How to choose probiotics for better mood
Choosing probiotics for better mood and microbiome health
Probiotics have burst onto the health and wellness scene, as scientist reveal the profound impact our gut microbiome – the trillions of microbes in our gut – have on our mental health and general well-being. However, choosing a probiotic for better mood and gut microbiome health is not as easy as all that, given the myriad of probiotics available!
But first things first … Trillions of microbes in our gut – what’s that all about?!
Making up the human microbiome, ~100 trillion microbes live in and on our bodies. And far from being the bad guys, science confirms these microbes play an essential role in physical and mental health.
The majority of these microbes live in our gut, where they help our digestion, regulate immunity, metabolism, inflammation, sleep, brain health, mood and more!
So how can we identify which and how individual microbes – the probiotics – can influence specific aspects of our health?
For delicious microbiome recipes to support your overall gut health, get your Easy Gut Health Guide here:
Which are the most effective probiotics for mood and microbiome health?
A big question without a straightforward answer. Because when considering probiotics, and what does it do, the most effective probiotic for one person, is not the same for another.
There’s such a wide array of choice and quality available, so before investing in a pricey probiotic, it’s worth investing a bit of time finding out which microbiome boosting supplements might deliver for you and your needs.
Read on for the top 5 things to look for to help choose a probiotic supplement that’s right for you.
What are probiotics?
Before we delve into the details, what’s a probiotic and what does it do?
Probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”, according to the Joint FAO/WHO Working Group.
Probiotics may be added to foods such as yogurts, or taken as food supplements, and are often described as ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria.
It is worth noting that whilst viability (i.e. being a live microorganism) is an essential requirement for probiotics, some scientists suggest that viability is not needed to influence our gut microbiome.
So how to choose a probiotic?
A common question is that, with thousands of probiotic supplements to choose from, how to choose a probiotic for my needs?
The truth is, it is unlikely that any one probiotic will transform your health. Gut health and our microbiome are all about balance.
There are however some rules of thumb that will help you decide which probiotic is right for you.
5 pointers when buying probiotics for better mood and microbiome health?
When I look for which probiotic to take, I use these 5 tips to choose a probiotic supplement that’s right for me.
1) Check for CFUs and probiotic viability
Probiotic supplement labels should state the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) per dose. CFUs indicate the number of alive and active microorganisms in one serving of a probiotic dietary supplement.
The recommended CFU varies. Nordic Naturals suggest “a daily dose of 10-20 billion CFU for immune and digestive support”. The Cleveland Clinic, on the other hand, recommends choosing probiotic products with at least 1 billion CFUs.
Based on the different recommendations I’ve come across, I look for a dose of at least 10 billion CFUs, when I choose a probiotic supplement for myself.
It is worth noting, it has been speculated that non-viable probiotics could have some health benefits.
2) Choose the right strain
The bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are recurring winners in the more than 250 studies and scientific reviews I’ve covered. These, along with the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii, are some of the most researched probiotics.
Whilst not the most exciting nugget of knowledge, if you’re not familiar, it’s worth noting what ‘strain’ refers to, so you can choose the right probiotic for your needs.
Probiotic names are normally made up of 3 parts: genus, species and strain. E.g. for the powerful probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus Rosell-11:
- Lactobacillus – a genus or family of bacteria
- rhamnosus – a species within the Lactobacillus genus
- Rosell-11 – a specific strain within that species
For another powerful probiotic, L. rhamnosus GG, the strain is ‘GG’.
So, you will see the probiotic strain is the ‘third denominator’.
See below for more insights into which probiotics affect mood and gut health.
3) Ensure the supplement is backed by evidence
As we talked about, it is essential to ingest live microorganisms (the very definition of probiotics). Manufacturing processes will affect the probiotic, so a quality brand will ensure the finished product does indeed include live probiotics and so, lives up to its promises.
As well as knowing whether the supplement includes proven strains of probiotics, ideally, the actual supplement itself should be studied, to ensure the probiotics remains viable and has the desired effect in supplement form.
