Can Probiotics Make You Happy?


Mostly from Jamie Lee Curtis Activia yogurt commercials, I know that probiotics are supposed to help with digestive issues. I don’t have gut issues and I haven’t heard much about the importance of probiotics from the plant-based community, so I haven’t incorporated them into my diet.

On Radio Lab the other day, however; I heard that probiotics may decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. Curious, I did some digging and found lots of research to support this claim. One double-blind placebo controlled study, for example, found that two probiotic strains alleviated symptoms of anxiety, depression and anger.

Should we ditch prozac and start eating coconut milk yogurt?

Not yet. Researchers haven’t yet determined whether you can get enough probiotics from food to improve your mood (in studies they took large doses in pills). Since probiotics are good for you, however; it can’t hurt to include more of them in your diet and find out for yourself if they’re a key to happiness. I’m certainly intrigued enough to do so anyway.

Vegan Sources of Probiotics

If you’re vegan, you can’t eat Activia, but there are other delicious ways to get active cultures. Here’s a few vegan sources:


This thick paste-like Japanese seasoning can be added to soups and other dishes or can even be spread on toast. If you’re using it in a soup, wait to add it until just before you remove it from the heat to keep from destroying the live cultures.


Kimchi is a fermented cabbage dish that can be served alone, mixed with rice or noodles or used to top veggie burgers or pizza. Click here for a Kimchi recipe.


Kombucha is a tea beverage made by adding probiotics and yeast to tea and sugar.


Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and other grains that can be eaten like a veggie burger or crumbled into other dishes.

Soy and Coconut Milk Yogurt

Just like dairy yogurt, you can get probiotics from soy and coconut yogurt. Just make sure that the label notes that there are active cultures.

Soy and Coconut Milk Keifer

Keifer is a cultured milk product that you drink. Again, look for products that state that there are active cultures. Or you can make your own with Wild Juggling’s  Blueberry Kefir recipe.

Raw Sauerkraut

Raw sauerkraut, the kind you get in the refrigerated section, may contain up to 13 species of gut-friendly bacteria. But don’t cook it, as this will kill the little buggers.

Photo courtesy of Women’s Health Mag.


About celestedimilla

Hey there. I’m Celeste, California girl, writer, psychotherapist and burgeoning plant-based foodie.
This entry was posted in Health, Plant-Based Diet and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

66 Responses to Can Probiotics Make You Happy?

  1. This is an excellent article Celeste.
    I am no expert but coming from practising ancient cultural food habits, I can say that yogurt is given a very high pedestal in our plate of food. It is considered pious. From scientific reasons, we eat yogurt on very hot summer days.. It is believed that the good bacteria in it due to the process of fermentation protect outer delicate stomach from heat. Happy or not.. Have no idea but it sure is an important component of food.
    The lit that you ah e include for vegan is excellent. The same process of fermentation allows the growth of good bacteria. Miso and kimchi is fermented for long time and hence a very good source.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment Sonal! I know that yogurt is thought of as a healing food in many cultures, even in the American culture. Since I don’t eat dairy, however; I never thought much about eating it. But I’m going to start eating more of it. I’m just afraid that most of the yogurt you get at the supermarket is super processed and full of sugars and other stuff that’s not good for me. I guess I’ll have to do some searching to find a good brand of yogurt. I’m also curious, Sonal, have you ever made your own yogurt? Hope you’re having a lovely week! Celeste 🙂

  2. I’ve always been looking for a good reason to eat more sauerkraut and now I’ve found one! I can just see the faces on my colleagues at work when I whip this out in the lunchroom and start chomping it with a healthy grin on my face! Who knows, it may become a new eating fad?

    • You’re one of those sauerkraut fanatics I’ve heard so much about – hehe! I’m sure your colleague who went to the vegan spa week will get why you’re chomping down on all that fermented cabbage anyway.

      I like the stuff too, but I rarely eat it. That’s certainly gonna change, however!!

  3. aouatt77 says:

    I like the So Delicious blueberry cultured coconut milk. Not that big on the carrageenan that’s in it. I don’t have any digestive problems with carrageenan, but there are studies that have shown can cause inflammation. Love your Post.

    • Great to hear from you Antoinette!! I’ve heard bad stuff about carrageenan too. I worry about getting yogurt and other cultured milk products at the store because of added sugars and chemicals that aren’t so good for you. Does the good outweigh the bad? I don’t know. I’m gonna search to see if I can find a really healthy brand. Or, I might try making my own. Thanks so much for your comment!

