Probiotic supplements containing helpful bacteria and yeast are marketed as a way to maintain a diverse mix of healthy gut microbes. Now, a review published online July 6, 2020, by BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health suggests that probiotic supplements may help relieve depression symptoms. Scientists evaluated seven clinical trials from the past 15 years, which tested a total of 12 different strains of helpful bacteria. One trial in the review tested a “prebiotic,” a type of plant fiber that provides food for gut bacteria. Scientists concluded that 11 of these probiotics, either alone or combined with prebiotics, were potentially useful for relieving symptoms of depression, perhaps by reducing inflammation that could affect brain function. The studies were small and short-term, but taken together, they suggest a gut-based approach to maintaining emotional well-being is worth pursuing. In the meantime, talk therapy, exercise, and medications remain the most effective approaches to treat depression. To support your gut health without expensive probiotic supplements, enjoy foods that naturally contain probiotics, such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. The prebiotic powers of whole grains also may support a healthy gut.
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