The 4 best probiotics for your mood
Although we usually think about the brain when we think about mood, a lot of our feel-good chemicals (including a fair amount of serotonin) are produced in the gut — a phenomenon known as the brain-gut connection. That's why, according to Naina Limbekar, M.D., a sleep neurologist at Boston Medical Center, probiotics can potentially improve mood, emotional processing, and sleep. The best probiotics for your mood will be made with strains that are scientifically researched and show potential to positively affect the gut-brain axis, and they’ll come in a form that’s right for your needs, whether it's a capsule, powder, or liquid.
When it comes to boosting your mood and alleviating feelings of stress, certain probiotic strains have scientific research backing their effectiveness. "Among the studies that have assessed benefit from probiotics in mood, the strains that have shown most benefit include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains," Dr. Limbekar tells Mic. Each of the probiotics on this list includes at least several species of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, including B. longum, L. helveticus, B. bifidum, B. infantis, L. reuteri, L. plantarum, and L. acidophilus, and many of them do double duty to support your digestive system, immunity, and more. Several of the options on this list also include additional strains for maximum benefits. But one note: If you have a sensitivity to histamines or want a blend without D-lactate due to certain medical conditions, be sure to choose a probiotic that meets those requirements.
Beyond that, there are a few different ways to add probiotics to your routine — with capsules, liquid, or powder. Your choice mainly depends on which method is most convenient for you, but keep in mind that medical experts recommend taking a probiotic with a meal, and you may need to adjust the dose to find what works best for your body. "We need more research to understand the exact strain and dose to confer mood benefit," says Dr. Limbekar.
While probiotics may be a helpful tool for some, Jay Yepuri, M.D., a board-certified gastroenterologist, tells Mic, "The jury is still out on this concept. We currently do not have a lot of research or proof that taking a probiotic can affect one’s mood." And you should always check in with a doctor before trying a new supplement — especially if you're pregnant, have underlying health conditions, or are taking any medications. With all that in mind, read on for the best probiotics for your mood.
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1. The basic capsule probiotic
A great all-around option, this mood-boosting probiotic blend is packed with nine strains, including four that may have positive effects on your mood: B. infantis, B. longum, L. plantarum, and L. helveticus. Even better, it's blended with the prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharide (GOS), which may help decrease feelings of stress. Other strains include L. acidophilus and B. animalis, which works to reduce inflammation and boost immunity, and L. rhamnosus, which supports digestion and may even help fend off allergies and prevent cavities. This probiotic is shelf-stable, so you won't have to refrigerate it, and the recommended dose is one capsule per day, preferably with a meal.
One reviewer wrote: “I was skeptical about the mood boosting benefits, but have read up on the benefits of probiotics for gut health in general, so I decided to try this brand. I have tried many different brands in the past and was never very impressed with them. I was pleasantly surprised to notice an actual change in my mood after a few days of daily use with Lifted's probiotic. I truly do feel 'lifted'."
2. The capsule that's sensitivity-friendly
If you're sensitive to histamines or are looking to avoid D-lactate because of certain medical conditions, you may want to check out this Bifidus probiotic. It has fewer strains overall in order to accommodate those sensitivities but still contains a few key ones that may offer mood-boosting benefits, like B. infantis, B. longum, B. bifidum, and B. breve, all of which have been shown to have brain-gut benefits. Plus, the blend contains GOS prebiotic, which can be helpful for reducing feelings of stress. Like with the previous option from the same brand, this probiotic is shelf-stable, and the recommended dose is one capsule per day with a meal.
One reviewer wrote: “I’ve been taking these Bifidus for a few months now and I do really feel a difference. I feel like my mood has lightened!”
3. The liquid probiotic
As an alternative to capsules, you can get your daily dose of good bacteria with this organic liquid probiotic. The formula contains 12 probiotic strains, including five with potential mood-boosting benefits: L. plantarum, B. bifidum, B. infantis, B. breve, and B. longum. It also includes strains like L. rhamnosus, L. acidophilus, and L. casei to help regulate digestion and boost the immune system. The unflavored formula is vegan and gluten-free, and reviewers reported that it really is tasteless, so you can take the recommended dose alone or mixed with water or juice. It doesn't require refrigeration, but unfortunately, the presence of D-lactate and histamines isn't mentioned, so you're better off with the previous option if that's a concern.
One reviewer wrote: “Hands down my new favorite health product and now a staple in my routine!!! I have noticed it is helping me digest food better, improved my mood, and is helping me sleep better!!!"
4. The powder probiotic
These individual probiotic powder packs make it easy to bring your daily dose anywhere, and you can mix them with room temperature water or juice. The powder contains 13 probiotic strains — the most out of all the options on this list — including ones that may help boost your mood like L. plantarum and B. breve, as well as strains like L. reuteri and L. acidophilus, which can help to strengthen the immune system. Reviewers noted that the powder is unflavored and mixes well with beverages, but the presence of histamines and D-lactate isn't mentioned, which is important to note if you're sensitive.
One reviewer wrote: "I love the convenience of the individual packets! No need to worry about pills in my pockets getting lost or broken. I don't like to take pills and this is a great way to get my probiotics without a pill. The flavor is great too! It's a mild vanilla flavor. I can tell a difference in my digestive system since I started taking these every day."
Naina Limbekar, M.D., sleep neurologist at Boston Medical Center
Jay Yepuri, M.D., board-certified gastroenterologist
Schmidt, K., Cohen, P., Harmer, C., Tzortzis, G., Errington, S., Burnet, P. (2014, December). Prebiotic intake reduces the waking cortisol response and alters emotional bias in healthy volunteers. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4410136/
Li, S., Hsu, W., Chang, J., Shih, C. (2019, May). Combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis Shows a Stronger Anti-Inflammatory Effect than Individual Strains in HT-29 Cells. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566532/
Tian, P., O'Riordan, K., Lee, Y., Wang, G., Zhao, J., Zhang, H., Cryan, J., Chen, W. (2020, May). Towards a psychobiotic therapy for depression: Bifidobacterium breve CCFM1025 reverses chronic stress-induced depressive symptoms and gut microbial abnormalities in mice. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7109524/
Mu, Q., Tavella, V., Luo, X. (2018, April). Role of Lactobacillus reuteri in Human Health and Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5917019/