Gut and Skin Health Expert Blog | The Y Collection

The Effects of Probiotics on Mental Health

by Jelena Vulevic on Jul 05, 2023

From the butterflies we feel before a big event to the gut-wrenching sensations during moments of stress, the gut and the brain communicate in a complex dance of signals. This connection, known as the Gut-Brain axis, provides a fascinating window into the potential ways probiotics and overall gut health may impact our emotional state, cognition, and overall mental health.

In this article we delve into the topic of probiotics and mental health with emphasis on science and research, including the effect of other types of biotics and the importance of a holistic approach to mental health. 

The link between gut health and mental health is strong. Find out if Y GUT sensitive is right for you. 


The link between gut health and mental health 

The Gut-Brain axis refers to the bidirectional pathway that allows constant communication between the brain and the gut, mediated by various signalling pathways, hormones, and neurotransmitters.

Recent studies have revealed that an imbalance in the gut microbiota, known as dysbiosis, can disrupt the Gut-Brain axis and potentially contribute to the development of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and even neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Furthermore, chronic inflammation in the gut can trigger a systemic inflammatory response, leading to increased permeability of the intestinal lining (leaky gut) and the release of pro-inflammatory molecules. These molecules can cross the blood-brain barrier and contribute to neuroinflammation, which is associated with various mental health conditions.

What exactly are probiotics? 

Probiotics are essentially any microbe, but most often bacteria, that reside in our gastrointestinal tract and contribute to our health and well-being. These microbes, when present in optimal diversity and balance, provide various benefits to the host. 


  • help with digestion and absorption of nutrients,  
  • produce vitamins, and metabolise dietary components that our own bodies cannot break down
  • prevent the overgrowth of harmful pathogens 
  • play a critical role in training and modulating our immune system, and 
  • promote a healthy gut barrier function. 

Specific probiotics such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli have a long history of use in probiotic foods and supplements, and have shown promise in reducing allergies, enhancing skin health, improving metabolic conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes, and most recently, supporting mental health.

In addition to probiotics, other types of biotics such as prebiotics and postbiotics offer an alternative but also complementary approach to achieving gut health.

  • Prebiotics like in Y GUT sensitive are non-digestible fibres that serve as food for your own beneficial bacteria that are already present in your gut. By nourishing these bacteria, prebiotics help maintain a diverse and healthy gut microbiota, as well as promote the production of beneficial metabolites. 
  • Postbiotics, like the ones in Y SKIN are the by-products of probiotic metabolic activity. They include various compounds, such as short-chain fatty acids, polysaccharides and organic acids, which support the intestinal barrier, exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and contribute to immune regulation. They have great potential applications in promoting gut health by delivering what the probiotic bacteria would produce if your gut environment was optimum.

To dive deeper into the world of biotics and gain a comprehensive understanding, be sure to check out our informative "Biotics 101" learn piece, where we explore each type in detail and discuss their benefits, mechanisms of action, and potential applications.

How biotics strengthen gut health and improve mental health

It’s important to note that the research surrounding the link between biotics, gut health and mental health is still evolving. However, studies performed so far have shown that the gut microbiota plays a crucial role in this communication.

The main ways in which gut microbes communicate with our brain are through:

  • The vagus nerve: The long meandering nerve connecting the brain and the gut
  • Production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA), such as butyrate, by metabolising dietary fibre. Those SCFAs can enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain.
  • Production of signalling molecules and neurotransmitters, such as Dopamine, Noradrenaline, Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and Tryptophan. Certain microbes such as Bifidobacteria for example, can increase the blood levels of tryptophan, the building block for our ‘happy molecule’ serotonin.

Dysbiosis (an imbalance in the gut microbiome) and inflammation of the gut have been linked to several mental illnesses including anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that the gut microbiome of depressed people is less diverse than in healthy people. Moreover, when rats were colonised with stool matter from patients with depression, they exhibited depressive-like symptoms with significant changes in immunological profiles and tryptophan metabolism. Rats who received stool transplants from healthy people showed no difference in behaviour.

