Supplements: Probiotics may help to alleviate depression – early signs

Dr Zoe reveals which supplements to take

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Researchers from the University of Basel were looking into the role intestinal flora (gut microbiota) play in overall health.

The intestinal flora is a group of microorganisms made up of bacteria and archaea that live in the body’s digestive tract.

Scientists from the University found the addition of probiotics alongside anti-depressants could help alleviate depression.

In a study conducted on around 50 subjects, the probiotic were found to be more effective at reducing symptoms of depression than just anti-depressants on their own.

Lead author of the study, Anna-Chiara Schaub said: “Although the microbiome-gut-brain axis has been the subject of research for a number of years, the exact mechanism are yet to be fully clarified.

“With the knowledge of the specific effect of certain bacteria, it may be possible to optimise the selection of bacteria and to use the best mix in order to support treatment for depression.”

While the results are positive, the researchers were keen to point out this did not mean probiotics could be used as a treatment for depression; rather, they could improve the impact of anti-depressants.

Furthermore, it was also agreed further research was needed to ascertain what dose and type of probiotic would be most effective in this regard.

This research comes at a time when mental health is being stretched across Europe, particularly in the UK.

Research from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found levels of depression of young people almost doubled during the pandemic.

Figures suggested over half of women in their early-20s were classified as depressed in 2020 while four in 10 young men were depressed at the same time.

Factors contributing to this spike in 2020 include the pandemic and the chaos ensuing because of this.

In a statement, the ESRI said: “It is too early to say how long-lasting these effects will be but there appears to be a considerable risk of a longer-term scarring effect for some groups of young adults.”

Minister Roderic O’Gorman added: “During the pandemic, young people missed out on a lot of rites of passages, social interactions, and transitions that would normally mark their early 20s and this report clearly shows the cost of this disruption to their mental health and wellbeing.”

Depression can elicit a range of physical symptoms from people as well as psychological including:
• Moving or speaking more slowly than usual
• Changes in appetite and weight
• Constipation
• Unexplained aches and pains
• Lack of energy
• Low sex drive
• Changes to the menstrual cycle
• Disturbed sleep.

Furthermore, depression can also be seen in how someone interacts in their social life.

Patients with depression may avoid contact with friends and take part in fewer social activities as well as neglect their hobbies and interests.

As well as antidepressants, the NHS suggests a number of ways depression can be treated.

These include exercise, cognitive behavioural therapy, and counselling.

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