“We know from animal studies that anxiety and depressive like behaviors can be changed when their gut microbiota is changed,” Dr. Slykerman told us at the Probiota Americas 2018 conference in Miami earlier this month.
And while there have been clinical studies on small populations of depressed patients that have shown improvement of sypmtoms with probiotic supplementation, “but to date there haven’t been any studies that looked at the effect of probiotics for maternal depression post pregnancy.”
Drawing from studies conducted by other researchers, Dr. Slykerman’s study builds on the understanding that a woman’s microbiome changes during pregnancy.
The strain used in her study was Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001.
“We found that the probiotic supplementation improved psychological outcomes in the post-natal period, and there’s reason to believe that that could be due to modulation through the immune system and anti-inflammatory pathways,” she explained.
Because of this proposed mechanism, Dr. Slykerman argued that “there would be no reason to suggest that probiotic supplementation would not also benefit clinical populations of depressed adults who are not pregnant.”
But for pregnant women, she added that the study’s findings are a start to developing new non-drug alternatives to treating postpartum depression.
“We know that, from studies on pregnant women, many of them are reluctant to take medication while pregnant or breastfeeding,” she said.
“We certainly need other studies to replicate the findings of this study. If they do, then probiotics certainly will provide a safe, and simple, and well-tolerated preventive for maternal depression and anxiety.”