Probiotics and Prebiotics May Ease Anxiety and Depression


The ingestion of prebiotics that feed good bacteria in the human gut shows promise as a way to help alleviate anxiety and depression, according to a University of Oxford study in Psychopharmacology. The study adds to previous research showing that probiotics, which add good bacteria to the gut, can also have beneficial psychological effects, the researchers said.

“To test the efficacy of prebiotics in reducing anxiety, the researchers asked 45 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 45 to take either a prebiotic or a placebo every day for three weeks,” reported The Huffington Post. The people who’d taken the prebiotic “paid less attention to negative information and more attention to positive information” in ways that were “similar to that which has been observed among individuals who have taken antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.” These people also had lower cortisol levels.

LiveScience also reported on the study, and reviewed other research into how gut bacteria affect psychological states and could potentially be used to treat serious psychiatric conditions. “It’s becoming a very interesting question in the field,” a University of Toronto psychiatrist and pharmacologist told LiveScience. “The animal data looks really interesting, and looks very suggestive, [but] we’re still waiting for that convincing human study,” he said.

Gut Feeling? Probiotics May Ease Anxiety and Depression (LiveScience, December 24, 2014)

The Surprising Link Between Gut Bacteria And Anxiety (The Huffington Post, January 4, 2015)

(Abstract) (Full text) Prebiotic intake reduces the waking cortisol response and alters emotional bias in healthy volunteers (Schmidt, Kristin et al. Psychopharmacology. December 3, 2014. DOI: 10.1007/s00213-014-3810-0)


  1. “similar to that which has been observed among individuals who have taken antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.”
    I’m confused… does that mean “not at all”?
    I don’t have a problem with people eating better and with addressing any physical ailments, digestive issues and malnutrition as potential sources of mood problems but I have a big issue with making statements along the lines of “substance/procedure X alleviates depression”. Depression is not an illness, it’s at best a bunch of symptoms. In order to find something that can help you have to figure out the source of depression in any given individual. Everything else is just bs and waste of time and money.

    Report comment