Data found promising for the mood-boosting effects of probiotics and omega-3s

According to statistics, around 16.2 million – or 6.7 percent of all American adults – experience at least one major depressive episode each year. There is no doubt that the impact of this disease can be devastating, but it is also true that most patients diagnosed with depression are never sent for further tests to determine the cause of their symptoms or even for therapy to try to develop coping mechanisms. Generally speaking, a patient exhibiting depressive symptoms is diagnosed, prescribed an antidepressant medication and sent on their way.

The truth is that depression is treated like an incurable disease, the symptoms of which can only be dealt with through chemical medications. For many people that simply is not true, however, as was recently confirmed yet again by a metanalysis which found that dietary changes and supplementation with prebiotics, probiotics and omega-3s shows promising results in relieving the symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress. (Related: How to beat depression without prescription drugs.)

Diet and supplements can affect mood

Cognizant of the fact that gastrointestinal balance can affect mood and behavior, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign set out to analyze studies focused on dietary changes and supplementation with prebiotics, probiotics and omega-3s in the management of mental health issues like stress, depression, anxiety and coping strategies. The researchers examined the results of several different studies linking dietary changes and improved mental health. They noted:

The habitual intake of specific food groups has been associated with stress and depression. Specifically, sweets and fast-food are consumed more frequently in stressed and depressed individuals. Contrarily, fruits and vegetables are consumed less frequently by depressed individuals. Inflammation is characteristic of depression. Thus, SCFAS [short chain fatty acids] may indirectly influence mood by modulating intestinal permeability and systemic lipopolysaccharide circulation.

The studies included in the analysis revealed the results of low fat or high carb diets, as well as low and high glycemic load diets. Various forms of nutritional support and omega-3, prebiotic and probiotic supplementation were also evaluated in relation to mental health. (Related: Natural cures for depression and anxiety disorders.)

The research team discovered that there was evidence of a link between a low-fat diet and improved mental health. There was also evidence that prebiotic supplementation showed positive results, although a dosage of at least 5 grams a day would be necessary to really see results. A total of 13 studies showing the efficacy of probiotics were included in the analysis, and several showed improved quality of life scores and reductions in depressive symptoms.

The study authors concluded:

High-quality diets, prebiotics, and probiotics may beneficially affect mood. Habitual diets rich in dietary fiber and omega-3-polunsaturated fatty acids may be linked to reduced risk of developing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress; however, additional studies are necessary. Certain probiotics may enhance mood, but their influence on the gastrointestinal microbiota requires further investigation.

Though antidepressant medication may be needed to treat certain severe cases of depression, it is certainly well worth investigating whether dietary changes or nutritional supplements can assist in treating the symptoms of this debilitating illness.

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