but he wants to emphasize that probiotics have a special effect. Not suitable as the only treatment for depression.

News about depression and intestinal bacteria research

Author: Angelica Jacobs
A source: University of Basel
The connection: Angelica Jacobs – University of Basel
Photo: Image in public domain

See also

This shows recognition

Original study: Open access.
Anna-Chiara Shaub Translational psychiatry


Clinical, intestinal microbial, and neuronal effects of probiotic adjuvant therapy in depressed patients: a randomized controlled trial

A promising new treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD) is targeting the microbiota-gut-brain (MGB) axis, which is associated with the physiological and behavioral functions affected by MDD.

This is the first randomized controlled trial to determine that short-term, high-dose probiotic compounds reduce depressive symptoms along with intestinal microbial and neurological changes in depressed patients.

Patients with current depressive episodes usually received multiple strain probiotic supplements or placebo for an additional 31 days of treatment. The assessment was repeated before, immediately after, and four weeks after the intervention. Hamilton Depression Rating Sales (HAM-D) was rated as a key outcome.

Quantitative microbiome profile and neuroimaging were used to detect changes in the MGB axis. In the sample that completed the intervention (probiotics Do not= 21, placebo Do not = 26), HAM-D scores decreased over time, and time-group interactions showed a stronger decrease in probiotics compared to the placebo group.

Probiotics have preserved the diversity of microbes and increased the number of offspring lactobacillidemonstrates the effectiveness of probiotics to increase the specific rate.

increase lactobacilliIn the group of probiotics is associated with a decrease in depressive symptoms.

Finally, the activation of putamen in response to the neutral face was significantly reduced after probiotic intervention.

Our data suggest that additional probiotic treatment improves depressive symptoms (HAM-D) and changes in the intestinal microbiota and brain, making the role of the MGB axis in MDD and the potential for microbiota treatment available, pragmatic, and non-stigmatizing therapies for MDD.

Test registration:, ID: NCT02957591.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.