Tuesday December 11, 2018

Probiotics so-called “good” bacteria can act as Mood Elevator and ease Symptoms of Depression: Researchers

The finding adds to a growing body of evidence that what happens in the gut affects the brain.

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A new study suggests probiotics show promise in decreasing anxiety and depression.Source-VOA
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Canada, May 25, 2017:  A new study suggests that probiotics, so-called “good” bacteria that aid in digestion, may also ease symptoms of depression. The finding adds to a growing body of evidence that what happens in the gut affects the brain.

Some 300 to 500 bacterial species inhabit the human gut, many aiding in digestion and the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal tract.

Experts say some of these bacteria produce proteins that communicate with the brain.

Your gut, your mood

The gut flora not only play a role in helping to orchestrate the neural responses that regulate digestion, scientists say, but evidence is emerging that gut bacteria can also affect a person’s mood.

Premysl Bercik, a gastroenterologist at Ontario Canada’s McMaster University, researches what he calls the microbiota-gut-brain axis, or the communication between the gut and the brain through the millions of bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract.

Bercik said between 40 and 90 percent of people with irritable bowel syndrome, a distressing intestinal disorder, also battle symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Research led by Bercik suggests the gut bacteria themselves may have an effect on mood.

In Bercik’s pilot study of 44 patients with irritable bowel syndrome and mild to moderate anxiety or depression, half of the patients received a daily probiotic — a beneficial gut bacterium called Bifidobacterium longum — and the other half were given a placebo. The participants were followed for 10 weeks.

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“What we found was that the patients that were treated with this probiotic bacterium improved their gut symptoms but, also surprisingly, decreased their depression scores,” Bercik said. “That means their mood improved. And this was associated also with changes in the brain imaging.”

Depression, anxiety improve

At the beginning of the study, the patients’ levels of depression and anxiety were scored. The patients also underwent high-tech brain imaging to see which structures were activated in response to happy and sad images.

At six weeks, 64 percent of patients taking the probiotic had a decrease in their depression scores compared to 32 percent of the placebo patients.

A second round of imaging showed changes in multiple brain areas involved with mood control in the patients who felt better.

While the participants’ gut symptoms improved, Bercik said it was not to a statistically significant degree, suggesting the probiotic may have improved their anxiety and depression independent of symptom relief.

Results of the study were published in the journal Gastroenterology.

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More study needed

Bercik says larger studies are needed to confirm the findings.

“However, I think that it shows a great promise,” he said. “I mean new treatments, not only for patients with functional bowel disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, but it may also offer some new treatments for patients with primary psychiatric disorders like depression or anxiety.”

B. longum was developed by Nestle, a Swiss food and drink company, which funded the study. It is not yet commercially available.

However, Bercik says it’s possible other probiotics found in the gut have the potential to improve mood. And he doesn’t stop there. Bercik says he envisions a form of personalized medicine using genome sequencing techniques to create microbiome profiles of individuals, which can be tweaked with oral probiotics for maximum health. (VOA)

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Loneliness And Depression Can Be Linked to Social Media: Study

It is unclear if the depressing effects of social media will cross generational lines to older or younger people

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This photo taken March 22, 2018, shows apps for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks on a smartphone. VOA

University of Pennsylvania researchers say that for the first time they have linked social media use to increases in depression and loneliness.

The idea that social media is anything but social when it comes to mental health has been talked about for years, but not many studies have managed to actually link the two.

To do that, Penn researchers, led by psychologist Melissa Hunt, designed a study that focused on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

The results were published in the November issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

Social media. Offensive Speech
An iPhone with Twitter, Facebook and other apps, May 21, 2013. U.S. internet companies are taking a harder look at their policies that have promoted free expression around the world.. VOA

How study worked

The study was conducted with 143 participants, who before they began, completed a mood survey and sent along photos of their battery screens, showing how often they were using their phones to access social media.

“We set out to do a much more comprehensive, rigorous study that was also more ecologically valid,” Hunt said. That term, ecologically valid, means that the research attempts to mimic real life.

The study divided the participants into two groups: The first group was allowed to maintain their normal social media habits. The other, the control group, was restricted to 10 minutes per day on each of the three platforms: Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

The restrictions were put in place for three weeks and then the participants returned and were tested for outcomes such as fear of missing out (FOMO), anxiety, depression and loneliness.

Social Media
Chiara Valenzano, right, photographs her food as she has lunch with her friend Giulia Terranova at the ‘This is not a Sushi bar’ restaurant, in Milan, Italy, Oct. 16, 2018. At the restaurant, payment can be made according to the number of Instagram followers one has. VOA

Results of study

The results showed a very clear link between social media use and increased levels of depression and loneliness.

“Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness,” Hunt said. “These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

She calls her findings the “grand irony” of social media.

What is it about social media that’s just so depressing?

Hunt says that it’s two major things. The first is that social media invites what Hunt calls “downward social comparison.” When you’re online, it can sometimes seem that “everyone else is cooler and having more fun and included in more things and you’re left out,” she said. And that’s just generally demoralizing.

Social Media
The study was conducted with 143 participants, who before they began, completed a mood survey Pixabay

The second factor is a bit more nuanced.

“Time is a zero-sum game,” Hunt told VOA. “Every minute you spend online is a minute you are not doing your work or not meeting a friend for dinner or having a deep conversation with your roommate.”

And these real life activities are the ones that can bolster self-esteem and self worth, Hunt said.

What to learn

So what’s the takeaway?

social media
A girl uses her mobile phone in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 5, 2017. A researcher in Britain says her findings suggest young girls who are more active on social media have lower levels of well-being in their teens. VOA

People are on their devices, and that’s not going to change, she said. But as in life, a bit of moderation goes a long way.

“In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life,” she added.

Also Read: Childhood Violence May Spur Puberty, Depression: Study

Hunt pointed out a few caveats to the study. First, it was done exclusively with 18- to 22-year-olds, and it is unclear if the depressing effects of social media will cross generational lines to older or younger people, Hunt said. But she expects her results should generalize at least for people through the age of 30.

Hunt says she is now beginning a study to gauge the emotional impact of dating apps. (VOA)