Current research reveals a link between our gut (where most probiotic organisms live) and our brain. (1) If our gut is distressed and out of balance, it stands to reason that our mental health can also be off.
In this article, we explore the connection between the brain and gut, what probiotics are, how a healthy gut is linked to physical and mental health (including stress), and the role that probiotics play in keeping us healthy to manage stress.*
What This Article Covers:
- What Is Stress?
- Link Between the Gut And Brain
- Choosing the Best Probiotic for Stress*
- Probiotic for Advanced Gut Health*
What Is Stress?
Stress is a response that occurs when you are under pressure or when you feel limited control over a situation. The body is designed to react, resulting in a fight-or-flight response.
Although stress is a normal reaction, too much can lead to physical and emotional actions that affect our well-being and health.
Some Symptoms of Stress
- Feeling overwhelmed and out of control
- Struggling to relax and calm the mind
- Becoming moody or experiencing a low mood
- Feeling frustrated and agitated
- Experiencing a feeling of worthlessness, low self-esteem, and loneliness
- Avoiding others
Stress can come from factors outside of the body, such as pressure at work, social strain, relationships, etc. Stress can also come from an imbalance in your digestive system (your gut!)
Any kind of imbalance in the gut, including inflammation, places stress on your microbiome. In turn, cytokines (secreted by immune cells) are released, directly influencing brain function.
Link Between the Gut and Brain
The gut consists of a complex and symbiotic collection of bacteria that work harmoniously to keep everything operating effectively. However, when these bacteria are out of balance, complex changes can happen to our intestinal flora.
Overpopulation of one type of bacteria or underproduction of another can result in difficulty absorbing nutrients, “leaky gut” syndrome (dysbiosis), blood sugar issues, fatigue, and even some chronic conditions.
The gut and brain influence each other. The two are linked through biochemical signaling between the nervous system in the digestive tract and the central nervous system.
Research has shown that if the gut is out of balance, the communication between the gut and brain can be hampered. (1) Your body may enter into a stress response and lead to feeling overwhelmed, nervous, or mentally strained.
Outside Stress Can Impact Gut Health
Similarly, feelings of stress caused by work, environmental factors, and financial worries can cause a strain on our state of mental wellness. These stressors can disrupt the signaling from the brain to the gut, causing an imbalance in the gut’s bacterial composition, and potentially impacting its function.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are natural microorganisms found in our bodies. Most of our probiotic bacteria reside in the gut. Having a balanced gut microbiome (the community of bacteria, protozoa, archaea, and viruses that live together in this microbiome) is crucial for maintaining health and overall wellness.
Most of us know that probiotics play a beneficial role in supporting the gut. For example, probiotics allow for microbial balance after taking a course of antibiotics. That is because antibiotics kill all bacteria, including the good. This throws the gut microbiome out of balance. Taking probiotics, either through supplements or consumption of certain foods with naturally-occurring probiotics, can help replenish those good bacteria.*
Our bacterial makeup is like an individual fingerprint. No one person has the same gut microbiome. That being said, each person will find different benefits to various probiotic strains, whether that's supporting stress or restoring balance.*
Numerous studies over the past two decades have found that three types of probiotics are more effective at supporting healthy stress responses and positive mood by supporting a balanced gut flora. (2)*
Main Probiotics for Stress*
The main probiotics believed to support healthy stress responses are the following:*
Study findings suggest that the strain Lactobacillus casei moderates the secretion of cortisol, a hormone that regulates stress responses. (3)* This bacterial strain works in conjunction with brain signaling to reduce stress activity.*
It was shown that individuals on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications who took a probiotic with Lactobacillus plantarum reported better cognitive and immune function. (4)*
- plantarum has also been studied to help moderate stress and feelings of tension or nervousness. (5)*
Some probiotic strains like B. lactis have even been shown to decrease nervous tension within eight weeks of use. (6)*
Probiotics that have beneficial effects on the mind and your mental state are considered psychobiotics. Scientists are working hard to understand the mechanics of how these particular probiotics influence mood and stress. So, how do psychobiotics function?
Production of Neurotransmitters
First, certain strains of probiotics produce neurotransmitters in the gut, or they impact the ability of the body to produce more neurotransmitters. These include probiotics for serotonin and dopamine production, which are GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid) chemicals that have been extensively linked to our emotional health.
These chemical messengers are responsible for transmitting information along our gut-brain axis and influence nerve/cell signaling. The efficacy of this signaling directly affects our brain function and chemistry, effectively altering our mood and behavior.
Serotonin is often called our “happy hormone” because it lifts our mood. GABA, on the other hand, is our “happy, relaxed hormone.” GABA levels are often disturbed in people suffering from stress-related conditions.
Contrary to common belief, 90% of our serotonin is produced in our gut, with only 10% being produced in our brain. This reveals a very powerful connection between the gut and mental wellbeing.
HPA Axis Effect
The second way these probiotics appear to influence stress and mood is through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis).
