Forget the bluebird of happiness, it may be bugs that truly boost your mood. A news study suggests probiotics elevated the mood of healthy, young adults who did not have mood disorders.
Back in the 1900s when Dr. John Harvey Kellogg suggested yogurt enemas for “melancholia,” people suspected a link between gut and brain health. Recently, more research supports and is beginning to explain the gut-brain axis. A 2013 study published in Gastroenterology suggested probiotics may play a promising role in treating anxiety.
For this most recent study, published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, researchers in the Nederlands analyzed the effect of probiotics on the moods of 40 young adults. In a randomized, controlled trial, researchers from the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition at Leiden University in the Netherlands gave a powdered probiotic supplement to half their subjects to dissolve in water or milk and drink nightly for four weeks. The other half, who also believed they were getting probiotics, got a powdered placebo. The probiotic, called Ecologic Barrier, included several strains of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Lactococcus.
At the start of the study and at its conclusion, the researchers used a depression sensitivity scale to measure subjects’ levels of cognitive reactivity to sad mood. This reactivity is a strong marker of depression, meaning that when a person becomes sad, they’re ore vulnerable to dysfunctional thoughts that can lead to a lingering depressive episode, according to a Time.com post about the study.
At the beginning of the study, there was no difference between the two groups of subjects. After four weeks, however, the people who took the probiotic reported significantly less reactivity to sad mood than the control group. When they were put in a sad mood, they had fewer recurrent distressing or aggressive thoughts.
The researchers could not explain how the bugs helped the subjects’ mood, but the study’s authors believe it may be linked to inflammation or tryptophan, an amino acid that’s necessary for serotonin production.
“Even if preliminary, these results provide the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood,” Lorenza S. Colzato, principal investigator at the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition said in a statement. “As such, our findings shed an interesting new light on the potential of probiotics to serve as adjuvant or preventive therapy for depression.”