Probiotics are sometimes marketed for their anti-depression properties but are these slogans true? In this article, I have analyzed if any proven link exists between gut bacteria and mental health.
Probiotics don’t cause depression or mental stress in any way. Instead, they might help elevate its symptoms by positively affecting our gut microbiome through microbial secretions and anti-inflammatory activities on intestinal walls, which produce about 95% of Serotonin (aka. the neurotransmitter of happiness) in the human body.
Now, you might be curious about how Serotonin can help with depression and why a “brain” transmitter is produced in the intestines. Learn more about these phenomena in the article.
Also, let’s find out how psychobiotics work and which strains are the most effective;
Our gut microbiome affects our mental states. Hence, you feel happier with a healthier gut and may experience depression or anxiety when your gut is upset.
The gut walls, especially the intestinal lining, contain a dense neural network. It houses so many nerves that it is often considered the second brain in the human body (named as enteric nervous system).
This system links with the central nervous system, affecting the body’s hormonal system, metabolism, and immunity.
Research confirms that the gut and brain have a mutually effective connection. As the brain can regulate gut function and induce or reduce digestive secretions, the gut can also affect neuro-secretions and cognitive functionality.
Hence, intestinal walls don’t just secrete digestive enzymes but also secrete some neurotransmitters and neuropeptides like Serotonin.
In fact, more Serotonin is produced by the gut than the “original” brain, which is the main reason your mood depends upon your gut health. Serotonin induces feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and mental clarity.
That is why most anti-depressant medicines are formulated to increase serotonin levels in the blood. However, good gut bacteria are your body’s natural tools to keep serotonin levels up.
They protect the intestinal walls through their sections and metabolic activities. Resultantly, a healthy gut produces copious amounts of Serotonin, and you stay happy and contented.
However, if your microbiome is disturbed by pathogenic microbes or diseases like IBS or diarrhea, you will likely feel anxiety, brain fog, or depression.
Can Probiotics Make Depression Worse Or Better?
Probiotics have mild anti-depressive effects for most people but tend to worsen depression in SIBO (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) patients.
Generally, probiotic intake is good for both gut and mental health. As explained above, the intestines make most of Serotonin, and good gut bacteria take care of these intestinal walls.
When you take a probiotic, you strengthen the gut microbiome. Resultantly, the gut microbiota improves intestinal health, upregulating serotine release.
Long story short, you would feel less depressed and happier by using probiotic foods or supplements.
Due to this benefit, effective probiotic strains combined with prebiotic ingredients are often named psychobiotics.
Research shows that the following microbes are especially effective for depression;
Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains are most effective for improving social behavior and reducing anxiety.
Clinical review shows that at least 4-week supplementation is required to see positive results against psychiatric disorders.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast strain tested for cognitive effects by the College of Basic Medicine, China. Results of the study show that S. boulardii reduces depressive behaviors.
This is the science behind probiotic therapy for depression, but common user reviews on social platforms also support its efficacy.
For example, a woman shared on Reddit how taking a probiotic supplement for IBS relieved her brain fog and anxiety.
She tried different brands and found that a Saccharomyces-containing product was more effective for her than a lactobacillus-only probiotic supplement.
However, the scenario gets reversed for some people, who start feeling depressed and anxious after consuming probiotic pills. The symptoms usually fade away after quitting the probiotic capsules.
Such a case seems to contradict research findings and is pretty puzzling.
However, when in-depth investigations are done, it turns out that these people had SIBO (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). It is a condition when you have abnormal bacterial growth in your intestines.
This is one of the few illnesses when a person should not take probiotics. It can get worst if you take a probiotic containing Lactobacillus strains because these bacteria produce a lot of acidic secretions, making acidosis and SIBO worse.
Hence, if you feel depressed after consuming a probiotic food or supplement, talk to your doctor to check if you have SIBO or any other ailment.
Also, it should be kept in mind for depression treatment with probiotics that gut bacteria help keep serotonin secretion normal, but they don’t eliminate the stress-causing agents.