4) Include a mixture of strains
Multi-strain probiotics have been found to be more helpful than single-strain probiotics due to the synergy and additive effects among the individual strains.
A high quality probiotic might include Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, two of the most effective probiotic species. Countless research shows the ability of these probiotics to boost immunity and gut health.
A high quality supplement should contain 8-10 strains of the above species, according to Clinical Reviews.
5) Include a prebiotic
The good microbes in our gut also need the right food to thrive. These so-called prebiotics are fibers that us humans cannot digest, and are found in foods such as whole grains, bananas, greens, onions, legumes / beans, artichokes and more.
Prebiotics can also be taken as supplements, such as inulin.
Without a prebiotic, many supplements are prone to not being effective, simply because there is not enough food for the good bacteria to survive. Therefore, consider a probiotic with a source of prebiotic.
Clinical Reviews recommend around 75 to 100mg of inulin.
Top 5 brands with probiotics for better mood and microbiome health
These five probiotic supplement brands are backed by science. They use proven ingredients and crucially, their supplements and / or ingredients themselves have been tested for efficacy.
- Microbiome Labs
- The Cultured Coconut
- Advanced Biotics
Note that Advanced Biotics takes a slightly different approach in that it combines pre- and post-biotics in a powder formulation. The ingredients and doses are both clinically validated. Because the supplement doesn’t contain any live bacteria, you don’t need to worry about temperature – you can even bake with it, according to Advanced Biotics.
Which probiotics can affect mood and gut health?
Even with the above guides, there’s a myriad of probiotic supplements to choose from. Here are the highlights from recent research, if you’re looking for a probiotic to help:
- Mood and brain health
- Digestion and bloating
What are the best probiotics to boost mood and brain health?
When it comes to mental health and well-being, research suggests that probiotics may have a positive impact on mood and cognitive function, as well as help lower stress and anxiety.
Strains to look out for include:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus Rosell-11 (e.g. Heights)
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (e.g. Heights)
- Lactobacillus casei W56 (e.g. OMNiBiOTiC)
- Lactococcus lactis W19 (e.g. OMNiBiOTiC)
- Lactobacillus acidophilus W22 (e.g. OMNiBiOTiC)
- Bifidobacterium lactis W52 / W51 (e.g. OMNiBiOTiC)
- Bifidobacterium longum Rosell-175 (e.g. Heights)
- Bifidobacterium longum 1714 (e.g. Microbiome Labs)
Check out these probiotic for mood and gut health:
What are the best probiotics for gut issues?
There are a whole range of different probiotic strains for different gut issues. And as noted, be mindful that different strains do different things. This will help select a supplement with the right strains for you.
For example, consider the following probiotic strains for gut issues:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52 has been shown to help improve symptoms of abdominal pain and distension (OptiBac One Week Flat)
- Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® has been shown to help support bloating symptoms (Optibac Everyday EXTRA)
- Akermansia muciniphila has been found to improve metabolism and strengthen the gut lining (Pendulum Metabolic Daily)
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii has been shown to soothe the symptoms of diarrhea (Microbiome Lab RestorFlora)
- Lactobacillus acidophilus/helveticus Rosell-52 may help those on antibiotics (OptiBac Antibiotics)
- Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 may help reduce the growth of less beneficial bacteria (BioGaia Gastrus)
What is the best time to take probiotics?
I would always check the label, as it may vary. Consistency is key so aim to take your probiotic at more or less the same time every day.
What are the signs probiotics are working?
There a many potential benefits of taking probiotics. 5 signs that your probiotics are working include:
- Improved digestive symptoms
- Regular bowel movements
- Reduced bloating
- Better immunity (less illness)
- Better mood
Holistic approach to microbiome health
It’s worth noting that experts recommend a holistic approach that first of all focuses on diet and lifestyle.
