Lactobacilli are not just good for your digestive system, it can also help fight symptoms of depression and anxiety. Perhaps the most well-known source of Lactobacilli is yogurt.
Surprisingly, taking care of your gut may mean taking care of your mental state as well. Researchers have been interested in how Lactobacilli affects depressive symptoms for quite some time. A new study offers evidence that these bacteria can combat these depressive symptoms.
Depression is unfortunately a common mental health condition. It affects 300 million people all over the world and can become quite severe. People with this condition may function poorly in several areas of their life, affecting work, academics, and personal relationships. Nearly 800,000 people worldwide commit suicide due to depression.
Not even half of depressed people worldwide receive treatment for the condition. Even though there are effective treatments, issues like money, lack of mental health professionals, and stigma prevent people from getting treatment. This lack of treatment can lead to chronic depression.
A team of researchers at the University of Virginia established the link between a healthy gut and a healthy mind. As is well-known, stress is a major driving factor in the development of depressive symptoms. Thus, the researchers checked Lactobacilli levels in mice and subjected them to stressors. Afterward, the researchers checked the mice's Lactobacilli levels again.
They found that as the mice felt stressed, their Lactobacilli levels went down. Meanwhile, their kynurenine levels went up.
Scientists have found that high levels of the metabolite kynurenine are one of the things that drive depression. When Lactobacilli levels go down, kynurenine levels go up. This led the researchers to postulate that higher levels of Lactobacilli will drive kynurenine down, and thus mitigate depressive symptoms.
When the kynurenine levels in mice went up, the depressive symptoms began. The researchers then fed the mice food that contained Lactobacillus reuteri, which can be found in both mice and humans. The mice then began to display fewer and fewer depressive symptoms, until the symptoms were almost entirely gone.
The researchers concluded that Lactobacilli are able to stop its host from metabolizing kynurenine. Lactobacilli suppress IDO1, the enzyme that metabolizes kynurenine. Researchers say that these substances, processes, and mechanisms in mice are also present in humans. Thus, the effects of Lactobacilli may be the same in humans as in mice.
Lactobacilli are present in a lot of food sources. Fermented foods in particular contain Lactobacillus reuteri, the species in the study. Other than yogurt, several other foods contain Lactobacilli as well. Kefir, miso, and tempeh are good examples. Probiotic drinks and supplements are also good sources of the good bacteria.
Don't just add these to your diet, though. Foods containing Lactobacilli can cause an upset stomach if you suddenly increase consumption.
Of course, it's probably safer to think that the consumption of yogurt won't be an effective alternative to getting mental health treatment. If you're experiencing symptoms of depression, it's still best to get an evaluation from a mental health professional. However, consuming food and drink with Lactobacilli certainly wouldn't hurt.
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