Forget about your woes? Probiotics may lower focus on bad feelings and experiences

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Supplementation with a multistrain probiotic could help prevent depression by lowering cognitive reactivity and rumination, say researchers.
Supplementation with a multistrain probiotic could help prevent depression by lowering cognitive reactivity and rumination, say researchers.

Related tags Psychology Gut flora

Supplementation with a multi-species probiotic may be associated with lower feelings of sadness and less focus on bad feelings and experiences from the past, say researchers.

The new findings, published in the Brain, Behavior, and Immunity​, examined the effects of supplementation with a multi-species probiotic on negative moods, focusing in particular on the activation of negative dysfunctional patterns of thinking that are triggered by subtle changes in mood (known as cognitive reactivity).

This focus on probiotic supplementation and cognitive reactivity (CR) comes after previous research into the role of the human microbiota in cognitive and affective functioning led suggestions that probiotic supplementation could act as an adjuvant strategy to improve or prevent depression.

Led by Laura Steenbergen and Lorenza Colzato from the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition, the new data suggests that people may focus less on bad feelings and experiences from the past (a process known as rumination) after four weeks of probiotics administration.

“Rumination is one of the most predictive vulnerability markers of depression”​ says Steenbergen. “Persistent ruminative thoughts often precede and predict episodes of depression.”

“Even if preliminary, these results provide the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood,”​ added Colzato. “As such, our findings shed an interesting new light on the potential of probiotics to serve as adjuvant or preventive therapy for depression.”

Research methods

The team claim to be the first to investigate whether the administration of a multispecies probiotic (Ecologic®Barrier, Winclove probiotics) containing Bifidobacterium bifidum​ W23, Bifidobacterium lactis​ W52, Lactobacillus acidophilus​ W37, Lactobacillus brevis​ W63, L. casei​ W56, Lactobacillus salivarius​ W24, and Lactococcus lactis​ (W19 and W58) for at least 4 weeks has a beneficial effect on rumination (defined as recurrent thoughts about possible causes and consequences of one’s distress).

Probiota Americas Promo
The action of probiotics and prebiotics on the gut-brain axis, metabolism, sports performance and much more will take center stage at the Probiota Americas event in San Diego, June 3-5. For more information about the event and to register, click here.

The randomised, placebo controlled trial asked 40 healthy subjects to take a sachet containing powder which was mixed with lukewarm water or milk each day of the intervention. Half of the participants received a placebo powder, while the other half received the probiotics mixture.

Participants were invited to the lab to fill in a questionnaire indexing sensitivity (cognitive reactivity) to depression on two occasions: one time at the beginning of the intervention and the second time after 4 weeks when the intervention was completed. In both occasions they were required.

Less rumination through probiotics

Compared to subjects who received the placebo intervention, participants who received the multispecies probiotics intervention showed significantly reduced ruminative thoughts, said the team.

“Participants who received the 4-week multispecies probiotics intervention showed a significantly reduced overall cognitive reactivity to sad mood, which was largely accounted for by reduced rumination and aggressive thoughts,”​ they explained.

The team concluded that their findings indicate that probiotics supplementation “warrants further research as a potential preventive strategy for depression.

Source: Brain, Behavior, and Immunity
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2015.04.003
“A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood”
Authors: Laura Steenbergen, et al​ 

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Related suppliers



Posted by Geline Ormel,

The gut brain axis is indeed an intriguing topic. We at Winclove Probiotics (producer of the probiotic that is used in this study) have tested this product on migraine as well. You can find this research here:

Report abuse


Posted by Dr Anna Sen, Development Technologist,

Fascinating. I believe we are only just scraping the surface in relation to the gut and its importance to our psychological health. I am excited by the amount of research into this.

Report abuse


Posted by MikeDenison,

Natural processes are the best way to cure depression. For anyone suffering from depression,
I recommend something that has helped me a lot. It is James Gordon’s system at
He is a former depression sufferer, and teaches a totally natural 7 step process which relieves depression from your life.

Report abuse

Follow us


View more