Interestingly, people with certain digestive disorders have a higher risk of depression and anxiety, providing further evidence of the strong link between our gut and our brain. A recent study found significantly different microbiomes and correlation with emotional distress in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) compared to those without. 

Here are some specific examples of how biotics may have positive effects on mental health.

biotics to manage depression and anxiety

A Bifidobacterium probiotic reduced depressive symptoms and improved cognitive function in individuals with major depressive disorder, while a multi-strain probiotic supplement reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.

A galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) prebiotic improved how our brian handles emotions and lowered stress levels in healthy people. GOS does this by affecting the connection between our gut and brain, and by influencing neurotransmitters in the brain that help regulate anxiety. In addition, a postbiotic derived from probiotic bacteria reduced feelings of anxiety and depression in scientific models that mimic these conditions.

biotics to improve mental function 

Probiotics have also been suggested to enhance memory and cognitive function through their impact on gut microbiota composition and inflammation. Similarly, prebiotics have shown improved memory and cognitive flexibility in healthy adults, while a synbiotic supplement (probiotic and prebiotic) improved cognitive function and reduced cortisol levels (a marker of stress) in healthy older adults. More recently, research in the journal of Nutrients demonstrated that a  Bifidobacterium breve probiotic improved memory and neuroplasticity in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.

Biotics have shown promise in improving conditions like depression and anxiety, but their effectiveness in treating other conditions, such as schizophrenia, is still unclear. It's important to consider factors like treatment duration, dosage, and potential interactions, as these aspects have not been extensively studied and require further scientific investigation.

However, cautiously recommending biotics-based therapies for mental health can still be considered. These therapies aim to enhance the population of beneficial bacteria in the gut and improve mood through the gut-brain axis. While more research is needed, there is potential for these approaches to positively impact mental well-being.

Ways to incorporate probiotics into your lifestyle 

You can improve your gut health and support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria by incorporating gut health foods into your diet. Inclusion of high-quality gut health supplements can further enhance your lifestyle.

probiotic foods

The basic principle to follow in order to improve gut health holistically through probiotic foods is to incorporate fermented foods as they are rich in probiotics and postbiotics, and fibre-rich foods as they can serve as prebiotics. To learn more about foods that promote gut health, be sure to check out our informative "Gut Health Foods" article for a comprehensive list of options and their benefits.

probiotic supplements 

Consider taking probiotic supplements, especially if you have specific health concerns or cannot consume enough probiotic-rich foods. Look for a high-quality supplement that contains well-researched strains and has a sufficient number of live bacteria. However, it's crucial to find the right supplement for your individual needs, as not all probiotics work the same way or have the same effect. Prebiotics and postbiotics, such as the ones in Y GUT sensitive offer additional ways to support gut health. To explore different options and understand what to look for in a probiotic supplement, refer to our insightful "Best Gut Health Supplements" article.

Are probiotics enough to help with mental health issues? 

While probiotics show promise in supporting mental health, it's important to note that they may not be sufficient as a standalone solution for addressing mental health issues. Mental health is a complex and multifaceted area influenced by various factors, including genetics, environment, lifestyle, and social factors.

Probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics primarily exert their effects on the gut-brain axis, influencing gut health and potentially impacting mental well-being. However, mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress often require a comprehensive approach that may include therapy, lifestyle modifications, and social support.

Key takeaways 

Probiotics can be a valuable addition to an overall mental health management plan. They may complement other interventions and contribute to improved gut health, which in turn may have a positive impact on mental well-being. However, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and personalised recommendations tailored to your specific mental health needs.

Remember, each person's experience with mental health is unique, and treatment approaches should be individualised based on professional guidance and assessment.


The link between gut health and mental health is strong. Find out if Y GUT sensitive is right for you.