Major depressive disorder: probiotics may be an adjuvant therapy

Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(3):533-8. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2004.08.019.


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is an extremely complex and heterogeneous condition. Emerging research suggests that nutritional influences on MDD are currently underestimated. MDD patients have been shown to have elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, increased oxidative stress, altered gastrointestinal (GI) function, and lowered micronutrient and omega-3 fatty acid status. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is likely contributing to the limited nutrient absorption in MDD. Stress, a significant factor in MDD, is known to alter GI microflora, lowering levels of lactobacilli and bifidobacterium. Research suggests that bacteria in the GI tract can communicate with the central nervous system, even in the absence of an immune response. Probiotics have the potential to lower systemic inflammatory cytokines, decrease oxidative stress, improve nutritional status, and correct SIBO. The effect of probiotics on systemic inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress may ultimately lead to increased brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). It is our contention that probiotics may be an adjuvant to standard care in MDD.

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use*
  • Bifidobacterium / physiology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Digestive System / microbiology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Lactobacillus / physiology
  • Micronutrients / metabolism
  • Models, Immunological*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Probiotics*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Cytokines
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Micronutrients