When an imbalance occurs in this system, our daily regulated production of cortisol and other stress hormones becomes disrupted. This can lead to feelings of stress, a low mood, or even problems sleeping.
Furthermore, dysbiosis can trigger the body’s immune response, producing pro-inflammatory messengers that activate the HPA axis. This leads to activation of our stress response system, heightening feelings of stress.
The third way that mood and stress are affected is linked to the above point - inflammation. Chronically elevated levels of inflammation (which can result from gut imbalance) have been linked to the development of low mood and elevated levels of stress.
Probiotics for Stress and Mood*
The above revelations are starting to angle probiotics as a promising way to support healthy daily moods and stress responses.*
One day we may see probiotics for supporting serotonin production or mood-boosting probiotics on pharmacy shelves!
However, it’s important to note that not enough research has been done on probiotics to understand their full effectiveness on more severe mental health conditions.*
It’s always wise to consult a qualified healthcare provider before adding probiotics to your treatment plan. You should also do research to identify which probiotics will support your individual system best.
Choosing the Best Probiotic for Stress*
Stress can be debilitating for some. Treatment is related to finding ways to relieve stress, including coping mechanisms. However, what if taking a probiotic supplement could help?*
Before going out and buying a supplement, make sure the probiotic strains you’re considering are the best for your body and digestive system.
Tips for Choosing Your Stress-Management Probiotic Supplement*
As we highlighted above, the most common probiotic strains for stress management are Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Bifidobacterium lactis.*
Not only should you have a general understanding of what the various strains of bacteria do, but the quality of your probiotics is also something you should be aware of. Look at shelf life and packaging, and try to learn a bit about the manufacturing process if available.
Also, be aware of the dosage of probiotics that you are taking. Too many probiotics aren't always a good thing. Keep in mind that different supplements have different potencies. Unless directed by a health practitioner (which is recommended), start with a dosage ranging from 1 to 5 billion CFUs and work your way up over time, under the direction of your healthcare provider. Be patient, as probiotics need time to establish themselves in your gut.
Beware of binders and fillers in your probiotic supplements. These can cause gas and bloating in your digestive system, leading to a breakdown in the gut-brain axis and dysfunction of the HPA axis.
Probiotic potency is measured in colony-forming units (CFUs). Better commercial probiotic supplements will have at least 5 CFUs of the probiotic strains.
Probiotic for Advanced Gut Health*
There are a number of probiotic products available, so how do you know which one is suitable for your individual needs?
Hyperbiotics’ Advanced Pro-15 Probiotic for women and men is a powerful formula containing some of the strains listed above to support healthy responses to stress, a positive mood, and microbiome balance.*
It contains 15 targeted probiotic strains, including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Lactobacillus casei. Kiwifruit is included in this unique formula, which is rich in prebiotics that support the gut, immune system, and digestive health.*
Another option is Hyperbiotics Pro-Mood. It was designed with six targeted strains to support balanced cognitive and overall health, including mood, memory, focus, immune function, digestion, and regularity.*
Power of BIO-tract Capsules
Unlike veggie capsules, which offer little protection in the harsh, acidic environment of the stomach, Hyperbiotics’ BIO-tract capsules form a gel matrix when confronted with stomach acid. This protects the probiotics from stomach acid while they make their way through the digestive tract.*
On arrival at their destination, the softened capsules then enter a controlled, slow-release process, allowing the probiotics to do their work consistently over an 8 to 10-hour period.*
Find Your Ideal Probiotic Solution
Choosing which strain or combination of strains of probiotics to use in order to manage stress can be challenging. While it’s always best to consult with a doctor or health practitioner, Hyperbiotics has created a formula to help you determine the best solution for your gut health - and your mental health.*
Final Food for Thought
If you’re feeling stressed, have a look at both your external and internal factors.
What is directly affecting your health? What have you been eating and drinking that may be affecting your “second brain”?
Your physical and mental well-being are intrinsically linked - by your brain and gut. Probiotics are starting to reveal themselves as a natural and powerful helping hand in keeping you holistically balanced and healthy.*
Did you find our blog helpful? Then consider checking:
- Why We Need Probiotics (and why most are ineffective)
- What to Expect When You Start Taking Probiotics
- How and When to Take Probiotics for Maximum Benefits
- Understanding Probiotics and the Human Microbiome
- How Long Does It Take for Probiotics to Work?
- How Natural Foods Can Support Your Gut for Your Healthiest Life
- 3 Gut Healthy Recipes Your Kids Will Love
- Gut-Healthy Food for Toddlers: 6 Yummy Recipes to Please a Picky Palate
- Why You Need Both Probiotics and Prebiotics for a Healthy Gut
- Can You Take Too Many Probiotics
- Which Probiotic Should I Take
- Best Probiotic for Men
- Benefits of Probiotics for Women
- Alcohol and Probiotics
This blog is for information and education purposes only. This information is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions in regards to a medical condition. A qualified healthcare professional can best assist you in deciding whether a dietary supplement is suitable based on your individual needs.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.