Role of the Intestinal Microbiome, Intestinal Barrier and Psychobiotics in Depression.

Nutrients. 2021;13(3)
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Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a disorder with feelings of depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure alongside several other symptoms such as weight or appetite changes, difficulty sleeping and an inability to think or concentrate. The development of MDD is not fully understood and may involve several different factors such as the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome may be involved as it can communicate with the brain in a bidirectional fashion, known as the gut-brain axis. This review study aimed to summarise the data on the use of probiotics thought to confer benefits in the brain, known as psychobiotics. Depression is thought to involve aspects of imbalances in brain signalling molecules, stress hormones, and free radicals and inflammation. One of the newest ideas suggests that the gut microbiome may have a role. Individuals with depression have shown to have altered composition of gut microbiota, which may have an impact in several ways. Alterations in vitamin production, altered intestinal barrier function and poor diet during disease, may all contribute to the development of MDD. Psychobiotics may be of benefit to symptoms of depression shown in numerous animal and human studies. It was concluded that there are several ways that the microbiota may be involved in the development of depression. This study could be used by healthcare professionals to justify the introduction of psychobiotics as an adjuvant to standard therapy for MDD, to relieve symptoms.


The intestinal microbiota plays an important role in the pathophysiology of depression. As determined, the microbiota influences the shaping and modulation of the functioning of the gut-brain axis. The intestinal microbiota has a significant impact on processes related to neurotransmitter synthesis, the myelination of neurons in the prefrontal cortex, and is also involved in the development of the amygdala and hippocampus. Intestinal bacteria are also a source of vitamins, the deficiency of which is believed to be related to the response to antidepressant therapy and may lead to exacerbation of depressive symptoms. Additionally, it is known that, in periods of excessive activation of stress reactions, the immune system also plays an important role, negatively affecting the tightness of the intestinal barrier and intestinal microflora. In this review, we have summarized the role of the gut microbiota, its metabolites, and diet in susceptibility to depression. We also describe abnormalities in the functioning of the intestinal barrier caused by increased activity of the immune system in response to stressors. Moreover, the presented study discusses the role of psychobiotics in the prevention and treatment of depression through their influence on the intestinal barrier, immune processes, and functioning of the nervous system.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Digestive, absorptive and microbiological
Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Major depressive disorder
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Microorganisms ; Mind and spirit
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition ; Psychological
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable
Bioactive Substances : Psychobiotics

Methodological quality

Jadad score : Not applicable
Allocation concealment : Not applicable
Publication Type : Journal Article ; Review