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A Probiotic Solution to Depression and Anxiety

A Probiotic Solution to Depression and Anxiety
By Frederik Gammelby Jensen 1 years ago 5188 Views

November 2019

By Michael Downey

Many people who suffer from depression and anxiety are resistant to conventional treatments. Individual responses to depression treatments vary greatly from one person to another.

Among those taking antidepressants, 30%-50% find their initial treatment doesn’t work [1,2] and two-thirds experience at least one side effect—including nausea, weight gain, fatigue and sexual dysfunction among other things [2,3].

Scientists have however found a new way to relieve mood disorders: probiotics. Two unique strains of these helpful bacteria have been found to significantly reduce stress, anxiety and depression. One human study showed a 50% improvement in depression scores with these two probiotics, and another showed a 55% improvement in anxiety scores—all without side effects [4,5].

Scientists have now combined these probiotics with an extract of the spice saffron. The result is a safe, powerful new way to relieve depression and anxiety and boost overall mood.

Microorganisms and Mood

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that keep the microorganisms in your gut balanced.

Decades of research have established that they promote digestive, immune, and oral health. But more recent research reveals that probiotics also support psychological well-being [4,5,6-11].

It may sound incredible. But it works. Here’s how [6]:

  • The intestinal neural system is composed of 200-600 million neurons, cells that receive, process, and transmit information [12].
  • Gut microorganisms can secrete many kinds of neurotransmitters, chemicals that send signals from one neuron to another [13]. They include GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which relieves anxiety and boosts mood.
  • Certain intestinal bacteria increase brain levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a growth factor known to promote neuron development, survival, and function, and support synapse health.
  • Some neurotransmitter changes during the stress state are believed to be caused not by stress itself, but by undesirable intestinal microorganisms.
  • Taking specific probiotic strains can improve and redistribute species of microbes to relieve anxiety and depression.

This interaction between the gut and the brain is known as the gut-brain axis. It explains how microorganisms residing in our intestine can affect how we feel [6, 11, 14, 15]. The use of probiotic strains to alter mood is so promising, scientists have dubbed the field psychobiotics [7-9].

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Probiotics Regulate Stress

Studies have found that a combination of two unique strains of probiotics relieves symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression [4,5]. The two probiotics are Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175.

Working through the gut-brain axis, they lead to:

  • Greater production of the anxiety-relieving neurotransmitter GABA [16].
  • Increased levels in the hippocampus, the brain’s memory-processing region, of doublecortin, a protein important in the movement and differentiation of neurons. Doublecortin is also a marker for new brain-cell formation in an experimental model of chronic stress [17].
  • Decreased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and increased production of anti-inflammatory cytokines [4,5,18].

Dramatic Results in Human Studies

Scientists conducted randomized, placebo-controlled human trials on the probiotics.

One study was conducted on 55 volunteers, aged 30-60, with mild depression or anxiety. Each day, some participants took a placebo, while others took 3 billion CFUs (colony forming units, a measure of the number of microorganisms) of the probiotic combination [4].

After 30 days, probiotic-taking subjects had the following changes in scoring on standard tests, compared to the placebo group [4]:

  • 50% improvement in depression scores,
  • 36% improvement in hospital anxiety and depression scale,
  • 49% improvement in global severity index, a measure of overall psychological distress,
  • 60% improvement in anger-hostility scores, and
  • 13% decrease in urinary free cortisol, a hormonal measure of chronic stress.

The probiotic group also displayed reductions in self-blame and improvements in problem-solving skills [4].

Unique Combination of Antidepressant Ingredients

For the first time, scientists have combined the mood-boosting probiotics Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175 with saffron extract for maximum antidepressant and anti-anxiety benefits. The researchers used dosages based on clinical studies demonstrating safe efficacy.

To optimize this formula, a unique form of saffron extract was developed after studying the results of several clinical trials. It is an 80% ethanolic extract, standardized to 11% crocin and 2% safranal—the percentages of these active compounds found to be most beneficial in the trials.


Findings from laboratory and human studies have identified two probiotic strains that can significantly reduce depression and anxiety, without the side effects that often come with antidepressant drugs.

Clinical studies also show that saffron extract significantly improves depression scores and is equally as beneficial as common antidepressant drugs, also without unwanted effects.

These two probiotics and saffron have been combined to provide a unique option to combat anxiety and depression.


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  2. Available at: https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2013/09/best-treatments-for-depression/index.htm. Accessed August 6, 2019.
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