      • aouatt77 says:

        I agree, does the good outweigh the bad when it comes to our health. ” Your health is your wealth” Let me know if you find a healthy brand. Thanks

  4. I’m looking into making my own sauerkraut. It’s really easy from what I’ve been reading. In the Dolomites we ate it a lot because they’re close to Austria. They called it “krauti” so now that’s what we call it. Sounds so cute!

    • Hey there Mary! I love the name “krauti” – that’s adorable! Anyway, please let me know if you do make your own sauerkraut, I’d love to hear how it turns out. I’d even be happy to post the recipe on my blog if you’re interested, just let me know. Have a lovely week! Celeste 🙂

  5. sophiazerg says:

    Thanks for this great list, I hate yoghurt and always have. I never knew about the association of probiotics and anxiety. Good to know!

    • Hi Sophia! I’m a psychotherapist who specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders and I didn’t know about the connection of probiotics and anxiety. This is a new, and I think very exciting, finding! Anxiety is so common, and it would be wonderful if there were other drug-free ways of dealing with it. Thanks for stopping by chica!!

      • sophiazerg says:

        It is very exciting. I need to read up on it more. You are so right, it’s unbelievable how many people in my close circle of friends and family suffer from anxiety. I’m all for more natural treatments!
        Thanks again for sharing!

  6. Poppy says:

    Ha that last sentence made me chuckle! Very interesting Celeste, an issue ‘close to home’ so I will look into this. Thank you 😀

    • Hi Poppy! This info surprised me – I’d never heard about it before. As a psychotherapist who specializes in treating anxiety, and an anxiety sufferer myself, I thought I knew EVERY method of treating anxiety. This info is new, and very exciting!! I almost wish I was back in graduate school so I could do my thesis on probiotics and anxiety. I have the feeling that just eating a little yogurt might not be enough to make a difference in one’s mood, but who knows. Thanks, as always, for reading Poppy!!

      • Poppy says:

        It must be really exciting to find info like this relevant to your specialism! I suffer from anxiety too and take beta blockers for it, if I could take a concentrated dose of probiotics with the same effect, I absolutely would! 😀

    • Then you should really look into this Poppy. It might not be enough to just eat foods with probiotics, but you could try a concentrated pill. I doubt that your doctor has heard about this, however; so who knows how he or she will respond to this. In the study they mention that it takes 2 months before there is a decrease in anxiety symptoms.

      The other thing that really helps with many anxiety issues is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). For most of my life I suffered from terrible social anxiety and it got to the point that I had trouble even doing normal things like making small talk with people and going to the grocery store. It was disrupting my life so much that I went through a 6-month CBT group treatment program. It changed my life! It was after this that I went back to school to become a psychotherapist because I wanted to help other people with social anxiety.

      Anyway, I hope you’re having a wonderful week!! Celeste 🙂

      • Poppy says:

        Thank you for your advice Celeste and what a wonderful story of how you came to be a psychotherapist and found great help. I know of CBT and my doc and I have discussed it but it’s hard to get it here on the NHS, the waiting list is years, I’ve tried various other therapies but haven’t found them helpful. I will bring it up withy doctor at my next appointment. 😀

    • That’s horrible that it’s takes so long to see a CBT therapist – I’m shocked! CBT, however; is really something that, to a large degree, you can teach yourself. It does help to go to therapy, but you can get some benefit just from books. One of my favorite CBT books is “Mind Over Mood” by Dennis Greenberger. If you’re interested in other books that may help with the specific anxiety you suffer from feel free to shoot me an email and I’d be happy to suggest more specific books. 🙂

      • Poppy says:

        That’s unbelievably kind of you Celeste, thank you. My doctor recommended this website which I have found quite helpful. I will look out for that book you suggested. Yes, unfortunately in my experience, the UK has a long way to go with it’s mental health services!
        Thank you for your great advice, you’re a great friend 😀

    • Good luck with dealing with this Poppy! I’m glad that you are open and willing to share about this. Anxiety is VERY common, but a lot of people suffering from it never talk about. This can make people feel like they are alone in their suffering, which is SO not true! Have a lovely day chica!! Celeste 🙂

  7. Angeline M says:

    Recently going through some gut issues (another reason to go vegan) and my doctor has strongly recommended I take a Probiotic. I’ve selected the pill form that is said to be more lasting than yogurt, and also with the current issues going on, a pill is easier to get down than a food. Now I think there is an added bonus with the studies you have found on anxiety and depression.

    • Hey Angeline! I really don’t know a lot about probiotics, I’m just scratching the surface. Still, all the studies I read used a pill form of Probiotics. That seems to be the way to go if your reason for taking it is medical. If I had gut issues, I’d probably go with a pill form.

