Probiotics are live bacteria that help our digestive system function ideally, as well as ensure that we maintain a healthy weight. Many people keep their gut bacteria balanced by eating yogurt which contains these bacteria. Research has demonstrated where probiotics may not be associated with only our physical well-being, but seem to be connected to our emotional health as well. Experiments were first conducted on mice with depression-like symptoms, brought on by exposure to stressful conditions. After they were fed lactobacillus (one of the types of probiotic bacteria found it yogurt) their mood began to lighten significantly.
How Does Lactobacillus Counteract Depression?
Depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness worldwide, with symptoms that vary significantly in individuals. There are also different ways in which it is treated with some people controlling their mood by lifestyle changes, and others who are taking prescribed medication. One of the most common symptoms of depression is rumination, where an individual replays events over in their mind endlessly, activating negative feelings within themselves.
Stress is also another major cause of depression, and researchers found that exposing mice to stressful situations caused them to begin losing lactobacillus. This amplified the animals’ depression-like symptoms. The scientists have speculated that the reason the decline in gut bacteria caused this reaction is because low levels of probiotics facilitate increased production of kynurenine, a metabolite that appears to be a catalyst for depression.
Previous research also demonstrated that the presence of lactobacillus in the gut affects the level of tryptophan in our system. This is what our bodies use to produce serotonin, a hormone which causes a feeling of happiness. The link between our physical and emotional well-being is also apparent, as stress and depression can manifest physically as stomach and digestive ailments.
Expanding the Experiment
After the initial results were observed in the mice, researchers began to study the effects of consuming lactobacillus on humans. They conducted an experiment in which 40 volunteers, one half supplemented their diet with a daily dose of probiotic powder and the other half with a placebo. After a month, the volunteers’ cognitive reactions were assessed and scientists found that the individuals who had received the bacteria were having less instances of ruminative thinking, therefore decreasing the likelihood of suffering through a depressive episode.
Researchers have admitted that there is a lot they do not understand about the way in which kynurenine affects our mood, and will continue to learn as much as they can about this. For those with depression, however, in addition to taking all medication as prescribed, it might help boost their mood if they change their diet to include probiotic yogurt and other sources of lactobacillus bacteria. When it comes to depression, every little bit of happiness always makes a big difference.