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The Latest Weapon Against Depression May Be...Yogurt?

Update Date: Jun 09, 2017 07:52 AM EDT

According to a recent study published in Gastroneterology, taking a probiotic supplement may help those who are struggling with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and depression.

IBS is a disorder characterized by cramping, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, approximately one in five adults in the U.S. have IBS, and women are more likely to experience symptoms in early adulthood or late adolescence.

Because the colon is partially controlled by the nervous system, those who suffer from IBS may also experience depression and anxiety, which can worsen symptoms.

Conducted by researchers at McMaster University in Canada, the study found evidence that certain bacteria in the gut can influence a person's behavior.

Probiotics, which are live bacteria and yeasts found in foods such as sourdough bread and Greek yogurt, are commonly used to reduce bloating and aid digestion. But this new discovery may have given them a new purpose.

Researchers observed 44 adults with IBS who also have moderate depression or anxiety - half were given the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001, while the other half were given a placebo.

In the end, twice as many participants reported improvements when they had the probiotic.

"This study shows that consumption of a specific probiotic can improve both gut symptoms and psychological issues in IBS," senior study author, Dr. Premysl Bercik wrote. "This opens new avenues not only for the treatment of patients with functional bowel disorders but also for patients with primary psychiatric diseases."

Six weeks into the 10-week study, 64 percent of the participants taking probiotics had reduced depression scores compared to the 32 percent of those who were given a placebo.

"This is the result of a decade long journey -- from identifying the probiotic, testing it in preclinical models and investigating the pathways through which the signals from the gut reach the brain," Dr. Bercik added.

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