Can Probiotics Reduce Depression?

Depression is defined as ‘a feeling of severe despondency and dejection’. It is a common and serious medical illness that is often overlooked by the person affected by it as well as their friends and family. According to the World Health Organization, globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. Although it is so common, many key distinctions can be made between different symptoms of depressive episodes. Essentially, depression is caused by complex social, psychological and, biological factors such as trauma, unemployment, social anxiety, change of lifestyle, complicated relationships, etc. Untreated depression hinders the ability to cope with simple things in life and can ultimately lead to loss of interest in life. Depression can vary from a major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, psychotic depression, postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, or seasonal depression. Diagnosing depression can get tricky given the social stigma, denial, or lack of awareness, this explains the 50 percent of people with depression worldwide receive psychological counseling or treatment for depression. But the good news is that depression is treatable. Doctors recognized and recommended probiotics to supplement depression treatments. 


Clinical treatments for depression may range from therapy to a more medical approach that includes prescription medications. Recent research has proven that the effect of probiotics can help reduce depression symptoms. Many researchers believe that there is a correlation between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. This relationship is known as the gut-brain axis (GBA). This is referred to as the central nervous system and spinal cord affected by the well-being of the gastrointestinal tract. Appetite, mood, and sleep habits are affected by producing and expressing neurotransmitters. The microorganisms living in the gut, that includes probiotics, plays an important role in treating cognitive function and response to stress. The reasoning of how probiotics may contribute to the reduction of depression is still unclear. But a 2015 research suggests the GBA could be the ‘missing link’ that explains depression. Currently, more research is being performed to identify particular probiotics that may have mental health benefits. 


Depression is a mood disorder. But approximately, one-third of patients with depression do not respond to medication. Therefore, probiotics and other dietary supplements are taken into account as an area of study that can substitute for drugs. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are helpful to maintain the body’s immune response. Some probiotics have been shown to produce natural antibiotics in the body. It can be argued that the use of probiotics has an indirect effect on depression and stress. This leads scientists and doctors to do observational studies on the effect of probiotics and depression. And according to existing research, people with major depression have shown vast improvement due to the use of probiotics. The majority of the research had no negative outcomes. According to the article “The effects of probiotics on depressive symptoms in humans: a systematic review” on the US National Institute of health, the evidence for probiotics mitigating the symptoms of depression has been observed and known to have proven results but additional clinical trials have to be done. Factors such as gender, age, other mental disorders, etc. can affect the use of probiotics to help ‘cure’ depression.


If you have further questions about help with depression available at Sleep and Wellness Medical Associates or want to schedule an appointment, call our office at (609) 587-9944 or e-mail us at



Anuva Nabiha Anuva is a Boston University undergraduate studying neuroscience in the premedical track. She believes in the importance of mental health in the healthcare system and wants to focus on overcoming the bias against BIPOC in medical science.

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