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Probiotics Could Potentially Treat Depression

Update Date: Nov 15, 2013 05:05 PM EST

Probiotics are organisms that help promote a healthy digestive system. Even though there are not many studies done that would support the daily use of probiotics, there are also not many studies against it. In a new article, researcher Timothy Dinan and his colleagues from the University College of Cork in Ireland, decided to review the limited amount of studies conducted on probiotics. Based from these findings, the research team stated that they believe that probiotics have the potential to be used for treating conditions, such as depression.

For this article, the researchers wanted to examine the effects of probiotics on behavior. They stated within this context that the probiotic could be used as a psychobiotic, which the researchers defined as "a live organism that, when ingested in adequate amounts, produces a health benefit in patients suffering from psychiatric illness," according to a press release.

The researchers stated that after reviewing the evidence from previous studies, they have found that probiotics, when eaten in adequate amounts, helped treat depressive symptoms and other stress-related complications. One of the studies the researchers cited was conducted in rats. This study found that a particular probiotic, called B. Infantis, helped relieved some depressive symptoms in rats. The rats were depressed after they were separated from their mothers early. These rats exhibited normalized behaviors and immune response after being given the probiotic.

"The intestinal microbial balance may alter the regulation of inflammatory responses and in so doing, may be involved in the modulation of mood and behavior," the authors explained.

Dinan added, "What is clear at this point is that, of the large number of putative probiotics, only a small percentage have an impact on behavior and may qualify as psychobiotics."

"This intriguing new area of research may open new possibilities for the treatment of depression," commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

The article, "Psychobiotics: A Novel Class of Psychotropic," was published in Biological Psychiatry.

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