Psychobiotics as treatment for anxiety, depression, and related symptoms: a systematic review

Nutr Neurosci. 2021 Dec;24(12):963-977. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2019.1701220. Epub 2019 Dec 20.


Objective: Altering the gut microflora may produce health benefits in individuals suffering from mood disorders. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the efficacy of probiotics, prebiotics, or synbiotics as a potential treatment for symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress (as psychobiotics).Methods: Google Scholar, PubMed, PsychINFO, and Web of Science were utilized to identify and evaluate studies through October 31, 2019. Studies were included if subjects were evaluated for altered mood or stress levels at start of the study and consumed probiotics, prebiotics, and/or synbiotics for intervention.Results: Search results yielded 142 articles, while only 12 studies met all inclusion criteria. Nine of the 12 studies identified evaluated the efficacy of various probiotic strains, while only two evaluated synbiotics and one evaluated prebiotics. Six out of 12 studies found probiotics to reduce depression, while two studies found probiotics to reduce anxiety.Discussion: Translational research in this field is limited and further investigation of the efficacy of psychobiotics in mood disorders is warranted.

Keywords: Depression; anxiety; mood disorders; prebiotics; probiotics; psychobiotics; stress; synbiotics.