The Mind-Gut Connection

It’s long been established that there is a correlation between food and mood.2 Brain function and emotional well-being are in many ways directly tied to what we eat.2 Emerging research has established the connection between gut health and both mental and cognitive health, too.1,2,3,4 The brain and intestinal tract are linked and send communication back and forth via the brain-gut axis.1,2,3,4 When the gut is healthy, there is a positive correlation to the brain’s well-being and function, too.1,2,3,4

What Makes a Healthy Gut?

Within our guts, trillions of microbial organisms, including bacteria, make up our microbiome.5 These organisms carry out various functions, from helping defend against disease to aiding in digestion.1,5 For a gut to be healthy, it needs a microbiome with plenty of good bacteria.2,5 Probiotics are live microbial organisms taken to increase the health and/or diversity of the microbiome, and they are generally considered safe for children.1,2,3,4,5,6

Healthy Gut Benefits for Kids

Research in this field is ongoing, but many studies have found promising connections between a healthy gut and mental and emotional well-being. Here are several ways a healthy gut may benefit your young child:

  • Fewer Instances of Depression and Anxiety

    There is research to suggest that probiotics that establish a healthy microbiome may decrease instances of anxiety and depression.1,3 However, there is still more research to be completed to confirm this. Depression can be linked to gut inflammation, which can be the result of an unhealthy gut microbiome.1,2,4 Probiotics can help reduce inflammation in the gut.4

  • Improved Stress Response

    Research suggests that probiotics may reduce the stress response as well as some symptoms of PTSD.3,4 Hormones, including cortisol, are affected by the state of the gut microbiome, and a healthy gut microbiome can help limit the amount of and reactivity to cortisol.1,3,4 More research must be completed on this subject before it can be stated conclusively, though.

  • Increased Pleasure and Joy

    Some research suggests that a healthy gut can also encourage a sense of pleasure, well-being, and joy.3,4 However, there is still more research to be completed on the exact role probiotics play on a healthy gut and pleasure.

Where to Find Probiotics for Kids

You can find probiotics for kids in many common foods and supplements. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider before giving your child a probiotic supplement.


Here are several common probiotic foods for kids:6

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Pickles
  • Sourdough bread
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut


Probiotics for kids also come in various supplemental forms.6 You can find them as capsules, drops or powders.6 Probiotic supplements are also sometimes added to infant and children’s foods and beverages. Be sure to speak with your child’s healthcare provider before giving your child a probiotic supplement.

When you understand the mind-gut connection, you have access to one more tool to support your family’s health and happiness. For more ways to support the growth and development of your toddler, see these nutrition tips and resources.