All in all, probiotics are beneficial for depression as a part of psychotherapies. But alone, these strains won’t be effective enough as an anti-depressant.
That is why it’s better to consult an expert for proper anxiety treatment besides probiotics to boost happy feelings.
Here are the probiotics I recommend for depression;
Best Probiotics For Depression and Anxiety
1. Biotics 8
This product comes from Bauer Nutrition- a trusted brand producing many fitness and beauty supplements.
Biotics 8 is a combination of 10 potent strains, prebiotic fiber, digestive enzymes, and Vitamin D. So; you are not only ingesting a few probiotic bacteria when you take this pill. Rather it is a blend of various ingredients you need for gut health improvement.
The best thing about this product is that it has ten strains belonging to all three anti-depressive groups: Saccharomyces, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium.
It contains S. Boulardii, L. casei, L. rhamnosus, L. plantarum, L. acidophilus, L. paracasei, L. fermentum, B. longum, B. breve, and B. bifidum.
Another feature that gives it an edge over other probiotic products is its HPMC capsulation. These capsules are pH-sensitive and open only after reaching the intestine, so none of the microbes is wasted.
It is available from the website, costing $59.99 for 90 capsules. Your order will be delivered free of cost to your doorstep.
Gut+ from Yourbiology is the probiotic supplement I take to keep my gut happy. It provides me with 40 billion CFUs with every dose.
It helps me stay calm and positive even when in stressful situations. This anxiety relief is credited to its microbial formulation comprising a Bifidobacterium and three Lactobacillus bacteria (L. plantarum, L. paracasei, and L. acidophilus) strains.
This supplement is useful in psychotherapies for depressed persons and also makes you feel less stressed in daily life, owing to the efficacy of Lactobacillus paracasei.
A study on behavioral neuroscience proves it is an effective supplement to put off day-to-day stress and anxiety.
If you want to improve gut health with probiotics, you will see the best result when your probiotic;
- Supplies a high number of CFUs
- Contains effective strains
- Provides prebiotics to promote microbial growth
- Can survive the stomach acidity
And Gut+ has all these characteristics. Its capsule material is derived from seaweed polysaccharide, which is resistant to gastric acids, protecting microbes until they reach the intestinal tract.
Also, it contains prebiotic fibers, which bacteria use to grow and multiply.
It costs only $59.99 for a bottle, but I like to buy it in bulk to get it even cheaper. Also, shipping is free on all orders. You can buy it from Yourbiology Gut+ website here.
Mood Probiotic is a product of Innovixlabs. Its strains are chosen to keep exclusively for reducing anxiety and improving mood.
It contains two bacterial strains, namely Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum. Both of these bacteria would help you live a stress-free life.
(science-evidences on both types of bacteria are mentioned in the above section)
It is a good supplement for beginners due to its moderate CFU count and two strains. You will get 15 billion colony-forming units with each capsule.
People with food allergies can also use this product without hesitation, as it is free from gluten, tree nuts, peanut, corn, and eggs.
You can get it from the official webpage of Innovixlab, paying $20.99 per pack. It is also available from Amazon.
Can probiotics affect your mood?
Yes, probiotics can uplift your mood.
Mental health is mainly affected by gut-brain mutual communication, meaning gut microbiota are a key factor behind your happiness scores. When you supplement the gut microbiome with probiotics, your mood gets better.
Can probiotics make you sad?
No, taking probiotics won’t make a healthy person sad. However, it can make a SIBO person depressed or anxious.
Are probiotics good for depression?
Yes, probiotics can help you cope with depression.
These friendly bacteria make your gut work better and produce more Serotonin. In turn, Serotonin affects the brain and induces happiness and mental clarity.
Final Thoughts – How Probiotics Help With Depression?
Gut-brain correlation significantly affects mental health. In fact, intestinal walls contain an extensive neuron network whose secretions affect cognitive functioning.
As a result, your mental well-being increases as your gut health improves, and the reverse is also true. Hence, you can cope with stress by taking care of your gut health.
Probiotic intake reduces depressive thoughts because they positively alter gut microbiota and their activities on the intestinal lining.