      I find the research on depression and anxiety promising and exciting! I’d love to hear if you notice any difference in your mood from taking the probiotic.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comment – I appreciate it! Celeste 🙂

  8. i’m sure i’m a bad example; they wouldn’t put me in their study ,lol, but no less for me.i have leaky gut which comes from toxic molds and can also be from cfids, and my environmental dr. wants to blame nexium…. 8+ pages / vitamin deficiencies so he gave me probiotics & 16 bottles of vitamins 2 years ago…

  9. I brought yogurt culture from my home in India and make yogurt here every two days, thats how fast we go thru a pot of yogurt 🙂 Interesting and informative post and I have to try the other probiotic options you’ve mentioned here.:)

    • Oh, that’s wonderful!! I have a couple of questions if you don’t mind. Is it easy to make yogurt? Do you know how to make it with soy or coconut milk? I’d love to hear your thoughts!! Celeste 🙂

      • Yes, making yogurt is very easy. I boil two cups of milk and then cool it down to lukewarm. Mix 2 tbsp of yougurt in the lukewarm milk and set aside. That’s all. Yogurt will be ready in a few hours (in warm weather days), a little longer in cold weather.

        I do not know to make yogurt with anything other than milk. Because I use my old yogurt to ferment the milk, I don’t know what are the vegan equivalents.

    • Yogurt does sound easy to make!! I’ll have to do some research on making vegan yogurt so I can start making my own. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  10. I love this post! Yogurt has been the hardest thing for me to give up since going mostly-vegan. (It is the biggest part of the “mostly”). I have yet to find a breakfast alternative that makes me feel half as good as yogurt keeps me feeling – physically and emotionally. I entirely think that most yogurts sold in stores are basically ice cream given the amount of sugar added. Not to mention all the other bizarre additives. But I love Fage or any plain Greek yogurt. And it’s really easy to make too! With fruit and nuts it’s the best ever way to start a day. I haven’t found a good enough alternative with soy and coconut yogurts (they all also seem full of sweeteners and chemicals). If you know of one that has worked for you I’d love to hear it!

    • I have to admit that I’ve never been a big yogurt eater, and when I did eat it in the past I ate the unhealthy “ice-cream like” varieties you mention. I’ve been eating plant-based for two years, and I rarely eat yogurt because like you say, the kind in the stores seems full of crap. I haven’t seriously researched the yogurt that’s available commercially, however; so I really don’t know for sure how bad it is. I want to start eating more of it, so I’ll be looking more into it. I’ll let you know if I find anything out there that’s healthy. I might also look into making my own yogurt. I’m curious, have you ever made a non-dairy yogurt? If so, I’d love to hear how it turned out for you.

      Thanks so much for your comment!! Celeste 🙂

  11. Wild Juggler says:

    Very interesting, and thanks for the mention! It looks like researchers are finding more benefits from consuming probiotics. It appears that healthful bacteria produce a lot of B vitamins, vitamin K, enzymes and some other things we may not have identified yet that may relieve anxiety.

    • I know you are a big believer in probiotics, and I’m happy to share your recipe (I might even try it one of these days!). I’m really excited by the research on probiotics and anxiety. It looks promising!! Celeste 🙂

  12. The Veggie Green says:

    Thanks Celeste, a very interesting read! We live and learn every day don’t we!?

  13. diahannreyes says:

    Celeste, I didn’t know all of these were great sources of probiotics-and I enjoy eating almost all of them. Will probably eat more now. 🙂

    • Okay, so here’s my very non-scientific test on how well probiotic foods help your mood. Since you already eat a lot of probiotics, are you a chill, laid back kind of chica? If you answer yes, then I’ll have a little evidence for the argument that probiotics from foods help with anxiety. And if you answer no, well… So what do you say?

      • diahannreyes says:

        I am chill most times but also intense at others. I will say that since cutting back on sugar and processed foods- I tend to be more even keeled. I eat these probiotics but I wouldn’t say they that I eat them a lot—not to say that your theory isn’t correct!

    • Thanks so much for sharing! I know I can’t make any assumptions on your experience, but I was still curious. And like you, I think eating healthier overall has improved my mood. Have a lovely day chica!! Celeste 🙂

  14. bandhnabajaj says:

    Great to know a list of probiotics! Will definitely make note of this. 🙂 Luckily I love Miso!! hehehe 🙂 Thanks Celeste!

