Can Probiotics Make You Feel Happy?

Written by: Kari Raman, PharmD, RPh
Published May 20, 2023

The first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of a probiotic is gut health and very few think of probiotics as a way to feel happier or improve mood. However, there have been increased numbers of studies that have shown the digestive tract has an effect on mood. The brain and the gut are connected through a relationship called the gut-brain axis, this connection is linked by the enteric nervous system and the central nervous system. There are several chemicals known to regulate this pathway and one very well known to many is serotonin. Serotonin is found mainly in the intestine and this article states that 95% of serotonin in the body is produced in the intestine.  Serotonin in the gut assists with digestion, gut motility, and intestinal homeostasis. The gut microbiome can also impact serotonin production potentially affecting mood.

Dopamine is also another neurotransmitter that is associated with motivation and reward in the brain. Additionally, dopamine receptors and neurons are found throughout the GI tract. Dopamine plays a role in gastric emptying and the release of stomach acid. Similar to serotonin, dopamine can also be influenced by the gut microbiome. By modulating the gut microbiome probiotics may have an indirect impact on these chemicals and neurotransmitters to affect mood. It is known that these neurotransmitters exist in the gastrointestinal tract, but their roles are not yet fully understood. Although dopamine and serotonin are found both in the brain and the GI tract, it is important to understand that their functions in the brain are mostly associated with mood and motivation. The presence of these chemicals in the GI tract have local effects on gut function.

So, can probiotics make you feel happy? 

Researchers are thinking maybe yes! At first this information might be a little unbelievable but if you think about times when you get really nervous and your stomach starts to cramp or you feel anxious and it causes you to get diarrhea, you can see it is quite obvious that there is a connection with feelings and the digestive system. At this point you may be asking ok, but how do probiotics fit into this whole scenario, and can probiotics make you feel happy? It is thought that probiotics can help change the microbiome of the gut to improve mood which will ultimately make you feel happier as stated in this study. Research is still being done to prove this point. The studies I have looked at show that the people in the studies who took the probiotics over time experienced an improved mood. The relationship between probiotics and mood is pretty complex and more studies need to be conducted to fully understand the association of mood and probiotics and the mechanism in which it works.

What probiotic strains are most helpful when considering mood? 

Of all of the species of probiotics, the two most commonly used probiotic strains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the two strains thought to improve mood and decrease anxiety.

With all of this said if you are feeling down or have a history of depression or mental health issues see a psychiatrist. Mental health is a serious topic and should be evaluated by a licensed professional. 

Other Probiotic articles

I really enjoy talking to patients about probiotics, and have written a number of other helpful articles on them. Here are some of the ones you may find helpful (or that might make you happy!):

How long does it take probiotics to work? Probiotics can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks to start working, but some people may see results sooner or later. The amount of time it takes for probiotics to work can vary depending on the individual, the type of probiotic, and the condition being treated. Learn more about how long it should take. 

What are prebiotics, and do you need them? Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. They have been shown to have a number of health benefits, including improving digestion, boosting the immune system, and reducing the risk of some chronic diseases, and can be taken with your supplements to maximize colonization. 

The Hidden Benefits of Probiotics. The article goes on to discuss some of the hidden benefits of probiotics, such as their potential to improve mental health and happiness, reduce the risk of cancer, and even help with weight loss. It also provides some tips for getting more probiotics in your diet. Click on the link to learn more about the hidden benefits of probiotics and how they can help you live a healthier life.

Pharmacist Kari Raman

I’m Kari Raman PharmD, RPh, and I am a licensed, practicing pharmacist. I hold a Doctorate in Pharmacy from The University of the Pacific, and I’ve served patients in retail, compounding and hospital pharmacies.

Probiotics are confusing!

One of the most common questions I get asked by patients is about probiotics. And the truth is, probiotics are not as well understood by the healthcare community as they should be.

So I’ve been reading a lot of probiotic clinical trials, and sharing what I’m learning here.

I hope Pharmacist Probiotics helps you find out if there is a type of probiotic that works for you!