Dark Mood? Forget Prozac—Try Some Probiotics
People focus less on bad feelings and memories—a behavior called rumination—when they eat foods containing probiotics every day. Of course, probiotics are live microorganisms, such as acid-loving bacteria, which are happy to live in foods such as cheeses, yogurt and other fermented products—as well as in our guts. They quickly become part of the gut microbiome—the collection of communities of bacteria and other friendly microbes living in the human digestive tract. In recent years scientists have delved deeper into the mysterious world of the gut microbiome, and have discovered the multiple important roles these creatures play in maintaining our health.
Friendly gut microbes contribute to everything from how many calories are extracted from your food, to what kinds of foods you crave, to how well your immune system works, to how you feel on a given day. And that’s where the present research comes in. Previous research has noted an association between the makeup of a person’s gut microbiome and his or her risk of developing depression.
Rumination is one aspect of depression. It involves dwelling on negative thoughts or events from the past. “Rumination is one of the most predictive vulnerability markers of depression” says psychologist Laura Steenbergen, from the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition. “Persistent ruminative thoughts often precede and predict episodes of depression.”
Researchers recruited 40 healthy subjects, then assigned some to receive active probiotics in powder form, while others received a dummy placebo substance. After four weeks, subjects who had been taking the probiotics reported significantly fewer ruminative episodes. Co-investigator, Lorenza Colzato, noted: “Even if preliminary, these results provide the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood. As such, our findings shed an interesting new light on the potential of probiotics to serve as adjuvant or preventive therapy for depression.”
I’ve been a proponent of probiotics—especially yogurt with live active cultures—for years. Recently I reported that many types of real cheese, including blue, cheddar and parmesan, contain active cultures. Cheese consumption has been linked to lower cholesterol and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. And this is believed to be due to the influence of probiotics in cheese. Clearly, probiotic foods are good for your gut—and that’s good for everything from your mood to your general health.
Laura Steenbergen, Roberta Sellaro, Saskia van Hemert, Jos A. Bosch, Lorenza S. Colzato. A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2015.04.003