    • I only tried Miso for the first time a couple of months ago. I didn’t like it at first, but it’s grown on me. I had no idea it was a probiotic, however; until I did the research for this post!! Thanks so much for your comment!! Celeste 🙂

  15. Huh! And I thought it was just the taste of miso soup that was making me so happy. Good to know, thank you!

  16. I’ve been looking for a good vegan substitute to yogurt and soy yogurt sounds intriguing…I’m going to give it a try!

    • Thanks for your comment!! I have to be honest with you, I hate soy yogurt! I love coconut milk yogurt, however. I usually buy the So Delicious brand. I can’t imagine anyone not loving that stuff – it’s soooo good!! Celeste 🙂

  17. It’s good to see tempeh on the list – among many of my favorite foods. Interesting connection between gut and mood. Another example of how what we put in our bodies effects how our bodies function – we keep relearning this, don’t we?

    • Lovely new photo Annie!! I didn’t realize tempeh was on the list either. The only problem is that I believe if you cook it that it destroys the microbes. I usually cook tempeh, but I’m willing to give it a go raw. Celeste 🙂

  18. ahardrain says:

    It’s amazing how much press probiotics get now a days. Before the only time you heard about them was seeing the Jaime Lee commercial, now everyone and the brother make it sound that taking billions of units will make your tummy and “flora” bloom. I tried helping my doggies flatulence problem using expensive probiotics and sorry to say it didn’t do a thing.

    • Thanks so much for your comment!! So sorry to hear that it didn’t help your doggies – what a bummer!! I’ve heard that the probiotic pills are quite expensive. So I guess that’s a lot of money down the toilet (or in this case lost in the doggie bags!). I really don’t know much about probiotics, but the Radio Lab show got me curious about them. Like you say, I’m sure they’re not a cure-all. Celeste 🙂

  19. ediblevie says:

    In my opinion, everyone should take some form of probiotics or even supplement with probiotics daily.
    Gut flora – the ideal ratio of good:bad is 85:15 , most people have the reverse … this leads to … improper breakdown of food in the small intestine and then an improper absorption of minerals in the large intestine and then because you have undigested food in your bowels it is now fermenting and producing gas, toxins etc… possibly constipation.. a breeding ground for bad bacteria. you become toxic. There is research that suggests that they are affected when there is bad bacteria overgrowth which eventually leads to leaky gut and autoimmune issues etc. When you keep this “bad bacteria” in check, the symptomatology of anxiety or depression (or in some cases even multiple personality disorders)… is reduced. — probiotics also support your immune system as well!

    I’m sure you have heard of Dr. Mercola (Or if you haven’t he’s amazing but he’s also very intense) – he has published various articles on the topic with supporting evidence from research and Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride (“the gut queen”) >> please give this a read it’s a great article.

    Also Activia is probably THE WORST yogurt any person can ingest – the probiotics in activia are actually strains of bacteria created from….. rat poop. Yes, truly horrific. And also this strain of bacteria does not last in the human gut for more than 5-7 days .. so you really need to use the product daily to see continual results. yuck!

    I alway find myself writing to you the longest comments – hope you don’t mind 🙂

    • What a fabulous comment Kasia!! I know little about probiotics, so your comment is really helpful. First of all, I figured that Activia wasn’t the best stuff, but I had no idea they used strains of bacteria created from rat poop. Yuck!!!! I’m glad I’ve never touched the stuff.

      I have never heard of Dr. Mercola or Dr. Campbell-McBride, but I’ll check out the link you shared after I finish this comment.

      As much as I learned from your comment Kasia, it brought up more questions. If you’re interested, I’d love for you to write a guest post on probiotics for my blog. No pressure, but if you’re interested that would be wonderful! In case you don’t see this comment, I’ll mention it on your blog too. And if you don’t have the time to write a guest post, I’d love to at least know what probiotic foods and supplements you recommend.

      And I don’t mind at all that you leave long comments on my blog! You know a lot more than I do about nutrition, and I love learning from you!!

      Celeste 🙂

  20. Interesting! Do you think kombucha would have some of the same properties? I used to brew my own kombucha and flavor it with fruit, so yummy! I haven’t had kombucha in ages though, after having fresh homebrewed on hand I can’t stomach the storebought stuff anymore.

  21. How interesting! What a great post! This is very informative!

  22. Sofia says:

    Thank you for this excellent article. I am a pharmacist, and actually the other day I was discussing this with my boss. Even though I believe probiotics are good for a lot of things and it’s absoloutely necessary to maintain a good balance with our “good bacteria”, but I also do think that (especially) yogurt companies go way overboard with some of their claims. On the other had, I had never thought of where to get your source of probiotics on a strict vegetarian diet, so thank you for informing me on this.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment Sofia! You bring up an important point about the “claims” yogurt companies make about their products. And it’s not just yogurt companies that make such health claims – many food companies do. I doubt that many people go out and research the claims food companies make, and I bet that many of these claims are based on sketchy research.

      Hope you’re having a wonderful week! Celeste 🙂

  23. Pingback: Dairy Free Yogurts | Honk If You're Vegan

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