The gut-brain axis: More than a marketing and mental health buzzword, it’s a clinically based, evidence-backed connection. Recent research demonstrates a strong link between the health of our gut biomes, central nervous system and our mental health and emotional wellbeing. The lack of beneficial microorganisms or gut bacteria in the intestinal tract has been associated with mood disorders like depression and anxiety, problems with the digestive system which can lead to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and even linked to cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Since the lack of beneficial gut microbiota is linked to poor emotional and mental health, it stands to reason that the addition of “good” microorganisms could help to regulate brain health—and that’s been borne out by clinical studies. Particular strains of probiotics have proven especially helpful in relieving stress and anxiety and boosting mood. Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus is supported with the most clinical evidence, but the strains Lactobacillus helveticus, Bifidobacterium (eg, B. longum, B. breve, and B. infantis) also have been shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood and mental health.
Since probiotics help to create and maintain a healthy gut biome, they’re often used to address gastrointestinal issues like bloating, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and constipation. But research into the gut-brain-body connection shows that probiotics not only alleviate digestive problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and mental health disorders, but can also:
Probiotics are intended to help create and maintain a healthy gut biome. In order to do this, the probiotics—which are living microorganisms—must survive the journey to the intestinal tract, bypassing stomach acids and enzymes. The best way to ensure that probiotics reach the gut alive is to take them with food. A study found that the optimal time to take a probiotics supplement is with food or 30 minutes before a meal. It’s most effective when the food has some fat content.
Similar to anti-anxiety drugs, probiotics may take a few weeks to affect mood, though other benefits (especially better gastrointestinal health) may appear sooner than mental health benefits.
And though a regular dose of probiotics provides the most benefits, it may be helpful to take more during especially stressful times to lower stress levels.
Side effects of probiotics are rare and generally short-lived, but first-time consumers of probiotics may experience bloating, cramps, or mild diarrhea for the first few days. The symptoms typically subside as the body adjusts to the addition of beneficial microorganisms.
It can be difficult to differentiate between the myriad types and brands of probiotics available. When choosing a supplement for its anxiety–relieving or mood-elevating properties, it’s important to consider when taking probiotics:
Probiotics supplements can be found at pharmacies, health-food stores, and even grocery stores and superstores. They’re also sold online: from their manufacturers, on wellness websites, and of course on Amazon, which posts reviews and FAQs.
Product comparison is a time-consuming but necessary task. The list below has been carefully vetted to include only those supplements that contain the probiotic strains that are helpful for relieving stress and anxiety, that have received favorable reviews, and that are manufactured by reputable companies.
Backed by 20 years of experience and over 20 scientific studies, Dr. Ohhira’s probiotics undergo a three-year fermentation process, which results in the production of over 430 postbiotic metabolites—minerals, acids, and vitamins that support a healthy colon. The supplements also contain prebiotics, as well as a proprietary lactic acid bacteria (LAB) strain, TH-10. Six times stronger than other strain known to bacteriologists, TH-10 adds extra power and efficacy to the probiotics.
Dr. Ohhira’s supplements include the strains shown to relieve anxiety and depression. Since they have the added power of prebiotics, postbiotics, and TH-10, they need fewer CFUs in order to create a healthy microbiome. The capsules are acid-resistant, free of artificial additives, preservatives, gluten and other common allergens, and are vegetarian and non-GMO.
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While not specifically formulated to improve mood or relieve anxiety and depression, Earth’s Pearl Probiotic Supplement does include some of the strains that have been found effective in supporting emotional health. It also includes a prebiotic.
The pearls have a patented delivery system that helps them to reach the gut where they’re most effective. In fact, the company reports that the pearls deliver 15 times more live bacteria to the intestinal tract than capsules do. Though the pearls are not coated like a capsule, their small size makes them easy to swallow.
The product is manufactured in a NSF and GMP-certified facility, and is third-party tested.
Biolever uses evidenced-based and precisely targeted strains of probiotics specially formulated to to improve mood and reduce occasional stress-related gastrointestinal symptoms. Its proprietary blend includes clinically proven probiotics Lactobacillus helveticus Rosell-52 and Bifidobacterium longum Rosell-175 as well as a prebiotic, NutraFlora® FOS.
