Try Our OCD Self-Help Program

Try our OCD Self-Help Course

Still Feeling Anxious? Swipe Up

Can Probiotics Improve OCD Symptoms? What Science Says

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known as OCD, is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world. Approximately 1-2% of the population will develop OCD at one point in their lives. According to researchers, OCD is not only pervasive but also long-lasting and debilitating. It is considered an anxiety disorder, primarily because one of its hallmark features is anxiety. OCD can significantly affect one’s ability to complete daily functions and live a productive life.

OCD has become more visible in the past decade or so, however, there is still a lot that is unknown about this condition. As a result, OCD is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. In fact, it is often the butt of jokes. Although, this condition is nothing to laugh at. Because much of how OCD develops is unknown or unclear, research continues to explore the nuances of the complex, and sometimes, baffling anxiety condition.

One area that researchers have started to delve into is how digestive processes may be linked to OCD. According to researchers, there may be a relationship between the gut microbiome and OCD. One possible natural remedy that could be beneficial for people with OCD is probiotics, especially if the gut microbiome plays a role in the development of OCD. If you are wondering if probiotics could work for your type of OCD, look no more because this article will explain what the science says about probiotics and their ability to help improve your OCD symptoms.


What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that involves just obsessions (unwanted, upsetting, and uncontrollable thoughts, urges, fears, and emotions), just compulsions (repetitive and ritualistic behaviors), or both. Obsessions involve ruminating over something that could be realistic – but is unlikely to happen, such as being injured or killed in a plane crash or becoming “infected” with Covid simply because there are germs outside of your home.

Compulsions involve rituals or routines designed to ease the stress and anxiety causing the obsessions – and the stress and anxiety coming from the obsessions. An example of a compulsion is refusing to go on vacation or visit a relative or friend in another state because of an extreme fear of dying from a plane crash. OCD is cyclic in nature, meaning that stress leads to anxiety, which then leads to an obsession. This obsession causes stress, which turns into anxiety with the only remedy being to perform compulsions or rituals or routines. In other words, the compulsions ease the stress and anxiety, and thereby, the obsessions.

Unfortunately, OCD is often misrepresented in sitcoms and movies with people with this disorder portrayed as “crazy,” “obnoxious,” or “anal.” These unfair and inaccurate portrayals of people with OCD undermine the impact that this condition can have on one’s personal, personal, spiritual, and even career lives. OCD can significantly impair a person’s ability to live their best life. The good news is there are a wide variety of OCD treatments available for people who struggle with this condition.

Some of these treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or exposure-response and prevention (ERP) therapy, SSRI antidepressants or antipsychotics, natural remedies like hypnosis, art therapy, service dog therapy, support groups, mindfulness meditation, and/or OCD recovery treatment programs, like Impulse Therapy. A newer treatment that is being touted as an effective treatment for OCD is probiotics.

Because OCD may be linked to one’s gastrointestinal “digestive” system, ensuring that this system has a healthy allotment of good bacteria (instead of “bad bacteria”) in your gut could be the key to improving your OCD symptoms. Probiotics are designed to replace bad bacteria with good bacteria, so they could be a viable treatment for people who suffer from mild OCD.

Could Gastrointestinal Problems Trigger OCD?

It is possible.

Some researchers believe that “gut health” plays a role in the development of OCD. More specifically, these experts believe that there is a link between “gut health” and “mental health.” In other words, they believe that “gut health” may be a trigger for OCD and that OCD could be a trigger for poor “gut health.” Studies indicate that immune activation and neuroendocrine responses can affect the gut microbiome, which could, in turn, influence a person’s mental health.

The gut microbiome is believed to impact OCD in a similar manner. Researchers also believe that inflammation caused by “bad” bacteria in the gut may be a contributing factor when it comes to the development and progression of OCD symptoms. According to studies, some OCD sufferers have elevated “pro-inflammatory” cytokines (immune system chemical messengers) in their guts. These researchers link a hyperactive immune system to OCD-related obsessions and compulsions.

Researchers have also found that people with OCD tend to have a gut microbiota composition imbalance (dysbiosis), which is linked to a hyperactive immune system and high levels of inflammation. A low composition of the gut microbiome and elevated CRP “protein” levels (a sign of inflammation) have also been found in people with OCD. These findings suggest that OCD could actually be linked to gut inflammation, also known as a “leaky gut.”

