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In spite of their long history, probiotics are enjoying newfound popularity as a nutritional supplement.
By now, most people have seen probiotics advertised in yogurt, dietary supplements, natural food products and even cosmetics.
Probiotics are live bacteria that help maintain a healthy digestive system. While many health improvement claims have yet to be tested, research does show that these microorganisms help the intestinal tract. They are especially useful for countering the negative side effects of antibiotics which destroy good gut bacteria.
Authors of a new review are exploring the possible impact of probiotics on behavior. The concept of a psychobiotic has resulted. A psychobiotic is "a live organism that, when ingested in adequate amounts, produces a health benefit in patients suffering from psychiatric illness," according to Timothy Dinan and his colleagues from University College Cork in Ireland.
This research team has reviewed evidence that these bacteria, when ingested in adequate amounts, offer enormous potential for the treatment of depression and other stress-related disorders.
Dinan and his team reviewed one study that assessed the potential benefits of a specific probiotic, B. infantis, on mice who had experienced maternal separation and developed depressive behavior. Maternal separation is an early-life stress which is known to induce long-term changes in the microbiome. The probiotic treatment they received normalized their behavior and the immune response.
Some psychobiotics have an anti-inflammatory effect. Depression and stress are both associated with inflammation in the body. Infectious diseases also produce depressive states, and some psychobiotics produce immune activations which could alleviate these states. But the field of probiotics needs to be narrowed down to find the most effective ones for behavioral conditions.
“What is clear at this point is that, of the large number of putative probiotics, only a small percentage have an impact on behavior and may qualify as psychobiotics,” explained Dinan.
Sources: MedicalNewsToday, Biological Psychiatry
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