Rather than using the typical capsule, Biolever delivers its formula in a flavorless and easy-to-drink powder that comes in handy stick packets. Micro-encapsulation technology ensures that the probiotics survive the journey to the intestines. The product requires no refrigeration.
Though the formula contains fewer CFUs than is typical, Biolever reports that they use the amounts that have been proven effective in clinical research.
Pro-15 Advance Strength Probiotics are formulated to provide general wellbeing but do contain mood-enhancing strains. The company also reports that its patented delivery method ensures 15 times more survivability than is delivered via a capsule.
This 15-strain probiotic blend is enhanced with kiwifruit, which naturally contains prebiotics, fiber, and an enzyme found only in kiwifruit, all of which boost gut bacteria health and help probiotics colonize within the intestine.
Manufactured in the US in GMP- and NSF-certified facilities, these probiotics are non-GMO, dairy-free, and gluten-free. They contain no soy, sugar, yeast, nuts, or artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
The small size of these probiotics makes them easy to swallow, and a patented time-release system ensures that the bacteria makes it all the way into the intestine where it’s needed.
Though daily probiotic time release pearls are not specifically formulated for mood elevation or anxiety relief, they contain the strains shown to be effective for mood elevation.
These supplements are made in the US in a GMP-certified facility from non-GMO ingredients, and are free of preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, sugar, lactose soy gluten and many other common allergens.
Especially formulated for anxiety relief, this probiotic contains the strains that target mood elevation, with additional strains that aid in digestion and immune support. The supplement also contain a prebiotic, GOS—the only prebiotic that’s been clinically shown to help with anxiety.
These probiotics are not enteric coated. The company says: “Enteric coating adds extra ingredients that are not necessarily required and the heating process of enteric coating can potentially damage the good bacteria.”
This product is made in the US at a GMP-certified, FDA-registered facility. It contains no GMOs and is shelf stable
Created by a board-certified neurologist, these probiotics support mood enhancement with strains L. helveticus R0052 and B. longum R0175, both of which have been shown effective in clinical trials. They also contain 350 milligrams of organic ashwagandha and organic Alaskan blueberries, which may aid in stress reduction.
The capsules are made of 70% organic ingredients, and can be taken as is, or opened and taken directly with water or raw juices. They’re hypoallergenic, gluten-free, and non-GMO.
This probiotic uses a licensed formula that improves mood, as demonstrated by published studies in the British Journal of Nutrition and Nutrition Research Journal. Using a blend of Lactobacillus helveticus Rosell-52ND and Bifidobacterium longum Rosell-175, it is the first and only mood probiotic formula to receive approved health claims from the Government of Canada.
The product is shelf-stable, but refrigeration may help maintain high bacteria count. Though this mood probiotic does not use the same acid-resistance Bio-TRACT technology as Innovix Labs’ Multi-Strain Probiotic, the pills did not produce stomach discomfort in clinical trials when taken with meals.
Manufactured in a cGMP certified facility, the product is tested and verified by in-house and third-party labs.
Matchabiotics’ blend of probiotics contains strains clinically indicated to boost mood. In addition, matcha green tea powder provides antioxidants, acts as a natural prebiotic, and promotes the production of dopamine and serotonin.
The patented SMARTCAPs™ are formulated to provide sustained release action which ensures a high survival rate for the probiotics. The probiotics are sourced in the US, while the organic matcha comes from Nishio, Japan. The products
are third-party tested, require no refrigeration, and are shelf-stable for up to two years.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 is the probiotic most supported by studies to significantly improve mood. It is also the only strain of probiotics in this supplement. The supplement does provide other means of mood elevation, with a proprietary blend of herbs known to support calm and relaxation: organic Passionflower, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, and Lavender. It also contains Jerusalem artichoke, a natural prebiotic.
The capsules are shelf-stable, kosher, dairy-free, non-GMO project verified, DNA tested for identity, gluten-free and BPA-Free, with no added sweeteners, synthetic fillers, or artificial colors or flavors.
There is no mention of delivery technology to ensure survivability of the microorganisms, or where the supplements are manufactured or sourced. This probiotic is included in this list because it rates highly in customer reviews.
March 4, 2020