Probiotics and Mental Health

probiotics mental health

You may wonder how beneficial bacteria could possibly have a positive impact on mental health. If you have heard of the brain-gut axis—the pathway that exists between the brain and the gut—then you might guess there is a definite link between these two areas of the body. 

This relationship is important to know and understand so you can take advantage of using probiotics to assist with mental health issues. Let’s begin with a few basics.

How can probiotics affect the brain?

Probiotics, also known as beneficial or good bacteria, consist primarily of species in both the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera. These bacteria live in the intestinal tract and are charged with supporting nutrient absorption and keeping the body in balance. Probiotics are part of the body’s microbiome, which also consists of viruses, protozoa, and fungi (including yeasts). 

Read about how your microbiome affects mood and mental health

So how do probiotics get from the intestinal tract to your brain? The gut-brain axis is a phenomenon that links the two regions of the body: the nervous system in the digestive tract (known as the enteric nervous system) and the brain (the central nervous system). The main pathway between the gut and brain is the vagus nerve, which is also the longest nerve in the human body.

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Did you know you have two brains? Researchers have called the gut the “second brain” because it makes serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, neurotransmitters also found in the “other” brain. All of these neurotransmitters have a major role in regulating mood, which translates into an impact on mental function.

Probiotics and mental health 

Researchers have uncovered many instances where good bacteria have had a beneficial effect on mental health. For example:

In a 2016 systematic review that included 38 studies, investigators found that B. longum, B. breve, and B. infantis as well as L. helvetius and L. rhanosus helped improve memory (non-spatial and spatial) as well as some psychiatric disorders-related behaviors.

How are probiotics for managing stress? According to the findings of a 2019 double-blind study, stress was significantly reduced among those with moderate stress who took a probiotic supplement containing L. plantarum DR7. The authors concluded that this bacterial strain could be used “as a natural strategy to improve psychological functions, cognitive health, and memory in stressed adults.”

How to choose probiotic supplements

So you’ve decided beneficial bacteria can be helpful for enhancing mental health for yourself and your family. Now you need to select the most effective and convenient supplements. 

Read about probiotics 101: what you should know about good bacteria

One of the most asked questions about probiotic supplements is, should they be refrigerated or not? The answer is easy: since heat is the enemy of beneficial bacteria, choose probiotics that are refrigerated and keep them stored in your fridge.

Now that you have a viable supplement, what’s the best form for it to be in? Since your supplement is transporting valuable cargo, you want a vehicle that is foolproof against dangers that will prevent the probiotics from working efficiently, such as gastric stomach acid. This substance is enemy number one of probiotics since it can destroy the good bacteria before they even have a chance to reach their destination.

For that job, you need an enteric-coated probiotic supplement. The coating ensures the beneficial bacteria reach the intestinal tract, where they are set free. 

Bottom line

The use of probiotics is often overlooked when it comes to managing mental health issues. Considerable research shows that a number of species from both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera can be helpful in this area of health. Be sure to choose probiotic supplements that are enteric-coated and kept refrigerated. 

eneteric coated probiotics from new roots herbal

Akkasheh G et al. Clinical and metabolic response to probiotic administration in patients with major depressive disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition 2016 Mar; 32(3):315-20.
Chong HX et al. Lactobacillus plantarum DR7 alleviates stress and anxiety in adults: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Beneficial Microbes 2019 Apr 19; 10(4):355-73
Probiotics may help boost mood and cognitive function. Harvard Medical School 2019 Jun 8
Wang H et al. Effect of probiotics on central nervous system functions in animals and humans: A Systematic Review. Journal of Neurogastroenterology & Motility 2016 Oct 30; 22(4):589-605
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Lisa Roth Collins is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and is the Marketing Manager at She is passionate about health and wellness and tries her best to make healthier choices every day for herself and her family. Her journey to natural health was driven by her own struggles with digestive discomfort, depression, and anxiety. Lisa returned to school in 2014 to study nutrition at the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition. She threw herself into her studies so she could learn as much as she could to help herself feel better and thrive. Upon completing the program and being certified as an RHN, Lisa began her work at Naturally Savvy where she has been able to help so many people learn to make healthier choices for themselves. Through her work, she has connected with so many incredible people in the industry whether other authors, influencers, or brands. Plus, she is affectionately known as "Techie Spice" because of her ability to wrap her head around technology. Every day she gets up with a renewed sense of energy and ready to make a difference. You can read all of Lisa's content here. In her spare time, Lisa loves to try new recipes, make delicious and nourishing meals, and she is an avid reader. For more information about Lisa, check out her profile on here.