Probiotics have been a health buzzword recently, but did you know you can use them to support specific health concerns beyond general gut health? Certain probiotic strains may be especially good at regulating mood and relieving stress, anxiety, and depression. Some people may experience great success using probiotics to improve their mood naturally.*
So, which probiotics are best for mood?
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living organisms that can confer a health benefit on you when taken in the right amounts. People take probiotics to attempt to alter the gut microbiome in specific ways. Different probiotic strains may be beneficial for other health functions.
Probiotics can help with:
- Gut health
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Hormone function
- Cognitive function
Adding a probiotic supplement to your daily routine introduces beneficial bacteria that may positively impact your health and quality of life.* Depending on what type of benefit you’re most interested in, there are particular probiotic strains that will be more helpful than others - scientific research can guide your search.
The Difference Between Probiotics, Prebiotics & Postbiotics
In your reading about probiotics, you may encounter other “-biotics” like prebiotics, postbiotics, and synbiotics. What do they mean, and which could enhance your mood?
In 2014, the World Health Organization defined probiotics as “live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a beneficial health effect on the host.” In essence, probiotics are good living bacteria, such as bacteria belonging to the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera.
Some people suffer from a gut bacteria imbalance when harmful bacteria become more numerous than ideal. Consuming probiotic supplements may help your gut become more balanced and reduce adverse health effects that arise when your microbiome falls out of harmony, such as gas, bloating, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and more.*
Prebiotics are the food that good bacteria like to eat, typically fibrous carbohydrates. By providing your gut flora with access to their favorite foods, you can help keep your gut microbial community more balanced and healthy. You can typically find prebiotics in fibrous plants. Some people find eating the right prebiotic food difficult and use prebiotic supplements like inulin to fill a gap in their diet. There is some limited evidence that prebiotics alone can help with mood in some people.
You can also find supplements called synbiotics, which combine probiotics and prebiotic starch into a single pill.
Postbiotics are generally heat-killed probiotics that have a positive effect on health even though they are not alive. They were defined by ISAPP in 2021 as a “preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host”. The health benefits of postbiotics typically come from cell wall components and other molecules derived from the dead cells.
A big advantage of postbiotic supplements is that they are shelf-stable - they can be kept at room temperature for long periods of time. This can make postbiotics ideal for traveling or conditions where refrigeration access is limited.
For example, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of over 400 people showed the postbiotic substantially reduced symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, such as abnormal bowel habits, abdominal bloating, and abdominal discomfort or pain.
Probiotics & Your Mental Health
How Gut Health Impacts Mental Health
It's challenging to maintain a bright and cheery disposition when you are experiencing physical pain and discomfort. If you frequently suffer from indigestion, bloating, gas, or diarrhea, you probably understand how these issues can affect your mood. It may be difficult to enjoy a dinner party when you are left wondering which ingredients could cause you physical discomfort.
Additionally, the less painful effects, such as uncontrollable gas, can cause embarrassment when they occur. It's tough to control your mood when you are left worrying about potentially embarrassing or physically uncomfortable situations.
The mental anguish that accompanies eating food, trying new food, or eating out with friends can cause you to avoid these potentially unpleasant situations. This can lead to turning down invitations and fewer social interactions. Infrequent social interactions may lead to more mental health issues, such as depression.
In addition to your mood being impacted indirectly by your digestive health, your mood may be directly affected by the microbiota in your gut. Emerging evidence points to the gut's critical ability to regulate cognitive functions and brain activity.
The Gut-Brain Axis & Mental Wellbeing
Your gut and your central nervous system communicate with each other via the gut-brain axis. It links the cognitive and emotional centers of your brain to your gut. This connection may impact mood disorders. It can link your emotions, such as anxiety, anger, and sadness, to your gut.
The gut-brain connection also involves the vagus nerve, which is part of your parasympathetic nervous system. It connects your brain to your gut so the two can communicate using hormones and neurotransmitters, such as cortisol and serotonin, respectively. This communication plays a crucial role in hunger, pain, sleep, stress, and mood.
There are still plenty of questions surrounding the gut-brain axis. However, the gut plays a role in communicating with the peripheral immune, metabolic, and central nervous systems. The gut’s microbiota regulates the functioning, transportation, and production of neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters carry chemical messages from a nerve cell to another cell, which could be a gland, a muscle cell, or a nerve cell. Neurotransmitters are key to controlling various body functions like stress, hunger and thirst, thoughts and feelings, hormone regulation, and your senses, such as touching, tasting, seeing, and feeling.
When the gut is healthy and functioning correctly, these neurotransmitters are properly supported by your microbiota. But when gut health is poor, the collaboration between the gut and neurotransmitters is interrupted.
Probiotics may be an excellent option if you feel your gut health may be negatively impacting your mood.
What Are Psychobiotics?
