If you’re wondering: do probiotics help with mood, let’s chat. Several years ago, I felt worn down by anxiety after the birth of my youngest child. After exhausting medications and other ideas, extensive research into probiotics and the gut-brain connection ultimately helped me through. Here’s the science behind it, what strains help mood, and what to be careful with.
The gut-brain connection: what it is and what it means for your mood
Our digestive system is amazing. It has more than one hundred million nerve cells and its own nervous system. The enteric nervous system sometimes gets called our “second brain.”
Hormones and neurotransmitters in the gut message with the brain and vice versa. When you think about it, this level of connection via the brain-gut axis makes total sense. And it explains why so many of us feel sick to our stomachs in times of stress or when we’re nervous. It also gives so much credit to those “gut feelings” we get when facing a decision. Those hunches are actually communications between our gut and brain.
How our brains influence our gut microbiome and vice versa
The intimate connectivity of our brains and gut aren’t just limited to the relationship between our feelings and how they manifest in our gut. Our gut bacteria, or microbiome, can change based on things like stress levels and anxiety.
But because communication goes both ways, or is bidirectional, the health of your microbiome can also influence your levels of stress and anxiety. We hear that serotonin, or the happiness neurotransmitter and hormone, is a chemical important for your brain. But up to 95% of your serotonin comes from the gut. How much you make can depend in part on the state of your microbiome.
Other ways beneficial gut bacteria help our bodies
Lifestyle, medications, and diets full of meat and sugar but low in fiber can lead to decreased bacteria in the intestines. Too little good bacteria in the gut make it harder to deal with mood and depression. But it also makes it easier for bad bacteria and other pathogens to take hold. Gut bacteria also play a role in metabolism. They help breakdown food and make sure you get the micronutrients you need.
Understanding which species and strains of probiotics help with mood
Grabbing any probiotic off the shelf at your local store or online won’t do. Different species and strains of probiotics are more likely to help with certain issues. It helps to think about what you want to accomplish. Do you want to build overall gut health? Or do you have a specific goal in mind, like boosting your mood?
Determining your goals will help you decide which probiotics to try. Some species and strains don’t work for mood and anxiety but quite a few do. Here’s a rundown of just a few probiotics and their benefits:
- Lactobacillus plantarum: may reduce anxious behavior
- Bifidobacterium longum: may reduce anxiety and depression and help with IBS symptoms
- Lactobacillus acidophilus: improves the body’s immune system and may help reduce risk of viral infection
- Lactobacillus helveticus: may lower cortisol and tame anxiety symptoms
- Bifidobacterium infantis: helps in IBS treatment and promotes relaxation
- Bifidobacterium bifidum: helps in generating vitamin B12 and K which can influence mood
- Lactobacillus brevis: helps in the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein which can be low in depression
Where my research led me
All of my research on probiotics to help with my mood led me to not just understand but truly believe the impact gut health has on our total health. Wanting to share what worked for me led my husband and I to found Lifted Naturals, a well-being movement and line of probiotic supplements that help with mood and anxiety. We work with chemists to determine what species, strains, and quantities are most beneficial for the different issues women are facing.