Can Probiotics Help Alleviate Anxiety and Depression?

Can Probiotics Help Alleviate Anxiety and Depression?

The World Health Organization tells us that more than 300 million people worldwide suffer with anxiety and depression. Within that number, 16.2 million are adults living in the USA.  It’s not surprising. The pressures of daily life are enormous; work, family, friends and financial burdens – there’s a lot to contend with. To combat depression and anxiety, many people choose to take prescription drugs. While these can work to a degree, there are often unwanted side-effects.  Many people also seek help through counseling. Many therapy options can be helpful, but are the above methods the only avenues available for anxiety and depression? Of course, some people prefer not to take any medication or go to therapy, carrying the weight of their problems with them every day. This can obviously affect their quality of life. There is an alternative. With more and more research presenting encouraging results, we, at Kovoh, believe that taking a regular probiotic may be one of the best supplements for anxiety.

Why an Alternative Therapy such as Probiotics Can Work

Some people are still nervous of alternative medication. Without doubt, we all need medically prescribed medicine for certain illnesses. In many instances prescribed medications work, and without them, humans would not be equipped with the right tools to combat serious illness and disease.  Life expectancy would plummet and the world would be a different place. So clinical medicine is paramount to life today. However, as with medical advancement, there is also advancement and discoveries in alternative medicines. Probiotics is one area that is proving to be invaluable when it comes to boosting health, both mentally and physically.

Alternative medicine plays a very important role in the treatment of many diseases.  It is well documented that changing the bacteria in your gut can help to prevent certain illnesses by balancing the “good” and “bad” bacteria. The immune system consists of billions of microorganisms that live inside the body and within those microorganisms are different types of bacteria, both good and bad. Over many years certain medications may have altered the bacteria in our guts. As a result, we have become deficient in some important good microbes. That means that some beneficial organisms are not present in our immune system.

Such is the downside to modern medicine. Today, our immune systems are deficient in important “good” bacteria, especially the type of bacteria that manages inflammation. For example, according to research, stress-related problems such as Irritable Bowel and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are linked to immune system deficiencies. This could be a reason why there are so many people suffering with anxiety and depression disorders. Replacing those missing good bacteria by using a multistrain probiotic may address the problem.

If you’re new to probiotics, they are supplements that contain live bacteria which balance the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut, restoring natural gut balance and promoting better health. Taking probiotics not only helps to improve the immune system, but further research is also showing they may improve mental health.Here’s more on how and why probiotics may help improve depression and anxiety.

Probiotics Send Signals to the Brain that Can Alter Behavior

Research has found that probiotics produce biologically active compounds that in turn create mood hormones including serotonin, acetylcholine, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and catecholamine ( When these compounds are released in the gut, it’s thought that they send a signal to the area of the brain that controls behavior. There have been numerous in-depth studies on the effects of probiotics and anxiety.  The belief behind taking probiotics as a stress-reliever is that by changing the bacteria in your gut, your body is better equipped to deal with stressful situations and it could even boost mood.

Let’s look at it another way.  You know that feeling of “butterflies” in your tummy? That fluttering that usually goes hand in hand with excitement or with nerves?  Well, you experience it because the gut and emotion are linked – makes sense doesn’t it! All those feelings you experience in the pit of your stomach, are linked to your brain ( When you feel anxious or nervous or under stress, the gut sends signals to the brain which is why you feel those butterflies. It’s not just a signal that you feel nervous or excited, it also means that the gut is under stress,which links gut health and anxiety. It is well known that a distressed gut can be balanced by taking a probiotic supplement.   Physical changes in your gut are linked with psychological factors, as well. This is why stress, depression and anxiety can affect your gut, starting an inflammatory response.  Conversely, if you are able to correct the balance of your gut bacteria, it can be argued that the rebalancing can send positive signals to your brain resulting in behavioral change.

The Positive Results of Studies on Probiotics and Anxiety

There was a study carried out at the University of Ulm, in Germany, by Dr. Stefan Reber ( This study looked at the bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae and how it affected stress-related behavior in rats.  This particular strain of bacteria, mycobacterium vaccae, is especially linked with regulating the immune system in mammals.

Two sets of rats were observed, one set was immunized with the Mycobacterium vaccae, the other set was not.  The results showed that the immunized set displayed less stressful behaviour when placed in a threatening situation.

Following this study, the researchers looked at how the immunization affected the rats’ colons and they found that inflammation in their colons was reduced (as opposed to pre-immunization).  So, the belief was that the bacteria immunization reduced symptoms related to stress. There findings showed that altering gut bacteria could alleviate the effects of stress and anxiety.

Premysl Bercik, MD (McMaster University gastroenterologist) specializes in investigating stress response on the gut and believes that the animal data suggests that certain strains of bacteria can have an enormous effect on how the brain’s receptors change, therefore, modifying and improving behavior.  Bercik conducted a study, in 2010, ( exposing mice to a parasite that induced inflammation in the gut.  This parasite also caused the mice to behave anxiously. The next step was to treat the mice with beneficial bacteria, Bifidobacterium longum.  As a result, the behavior of the mice normalized.

Probiotics Change the Body’s Stress Response

When the balance of bacteria in the gut is disrupted, and the body is constantly placed under stress, it is certainly more prone to illness.  When the body is under stress it releases stress hormones. Probiotics change this stress response by rebalancing the bacteria, thereby balancing hormonal response, which is integral in keeping our moods stable.

There are a number of other studies that  have researched the link between gut bacteria and anxiety.  These studies are encouraging with regards to probiotics being an effective alternative treatment for anxiety

The Bottom Line

In summary, taking a regular multistrain probiotic can go a long way to stabilize mood and certainly give the immune system a boost. The two do go hand in hand, because  when we feel unwell our mood is often affected.. Feeling good comes from the inside. One of the best ways of looking after the inside of our bodies is by making sure it has the right balance of good gut bacteria. Do probiotics help with anxiety? That’s exactly what a quality probiotic may do; it remedies the gut imbalance in so many ways, including between anxiety and gut health.

Also Check : Estrobolome Gut Bacteria Help Balance Hormones


World Health Organization

Biologically active compounds and mood hormones


Dr Stefan Reber Study, University of Ulm, Germany

Premysl Bercik MD study on mice and bacteria immunization (2010)

Efficacy of Probiotics on Anxiety:  A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials


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