BBC Science Focus

MICROBIOME

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Can probiotics help ease depression?

It has been known for some time that the microbiome – the colony of bacteria that resides in the gut – might help treat mental illnesses, thanks to the two-way relationsh­ip that exists between the brain and digestive tract, known as the gut-brain axis. Now, a review carried out by researcher­s at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, which looked at 71 studies published between 2003 and 2019, has found that probiotics (good bacteria) and prebiotics (substances that promote the flourishin­g of these bacteria), may help ease the symptoms of depression. The effect could be down to probiotics helping to reduce the production of inflammato­ry chemicals, or they may be affecting the action of tryptophan, a chemical thought to be important in the gut-brain axis in psychiatri­c disorders, the researcher­s said.

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