Benefits of Probiotics
The Supplemental Key to Good Health
By Dr. Chad Walding, DPT
September 4th, 2019
What do you think of when you hear the word bacteria?
Most people would probably associate that word with negative meaning and liken it to sickness or disease.
But what if I told you that bacteria can be extremely beneficial to our bodies? In fact, for any average person, there are approximately 100 trillion good bacteria living inside their body right now!1
This good bacteria, which can be found in both probiotics and certain foods, encourage a healthy gut and an overall enhanced immune system.
Why Take Probiotics?
There is something in our lower intestinal tract called microbes. These microbes help us to:
- Fight harmful bacteria
- Properly digest food
- Regulate our immune systems
Unfortunately, sometimes an imbalance of these microbes can occur, leading us to face health issues like diarrhea. When our guts experience this unhealthy imbalance, probiotics can help to even things back out again.
Probiotics have been shown to secrete substances that can activate our immune systems and prevent pathogens from creating dangerous diseases in our bodies. Some studies even suggest that taking a probiotic while you’re on an antibiotic can decrease the likelihood of getting diarrhea as a side effect of the medication.2
What Are Some Benefits of Probiotics?
While the main purpose of using a probiotic supplement is to reintroduce good bacteria into your body, there are many other health benefits that are associated with the use of a probiotic as well.
Probiotic supplements can help:3,4
- Directly linked to bolstering the good bacteria in your body – probiotics can make it easier for your body to produce the vitamins and enzymes it needs.
- It’s been shown that probiotics can not only reduce the severity of UTI symptoms but also the frequency in which you may get them.
- Studies have reported that certain probiotic strains can help in the prevention of vaginal yeast infections and in keeping the vaginal microbiome balanced.
- According to the American Academy of Dermatology, both oral and topical probiotics can potentially help with skin issues such as eczema, rosacea, and acne.
- According to research, a good ratio of probiotic strains can help improve your fertility.
- Probiotic supplements can aid in digestion for those who suffer from gastrointestinal problems including chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas, and bloating.
- The National Institutes of Health conducted a study that concluded probiotics can cause a modest reduction to your blood pressure.
Can You Take Probiotics for Weight Loss?
The short answer? Yes!
Some studies found that certain probiotics can increase the amount of fat excreted in your feces. In other words, they may be inhibiting the amount of fat and calories you actually absorb and retain. Probiotics containing the strain Lactobacillus have been shown to behave in this way.
Some evidence even points us to believe that obesity is directly linked to inflammation in the brain, and by improving our gut health – by way of probiotics – we may be reducing the amount of inflammation as well.
We have also seen that probiotics may be helping aid weight loss by:5
- This is an appetite-reducing hormone. Increased levels can help you burn calories and fat.
- This is a protein that can lead to decreased storage of fat.
In contrast to probiotics that can actually aid in weight loss, there have been studies that show some probiotics simply help in the prevention of weight gain.
In one study, a group of participants was overfed by 1000 calories over a 4-week study while taking the probiotic supplement called VSL#3. The results at the end of this month-long period showed that this supplement appeared to have provided some protection from body mass gain.6
What Are the Different Types of Probiotics?
There are many different types of probiotic supplements, and it’s important to know the difference between them. Since a probiotic will contain specific bacteria strains, not all of them will work in the same capacity or treat the same problems.
Here is a short guide to help you find which probiotic will be most beneficial to you, listed with health issues they are shown to address:7
- Vaginal health
One of the most widely-used probiotics, Lactobacillus acidophilus seems to treat the largest range of issues. It’s even been shown to help those who suffer from lactose intolerance and decrease the likelihood of colon cancer.
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
This probiotic shows strong evidence to help curve diarrhea brought on by the use of antibiotics. Also, a promising study shows that women who used this probiotic strain while pregnant decreased the chances of their children developing atopic eczema, the most common form of eczema in children.
Inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract seems to be greatly reduced by this strain of probiotic. It’s also been known to provide symptom relief for patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
- Gastrointestinal support
- Brain function
In studies, this probiotic strain has shown to not only provide patients with digestive support but also decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Immune health
One of the most promising probiotics for your immune health is Bifidobacterium lactis. After a period of six weeks, this strain was shown to have raised the levels of antibodies in the patients that used it.
- Brain function
It’s been shown that adults who take this probiotic along with milk or yogurt for only two weeks reported an increase in their bowel movements. Also, a report from University College Cork found that this strain contributed to lower stress levels and better memory.
- Immune health
- Gastrointestinal support
Researchers have found that things like antibiotics, stress, and diet can all deplete our bodies of this good bacteria. However, this strain helps to regulate our body’s immune response, so replenishing our source of Bifidobacterium bifidum is highly beneficial. It’s further been shown to prevent pathogens from flourishing in our gut. Clinical research of this strain showed significant results in the reduction of irritable bowel symptoms, also.
An incredible study discovered that this strain of probiotic can potentially prevent aging brought on by UV exposure. It has also shown to increase bowel movements in children with constipation.
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Skin problems
Streptococcus thermophilus is shown to have a positive effect on the level of ceramides on our skin. Low levels of ceramides have been linked to damaged and dry skin.
Are There Probiotic Foods and Drinks?
Foods that have been fermented begin by going through a process referred to as lactofermentation, or natural fermentation. During this time, a natural bacteria will feed on the sugars and starches in the food, creating lactic acid. The results include beneficial things such as various species of good bacteria and promotion of enzymes, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins.8
The most common fermented foods that contain probiotics are:
- Sourdough bread
- Some cheeses
It’s important to remember, however, that not all fermented foods contain probiotics. Some fermented foods, such as beer and wine, undergo a process that will remove probiotics. Other foods may be baked or canned and will have their probiotics stripped from them as well.
A potential downside to fermented foods as a source of probiotics is their tendency to have a unique and sometimes unpleasant taste or smell.
Potential Probiotic Side Effects
Although very uncommon, probiotics, like any supplement, can cause side effects for some people.
Some users can react poorly to probiotic supplements or foods and experience:9
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