Probiotics and the teenage brain

Researchers have pointed out for some time now that giving teenagers SSRIs (a type of anti-depressant) may at best be ineffective, but more seriously, lead to a worsening of their anxiety or depression and even result in suicidal behaviour.

An excellent review in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry – see link below –  points out that pre- and probiotics (food for the bacteria living in the human digestive tract and the bacteria themselves respectively) may be better, healthier alternatives to psychiatric drugs.

The teenage brain goes through rapid development and at the same time, the composition of gut microbiota (our own probiotics) in adolescence is affected by environmental challenges. Studies have shown that every adverse event that the teenage brain may experience (e.g. alcohol or drug use, poor nutrition and poor sleep) also has a direct, negative effect on gut microbiota. This led researchers to believe that there is a direct link between the microbes living in our gut and the development of mental health conditions in puberty. Therefore, treating a depressed or anxious teenager with pre- and probiotics could provide a safe and effective way of improving their symptoms.


Link to review:

Other references:

  1. Tsapakis E, Soldani F, Tondo L, Baldessarini R. Efficacy of antidepressants in juvenile depression: meta-analysis. J. Psychiat.193(1),10–17 (2008).
  2. Cheung A, Emslie G, Mayes T. Review of the efficacy and safety of antidepressants in youth depression. Child Psychol. Psyc.46(7),735–754 (2005).
  3. Barbui C, Esposito E, Cipriani A. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and risk of suicide: a systematic review of observational studies. Med. Assoc. J.180(3),291–297 (2009).
  4. Stone M, Laughren T, Jones Met al. Risk of suicidality in clinical trials of antidepressants in adults: analysis of proprietary data submitted to US Food and Drug Administration. BMJ339,B2880 (2009).
  5. Hammad TA, Laughren T, Racoosin J. Suicidality in pediatric patients treated with antidepressant drugs. Gen. Psychiat.63,332–339 (2006).
  6. Robertson H, Allison D. Drugs associated with more suicidal ideations are also associated with more suicide attempts.PloS One4(10),E7312 (2009).