According to researchers, dysbiosis, or a “leaky gut” can venture outside of the gut and affect a person systemically (throughout the body). What this means is that high levels of inflammation can affect various organs in the body, including the brain. Because studies indicate that OCD may be linked to inflammation, it is plausible to theorize that inflammation could be a trigger for OCD.

Thus, the consensus is that a healthy gut microbiome is needed to ensure that inflammation does not disrupt body chemistry, and interfere with the immune system’s chemical messengers, thereby, triggering OCD. One way to ensure that a person has a “healthy gut” is to add probiotics into their daily routines.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that already live in our gut. These bacteria are tasked with ensuring that people stay healthy. You can obtain probiotics through a variety of means, such as foods, beverages, powders, and even candies, however, the most common way to obtain them is through supplements (i.e., capsules, tablets, gummies, etc.). Researchers suggest that probiotics can help strengthen one’s immune system and protect them against infections, aid in digestive health, and improve cognitive functions. There is even some research that indicates that probiotics can help you maintain a healthy weight.

Can Probiotics Improve OCD Symptoms? What Does The Science Say?

Yes, according to researchers, probiotics can improve OCD symptoms – in some people.

Studies are currently limited when it comes to the effectiveness of probiotics on OCD symptoms, especially when it comes to human subjects. However, there has been a study conducted on OCD drug-induced mice who were given probiotics. The results suggest that probiotics may ease anxiety and OCD symptoms. The mice also appeared to experience an improvement in their OCD-like symptoms. Animal studies, like the mice study, could be a pathway for future exploration into how probiotics could work for people with OCD (of which a common trigger and symptom is anxiety).

Similarly, another animal study that explored the effectiveness of probiotics on OCD symptoms found that OCD drug-induced rats appeared to be less anxious and had fewer OCD-like symptoms after being given lactobacillus every day for 4 weeks. And, according to one human study, OCD sufferers, who were administered several probiotics for their obsessions and compulsions, experienced a significant reduction in OCD symptoms, including paranoia, after taking them daily for 3 months.

Thus, the science says that probiotics may improve OCD symptoms, however, more research is needed to determine its long-term and widespread effectiveness for the disorder. Still, the current results are promising.

Did you know, our our self-help course has helped thousands of OCD sufferers better manage their symptoms?

"My OCD is finally manageable"

Jennifer S


The best way to get an idea of how well probiotics could work for your OCD symptoms is to read firsthand accounts of people who have used probiotics for their OCD.

  • “I have OCD and general anxiety, too. I spent so much money on probiotics, hoping they would help. They did absolutely nothing. Now, I am just working on getting lots of prebiotics from the food I eat. I did try some supplements that have helped with both the OCD and GAD a ton.”
  • “Probiotics have been by far the best treatment for me. They effectively cured my anxiety and OCD. After doing a lot of research, I believe that our gut microbiotas have a tremendous effect on the way that we think and feel. I highly recommend to anyone experiencing anxiety or OCD to give probiotics a try!”
  • “I take a mix of different probiotics on an ongoing basis and do a number of other things to support a healthy gut culture. The longevity of supplementation will depend on the source of the strains, only human ones can properly colonize. Everything else is essentially transient. While my OCD isn’t cured it has normalized. I’m only fearful in situations when I should be. No more being afraid of the grocery store! Not even antidepressants did that for me.”
  • “I started using probiotics in high school to help with social anxiety and OCD. For full disclosure, I also started doing other things to help at the same time but I found a lot of improvement in a short period of time. Now, I take them only when I know I have a stressful day ahead and I find them help (but that could be a placebo). Whether placebo or not it’s worth trying. You can get a month or two supply at Walmart for only $20.”

Final Thoughts

There are many theories on the cause of OCD, ranging from biological, genetic, or environmental to all three combined. What is known about OCD is that it is a complicated disorder that can take on many features and traits. OCD is not a monolith condition which means that treatment for it may vary from person to person. So while traditional first-line treatment approaches, like SSRI antidepressants and CBT, may work for one OCD sufferer they may not work for another. For those, in which traditional OCD treatments are unsafe or ineffective, a different approach must be considered. Perhaps, that approach is probiotics. 

Natural remedies like probiotics, which already occur in your gut, may help improve your OCD symptoms by ensuring that you have high levels of “healthy bacteria” and low levels of inflammation in your body. Plus, probiotics are good for everyone regardless of if you have OCD or not. Probiotics work for a wide variety of gastrointestinal problems because their job is to keep your gut in check. So, while the science is largely undetermined when it comes to how effective, or even if it is effective for people with OCD, it is worth a try for your health and peace of mind.


