Lactobacillus and Serotonin – How Gut Bacteria Affects Your Mood

Lactobacillus and Serotonin - What's the Connection?

It’s no secret that our gut health has a massive impact on other areas of our health – in particular our mood.

For many years, scientists have researched the link between the bacteria in our gut and overall health. It helps to strengthen your immune system and improve digestion.

However, recent findings show that probiotics – including Lactobacillus – can even boost your mood. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the research and see how Lactobacillus and serotonin, the brain’s happiness molecule, are interrelated.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • What is Lactobacillus?
  • Could Lactobacillus boost serotonin?
  • How to get more Lactobacillus in your diet

What are Lactobacillus?

Lactobacillus is a type of bacteria (also known as probiotics) found in your digestive tract. They work together with about 100 trillion other bacteria to maintain gut health and integrity.

These types of bacteria support your body in its ability to fight infections. In addition, Lactobacillus and other microorganisms in your gut boost nutrient absorption.

These are often called “good” or “friendly” bacteria.

Not all bacteria in your gut is good, though. Probiotics such as Lactobacillus help to protect from bad bacteria and ills such as IBS, diarrhea, and infections. Probiotics also aid other areas of your body such as oral health, urinary tract, and even the skin.

You’ll find Lactobacillus in foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and fermented pickles. They can also be found in vegan sources such as fermented tea Kombucha and even some types of dark chocolate.

Many of these foods went through a fermentation process which converted their sugars into other compounds such as lactic acid – which good bacteria feed on, causing them to multiply. [1]

Along with Lactobacillus, your gut contains a number of strains of good bacteria. The most well known being Bifidobacterium bifidum – which much like lactobacillus, has a profound impact on your mood.


KEY POINT: Lactobacillus is a type of bacteria (probiotics) found in foods like sauerkraut and yogurt. It maintains your gut cell health and integrity, as well as supporting other aspects of your health.


Could Lactobacillus Boost Serotonin Production?

Some probiotics – among them Lactobacillus – help to support your neurotransmitters. Studies show that Lactobacillus can also boost your serotonin levels specifically.

A 2019 study review published in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis found that some strains of Lactobacillus, such as Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus brevis, produce serotonin and GABA. Both of these brain chemicals have a massive impact on your mood and mental well-being. [3, 4]

In addition, some strains of Lactobacillus have been found to produce acetylcholine – your brain’s learning neurotransmitter. [5]

These findings come as no surprise when you consider the fact that over 90% of our serotonin is produced in our gut. [2]


KEY POINT: There’s a strong connection between your Lactobacillus gut bacteria and your serotonin, the brain’s happiness molecule. Certains strains of the bacteria have been shown to produce serotonin, along with other neurotransmitters that heavily influence how you feel.


How to Get Lactobacillus in Your Diet?

Your gut is brimming with probiotic bacteria. However, your diet and lifestyle can significantly affect their levels. To maintain high levels of good bacteria and low levels of bad bacteria, you’ll need a regular to-up to maximize your immune system, your health, and your serotonin production.

Focusing on friendly bacteria-rich foods will help to boost your gut function. When picking these foods make sure that they contain the right type of bacteria – Lactobacillus in this case – and look for the term “live cultures.” This indicates that the bacteria in the product are still alive.

The easiest way to get more Lactobacillus in your diet is by eating yogurt. Conventional yogurts tend to be high in sugar, however, which can offset the positive health effects so you need to check the label clearly. It’s important to pick only organic options without added sugar.

Wherever possible, you should strive to add more fermented foods in your diet – such as pickles or sauerkraut (fermented cabbage).

Eat More Prebiotics, Too

Adding more Lactobacillus through your diet is one way to increase the levels of these serotonin-producing bacteria in your gut.

Another way, and arguably an even more effective way, is by adding more prebiotic fiber to your diet.

Prebiotics are dietary fiber that your body can’t digest – but your gut bacteria can. And they thrive off of it.

Organisms such as Lactobacillus grow stronger and multiply faster when you feed them with prebiotics.

Health experts recommend eating at least 25g of prebiotics every day for optimal gut health.

This is much higher than what your average American eats, which is around 5-10g per day.

Prebiotic fiber is found in high abundance in leafy greens, chicory root, green unripe bananas, apples, and legumes.

However, if you’re finding it hard to meet your daily prebiotic intake, you’ll want to look into prebiotic supplements, which have been shown to be even more effective at strengthening friendly gut bacteria than probiotic supplements.

Taking a high-quality prebiotic supplement can help increase your Lactobacillus levels, and consequently, improve your serotonin production.

Our current favorite product is Performance Lab Prebiotic which contains the highest quality prebiotic fiber on the market – Orafti® Synergy1 Inulin-FOS fiber – sourced from chicory root.

Along with boosting Lactobacillus, this type of prebiotic has been shown to specifically increase Bifidobacterium, which is a type of gut bacteria that has been shown to have the biggest impact on mood and depression.

Learn more about Performance Lab Prebiotic by clicking here. 

RELATED: Prebiotics for Brain Health

Summary – Lactobacillus and Serotonin

Lactobacillus are a strain of bacteria that work together with other ‘good guys’ to maintain gut health and flora. They fight against infections and help your absorb nutrients from food.

This naturally occurring, good bacteria can be found in many foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt and pickles. These foods go through a process of fermentation that increases the live culture content of the food – but it also helps to improve its overall nutrition profile.

Studies have shown that Lactobacillus, and a few other strains of probiotics, can boost serotonin and improve symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Not only that, they can also help to boost other brain chemicals, such as GABA and acetylcholine, which influence other aspects of mental health – such as focus, sleep and memory.

It’s best to obtain your healthy bacteria from whole foods that offer other health benefits, too. Many fermented foods are low in calories but high in nutrients, making them perfect for almost any health-focused diet.

References

  1. Bering S, Suchdev S, Sjøltov L, Berggren A, Tetens I, Bukhave K. A lactic acid-fermented oat gruel increases non-haem iron absorption from a phytate-rich meal in healthy women of childbearing age. Br J Nutr. 2006;96(1):80-85. doi:10.1079/bjn20061683
  2. Microbes Help Produce Serotonin in the Gut. Caltech.edu
  3. O’Mahony SM, Clarke G, Borre YE, Dinan TG, Cryan JF. Serotonin, tryptophan metabolism and the brain-gut-microbiome axis. Behav Brain Res. 2015;277:32-48. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2014.07.027
  4. Schousboe A, Waagepetersen HS. GABA: homeostatic and pharmacological aspects. Prog Brain Res. 2007;160:9-19. doi:10.1016/S0079-6123(06)60002-2
  5. Roshchina VV. New Trends and Perspectives in the Evolution of Neurotransmitters in Microbial, Plant, and Animal Cells. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016;874:25-77. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-20215-0_2
About Valentino M. 104 Articles
Valentino is a nutritionist, author, spiritual practitioner, and health coach. He's been researching nutrition and brain health since 2015, and has launched Valentino's Naturals to help people maximize their cognitive performance. When he isn't writing, Valentino loves to travel around Europe, spend time recharging in nature, and research topics within his field of expertise. More...

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