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Researchers are finding a link between stomach bacteria and mental health. Researchers at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) in Toronto are looking to determine whether or not probiotics can be used as a treatment for bipolar disorder. Probiotics, the “good” kind of stomach bacteria are used to aid in digestion and reduce stomach inflammation and the researchers are investigating whether or not probiotics can help stabilize moods of those with bipolar disorder. The Women’s College study looks at individuals who already have a diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder. Previous research with respect to the effects of probiotics on the brain only looked at people without any diagnoses. The WCH study’s results are expected to be published later in 2015.
It is thought that because probiotics can reduce inflammation in the body, they may be able to treat anxiety or depression. Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found evidence of brain inflammation in patients with depression, and the more inflammation was present, the more symptoms a person experienced. The study compared brain scans of patients with clinical depression to brain scans of people without depression and saw that the brain scans of patients with depression had an average of 30% more inflammation in their brains. The researchers wonder if eliminating the inflammation would eliminate depression. Researchers are starting to test out whether anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to treat depression, as well as whether exercise and certain foods could be used to reduce inflammation.
At Oxford University, neurobiologists have found that prebiotics, supplements intended to boost healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract may have somewhat of an anti-anxiety effect with respect to how people process emotional information. What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics? Probiotics are the “healthy” bacteria and prebiotics are carbohydrates that act as nourishment for those bacteria. The study’s lead author feels that prebiotics/probiotics could be used as an adjuncts (in combination with/ to augment the effects of) to conventional treatments for depression and anxiety and that prebiotics/probiotics can help manage mental illness and could also be used when there are nutritional/metabolic components to mental illnesses.
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