  • Ruscio, A. M., Stein, D. J., Chiu, W. T., & Kessler, R. C. (2010). The epidemiology of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Molecular Psychiatry, 15(1), 53–63. Retrieved from
  • Halverson, T., & Alagiakrishnan, K. (2020). Gut microbes in neurocognitive and mental health disorders. Annals of Medicine, 52(8), 423–443. Retrieved from
  • Fawcett, E. J., Power, H., & Fawcett, J. M. (2020). Women are at greater risk of OCD than men: A meta-analytic review of OCD prevalence worldwide. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 81(4), 19r13085. Retrieved from
  • Jahangard, L., Fadaei, V., Sajadi, A., Haghighi, M., Ahmadpanah, M., Matinnia, N., Bajoghli, H., Sadeghi Bahmani, D., Lang, U., Holsboer-Trachsler, E., & Brand, S. (2018). Patients with OCD report lower quality of life after controlling for expert-rated symptoms of depression and anxiety. Psychiatry Research, 260, 318–323. Retrieved from
  • Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M. A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of Gastroenterology, 28(2), 203–209. Retrieved from
  • Larkin, D., & Martin, C. R. (2018). Probiotics in mental health. Chapter “Probiotics and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” Retrieved from
  • Turna, J., Grosman Kaplan, K., Anglin, R., & Van Ameringen, M. (2016). “What’s Bugging the Gut In OCD?” A review of the gut microbiome in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Depression and Anxiety, 33(3), 171–178. Retrieved from
  • Rao, N. P., Venkatasubramanian, G., Ravi, V., Kalmady, S., Cherian, A., & Yc, J. R. (2015). Plasma cytokine abnormalities in drug-naïve, comorbidity-free obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychiatry Research, 229(3), 949–952. Retrieved from
  • Khalesi, S., Bellissimo, N., Vandelanotte, C., Williams, S., Stanley, D., & Irwin, C. (2019). A review of probiotic supplementation in healthy adults: Helpful or hype? European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 73(1), 24–37. Retrieved from
  • Turna, J., Grosman Kaplan, K., Anglin, R., Patterson, B., Soreni, N., Bercik, P., Surette, M. G., & Van Ameringen, M. (2020). The gut microbiome and inflammation in obsessive-compulsive disorder patients compared to age- and sex-matched controls: a pilot study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 142(4), 337–347. Retrieved from
  • Rouxinol-Dias, A. L., Pinto, A. R., Janeiro, C., Rodrigues, D., Moreira, M., Dias, J., & Pereira, P. (2016). Probiotics for the control of obesity – Its effect on weight change. Porto Biomedical Journal, 1(1), 12–24. Retrieved from
  • Rees J. C. (2014). Obsessive-compulsive disorder and gut microbiota dysregulation. Medical Hypotheses, 82(2), 163–166. Retrieved from
  • Meyer J. (2021). Inflammation, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and related disorders. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, 49, 31–53. Retrieved from
  • França, K., & Lotti, T. (2017). The gut-brain connection and the use of probiotics for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders in dermatology. Dermatologic Therapy, 30(5), 10.1111/dth.12506. Retrieved from
  • Kantak, P. A., Bobrow, D. N., & Nyby, J. G. (2014). Obsessive-compulsive-like behaviors in house mice are attenuated by a probiotic (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG). Behavioral Pharmacology, 25(1), 71–79. Retrieved from
  • Kelly, J. R., Kennedy, P. J., Cryan, J. F., Dinan, T. G., Clarke, G., & Hyland, N. P. (2015). Breaking down the barriers: The gut microbiome, intestinal permeability, and stress-related psychiatric disorders. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 9, 392. Retrieved from
  • Messaoudi, M., Violle, N., Bisson, J., Desor, D., Javelot, H., & Rougeot, C. (2011) Beneficial psychological effects of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in healthy human volunteers. Gut Microbes, 2(4), 256-261, DOI: 10.4161/gmic.2.4.16108

Our self-help OCD therapy course has helped 1000s of OCD sufferers since 2018.

"My OCD is finally manageable"

Jennifer S


DR. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham has a B.A. in English, an M.M.F.T in Marriage and Family Therapy (Psychology), and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She is currently a medical, health & wellness contributor, copywriter, and psychological consultant

Share Post