May 23 (UPI) -- A study by McMaster University is the first to identify a link between probiotics and improved symptoms of depression in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
IBS affects the large intestine, causing abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation, and is the most common gastrointestinal disorder worldwide. The chronic symptoms of IBS often can lead to depression in patients with the disorder.
Researchers from the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute at McMaster University found that twice as many adults with IBS showed improvements from depression after taking the specific probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 compared to adults with IBS taking a placebo.
The pilot study was comprised of 44 adults with IBS and mild to moderate depression who were followed for a 10-week period.
Half of the participants took a daily dose of Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001, while the other half took a placebo.
Researchers found that six weeks into the study period, 64 percent of patients taking the probiotic had decreased depression scores compared to 32 percent of patients on the placebo.
"This study shows that consumption of a specific probiotic can improve both gut symptoms and psychological issues in IBS," Dr. Premysl Bercik, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster and a gastroenterologist for Hamilton Health Services, said in a press release. "This opens new avenues not only for the treatment of patients with functional bowel disorders but also for patients with primary psychiatric diseases."
The study was published in Gastroenterology.