Dr Gail Cresci at the Cleveland Clinic reminds us that:
“What bacteria like is fermentable fiber,” Dr. Cresci explains. “I don’t know that you need a probiotic if you’re eating a healthy diet, one that is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and fiber and low in saturated fats, sugar and processed foods.
If you want to try a one-size-fits-all to improve your gut health, it’s really about your diet and including prebiotics.
What we eat is probably the biggest influence on our gut microbiome.”
Whilst the quality of probiotics varies greatly, there are some very good and reputable brands that are backed by science and worth considering.
I’d stay away from generic and store brands and go for name brands that have been studied in depth.
Dr Cresci advises us:
“Ideally, look for a product that’s been tested for whatever you’re looking to address. It might say it helps with IBS, but you wouldn’t take that same product if you were taking antibiotics and trying to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea. For this, you would want a probiotic that helps with immunity, not bowel irregularity.”
- Check for CFUs and probiotic viability
- Choose the right strain
- Ensure the supplement is backed by evidence
- Include a mixture of strains
- Include a prebiotic
Super low price coupled with excessive promises should make you suspicious … The age old adage applies – if it seems to good to be true, then it likely is!
It is important to note that individual responses to probiotics can vary, and it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.
NOTE: this does not constitute medical advice; seek advice from a healthcare professional, as needed
NOTE: If you have an existing health condition or a weakened immune system, you should talk to a doctor before taking any probiotic supplements. This should not constitute of replace medical advice from a healthcare professional
Other posts you might like:
The surprising link between your microbiome and mood Did you know there is a close connection between your gut microbiome and your mood? It turns out that the secrets to your emotional well-being may well lie within your microbiome. The microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms that live in and on your body, including…
Examining the benefit of probiotics for acne Acne is a common skin condition that affects many. In fact, ~650 million people worldwide are estimated to suffer from acne. Having battled acne and rosacea most of my adult life, I’m all too familiar with the constant search for treatments that actually work. As a medical microbiologist,…
Your questions answered about the human skin microbiome Welcome to our health blog where we dive deep into the fascinating world of the human skin microbiome! Have you ever pondered why your skin behaves the way it does? Or perhaps you’re curious about the role of the skin microbiome in conditions like acne, eczema, or…
Right away in the west of Ireland lies a tiny hamlet called Kraighten. It is situated, alone, at the base of a low hill.
Gut healthy blueberry kefir smoothie with banana
Discover 9 of the best kefir brands Plus the benefit of kefir milk We’ve enjoyed the benefit of kefir milk for centuries. But kefir’s recent rise to fame is likely linked to our growing interest in gut health. Because we now know that gut health is essential for both physical and mental well-being. If you…
What a skin microbiome test kit revealed about my best skincare routine Following years of trial and error to find the best skincare routine for my acne and rosacea-prone skin, I was so happy to discover that a skin microbiome test kit could unlock the secrets of my skin, and potentially my best skincare routine.…
Sources & further reading
Probiotics – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Probiotics may help boost mood and cognitive function – Harvard Health
Lactobacillus paracasei CCFM1229 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus CCFM1228 Alleviated Depression- and Anxiety-Related Symptoms of Chronic Stress-Induced Depression in Mice by Regulating Xanthine Oxidase Activity in the Brain – PMC (nih.gov)
How do gut microbes influence mental health? – Dinan – 2022 – Trends in Urology & Men’s Health – Wiley Online Library
Probiotic viability – does it matter? – PMC (nih.gov)
Best Probiotics for Gut Health | Probiotics Learning Lab (optibacprobiotics.com)
The Best Probiotic Supplements of 2023 and How to Choose (healthline.com)
12 best probiotics of 2023: Benefits, uses, and FAQ (medicalnewstoday.com)
7 Best Probiotic Supplements: Expert Reviews In 2023 – Forbes Health
10 Best Probiotic Supplements for Gut Health, According to Experts (prevention.com)
Best prebiotics and probiotics supplements 2023 | The Independent
Top 5 Probiotic Supplements (clinical-reviews.com)