Your gut synthesizes more than 90% of your body’s serotonin and 50% of your dopamine. Psychobiotics are specific probiotics that support the gut-brain relationship and modulate the production of the gut’s neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin. Plus, the psychobiotic florae can regulate serotonin production and brain pathways. The principal genera of these psychobiotics include Lactobacillus, including Lactobacillus plantarum PS128, Bifidobacterium, and Lactococcus.
Consuming psychobiotics daily to improve gut-brain communication is referred to as psychobiotic therapy.
Can Psychobiotics Impact Mood?
Psychobiotics such as PS128 have been found to have antidepressant properties in some research studies. Research also suggests psychobiotics to be a promising option for people who suffer from stress and anxiety.
The recent widespread recognition of the gut's importance to people's physical and mental health has stoked interest in other ways in which the gut can impact personal well-being. There is some evidence connecting gut dysbiosis (or imbalance) and specific mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.
While more research is needed, the potential impact of psychobiotics on mental health is promising. Some doctors are already recommending psychobiotics to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in their patients.
The Best Probiotics for Boosting Your Mood
If you're ready to try probiotics to help boost your mood, you must know which probiotics are best for improving your issues of concern. One strain of probiotics that has shown particular promise for boosting mood and alleviating the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress is L. plantarum PS128*.L. plantarum PS128 has been studied in published research regarding its effects on patients with stress, depression, and anxiety disorders. The research suggests the following benefits:
- Depressive symptoms improved*
- Less stress and anxiety in highly stressed people*
- People with anxiety disorders experienced better results using PS128 and SSRI (citalopram) together than SSRI alone*
Studies indicate that L. plantarum PS128 may be the right probiotic to help you elevate your mood naturally*; it may be the best probiotic for stress, anxiety, depression, or general low mood. Preclinical studies suggest that L. plantarum PS128 may work by boosting serotonin levels within your body, helping you feel more stable, calm, happy, and focused. Low serotonin levels are suspected of playing a role in anxiety, depression, and other mood conditions.
Beyond mental health, serotonin can also benefit aspects of physical health such as:
- Bone health
- Wound healing
Timing Your Probiotics
Sometimes manufacturers may recommend that you take probiotics with food, other times they may recommend you take them on an empty stomach. One study found probiotics to have positive impacts regardless of their timing.
Without firm scientific confirmation, the best time to take probiotics is when it is most convenient for you. However, you should know how probiotics affect you at different times. For example, if your probiotics make you feel nauseous when you take them without food, or sleepy if you take them in the morning, then change your habits to accommodate what feels suitable for your body. The most crucial factor is that you continue to take them regularly, long enough to benefit from the results.
What to Expect When Taking Probiotics
When taking a new probiotic for the first time, you might be wondering what to expect. You may wonder about side effects or how long you will need to wait to see results. Here are some insights into what you can expect when taking probiotics.
Possible Side Effects & Risks
Probiotics are generally safe as food ingredients; the most common issues are related to bloating and gas. If you experience these side effects, you can change temporarily decrease the dose, and work up to taking the full dose daily. If you are on medication, you should also discuss possible interactions with your healthcare provider.
Some people should be especially careful about probiotics before speaking with their healthcare provider. If you have one of the following health conditions, speak with your doctor before adding them to your diet:
- Weakened immune system
- Intestinal diseases
Getting the Right Strain
Not all probiotic strains are created equally. Some strains may be better for accomplishing different goals, such as:
- Improving mood
- Increasing immune function
- Decreasing constipation
- Promoting better sleep
- Supporting lactose digestion
Getting the right strain of probiotics for your intended usage is vital if you want the best results. L. plantarum PS128 may be a wise choice if you are concerned about improving your mood. Incorporating the right strain into your diet may help you achieve your goals faster.
How Long Do I Have to Take Probiotics to See Results?
Probiotics are not an overnight quick fix, so you should not expect miracles in the first few days or even weeks. You may need three months (or more) to see results from the probiotics. Although some people may experience results earlier, you should not expect a similar outcome.
If you fail to take your probiotics regularly, it could take longer to see effects. Make sure you stick to the directions. If you are meant to take the probiotics twice a day, try your best to stick to that schedule.
Here are some aspects of mental health that you might consider monitoring before and after you start to take a probiotic for mood to see if it’s helping you: sleeping through the night, staying on task, enjoying activities, less likely to melt down, less anxiety, less stimming to reduce anxiety.
Get Quality Probiotics to Improve Your Mood
A high dose is not always indicative of quality, nor is the inclusion of more strains. What matters is the science behind the dose and strains in the product, and how much of the probiotic inside is still alive when you take it.
For instance, Neuralli is formulated with 60 billion CFUs of L. plantarum PS128 per 2-capsule dose, because that is the amount of PS128 that showed benefits in more than 10 clinical studies. Each capsule is packed with a bit more at the factory and is shipped fast and cool to your door with instructions to keep it refrigerated, to ensure that you get the clinical dose on the day that you take it.
No matter which probiotic you choose for your mental health, make sure it has the science and commitment to quality behind it, to ensure it has a good chance of helping you, with minimal side-effects.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.