Could yoghurt help treat depression?

Probiotics are well established as a great boost to our health - immunity, urinary tract infections and digestive health to name but a few - but a new study has found further evidence for a lesser known benefit.

Research has found that lactobacillus, the bacteria found in probiotic yoghurt, could help reduce depression and stress.

This is exciting news which could lead to new treatments for depression. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1 in 5 of us will experience depression at some point in our lives and a study of 50,000 people across 21 countries has found that the majority aren't receiving adequate treatment.

How probiotics can help mood

A metoblite found in the blood called kynurenine has been linked to the development of depression, one of the most common mental health conditions affecting the UK.

The study, carried out at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, have found that as the level of lactobacillus in the gut goes down, the levels of kynurenine go up and depressive symptoms began to show. By feeding mice lactobacillus, the researchers were able to reverse the behavioural symptoms of depression and provide stronger evidence for the link between gut bacteria and mental health.

While the research was carried out on rodents, the authors are confident that it will be applicable to humans and therefore reduce the need for chemical-based antidepressants. Lead author Alban Gaultier commented:

“The big hope for this kind of research is that we won’t need 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.”

This isn't the first time probiotics have been linked to mental health. In 2015, scientists in the Netherlands found that a four-week probiotic supplement was successful in reducing negative and aggressive thoughts, as well as remuneration.

Cure depressive symptoms with fermented foods

Miss Stephanie Moore, a clinical nutritionist with a background in psychotherapy is unsurprised by the findings. “There are many easy, daily practices that can quickly and effectively enhance the state of these highly influential gut bacteria and in turn improve inflammatory bowel problems and digestive discomfort. Anxiety, depression and other mental health problems may also be positively affected.”

She added: “Fermented (probiotic) foods, which contain live beneficial bacteria can help support a healthy gut microbiome by actually taking good microbes into the gut to keep the ratio at a healthy balance.

“These foods include raw sauerkraut and Kimchi (fermented vegetables), live natural yoghurt and kefir (fermented dairy foods), Kombucha (fermented tea) and Miso (fermented soy).“


A group of organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye, which are usually made up of just a single cell. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
A common name for the large and/or small intestines. Full medical glossary
Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in life, combined with a sense of reduced emotional well-being Full medical glossary
A viral infection affecting the respiratory system. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
Dietary supplements containing bacteria believed to be necessary for proper gut function. Full medical glossary
Relating to injury or concern. Full medical glossary
The channels that carry urine from the kidneys to the outside of the body. Full medical glossary