The increasing number of people falling prey to depression these days is not only alarming but also a cause of great medical and societal concern. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers depression as the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide, and expects it to become the second leading cause by 2020. Depression is a major mood disorder, which succumbs its victim into feeling empty from within. Many people often commit the blunder of ignoring the symptoms of depression as just a by-product of ‘feeling low’. But if this low feeling starts hindering your daily activities like sleeping, working and eating, then it can be a cause of major concern. One must head for treatment at the soonest in such cases.
However, there is a lot you can do to battle depression on a personal level too. Like talking to friends and family to vent your anxieties or indulging in recreational activities to keep your spirits up. A recent study suggests having yogurt can also help ease the symptoms of depression
Yoghurt or dahi, as popularly known in India, comes with a bevy of health benefits. It is a great cooler that is not just refreshing but also soothes the stomach, easing digestion. In India, it is a common accompaniment to almost every meal – from breakfast parathas to chaats and dahi vadas. Most yoghurts contain probiotics, which are known as good bacteria, that are responsible for boosting gut health. They are essential because they actually help a great deal in the process of digestion.
According to the study done by University of Virginia in the US, eating yogurt rich in lactobacillus, which is a kind of probiotic bacteria, may help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. This finding could lead to new strategies for treating psychiatric conditions.
Depression is one of the major mental diseases affecting millions of people today, and across different age groups. There are of course various treatments available for depression, but some also do come with side effects.
“The study will help us not to bother with complex drugs and side effects when we can just play with the microbiome. It would be magical just to change your diet, to change the bacteria you take, and fix your health and your mood,” said lead researcher Alban Gaultier from the University of Virginia in the US.
The Study Conducted by the Team
In the study, conducted on mice, the researchers have discovered a specific mechanism for how the lactobacillus bacteria affect mood, providing a direct link between the health of the gut microbiome and mental health.
For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the team induced depression symptoms in mice to analyse their composition of the gut microbiome and found that the major change was the loss of lactobacillus. With the loss of lactobacillus came the onset of depression symptoms. Conversely, feeding the mice lactobacillus with their food returned them to almost normal, the researchers said.
“A single strain of lactobacillus, is able to influence mood,” Gaultier observed.
In addition, the study found that the amount of lactobacillus in the gut affects the level of a metabolite in the blood — called kynurenine — which has been shown to drive depression. When lactobacillus was diminished in the gut, the levels of kynurenine went up — and depression symptoms set in.
While there is no harm in people with depression eating yogurt, people receiving treatment for depression should not stop taking their medications without consulting their physicians, the researchers suggested. Based on the findings, the researchers plan to begin studying the effect in humans as soon as possible.