How Do Probiotics Support My Mental Health?

“Gut feeling” isn’t merely a turn of phrase. The GI tract houses millions of neurons that transmit messages from the nervous system, signaling messages like I’m hungry, This doesn’t feel right, and more.

Additionally, our guts produce several of the neurotransmitters that contribute to mood and emotional regulation, including dopamine and serotonin. In fact, the vast majority of feel-good serotonin is produced in the gut — not the brain.

Probiotic foods like yogurt and sauerkraut and probiotic supplements support the good bacteria in the GI tract, acting as fertilizer for your microbiome. This helps keep the microbiota happy and healthy, which keeps the brain and nervous system happy and healthy, too.

One meta-analysis of 10 clinical trials reported that probiotics helped improve mood in people with mild to moderate depressive symptoms, while another linked probiotic supplementation to a substantial reduction in depression for people under 60. (Learn more about the gut–brain connection at “Healthy Gut, Healthy Brain.“)

How to Supplement: In addition to upping your consumption of probiotic foods (fermented vegetables, tempeh, and yogurt) and drinks (kefir and kombucha), you can take probiotic capsules. Recommended doses range between 1 billion and 10 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per day.

(For more guidance on finding a good probiotic supplement, see “Everything You Need to Know About Probiotics.”)