More and more research shows that the balance or imbalance of bacteria in your digestive system is linked to overall health and disease. Probiotics are live microorganisms that help to improve the balance of bacteria in your gut. They can be consumed through fermented foods or supplements.
There are numerous benefits to supplementing with probiotics, including weight loss, digestive health, immune function and more.† In this article, we’re going to cover the top 10 health benefits linked to probiotics.
What Are Probiotics?
Inside your gut are trillions of microorganisms. Collectively, these make up what is known as your gut microbiome. The ratio of good to bad bacteria in your gut microbiome plays an important role in your health.
The ideal balance is 90% good bacteria and 10% bacteria. Good gut flora stave away pathogens, help your body break down fiber and complex sugars, help your body produce essential vitamin K, folic acid, and vitamin B, regulate bowel movements, decrease inflammation, moderate immune health, and of course support a healthy metabolism. However, when you look at the gut of the average person today, you’ll find just the opposite combination, 10% good bacteria and 90% bad bacteria, largely due in part to the over-processed diet many Americans consume, as well as certain substances like alcohol, antibiotics, and cigarette smoke. These things tend to starve the good bacteria while feeding the bad.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help to restore the proper balance of bacteria in the gut. They are found in fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, but they can also be taken as a supplement.
The most common types of probiotics are bacteria that belong to groups called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Other bacteria may also be used as probiotics, and so may yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii. Different types of probiotics may have different effects. For example, if a specific kind of Lactobacillus helps prevent an illness, that doesn’t necessarily mean that another kind of Lactobacillus or any of the Bifidobacterium probiotics would do the same thing. Therefore, choosing the right type—or types—of probiotics is also an important thing to consider.
Perhaps the most important benefit of probiotics is that they help to balance the friendly bacteria in your gut. Probiotics include “good” bacteria—live microorganisms that offer many health benefits to the body.
An imbalance of gut bacteria means there are too many bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria in your gut. As a result, you can experience many negative health issues such as digestive issues, allergies, mental health problems, obesity and more.
Supplementing with probiotics, and consuming probiotic-rich foods, can help to restore balance in your gut, potentially alleviating certain symptoms and conditions, and supporting overall health and digestive function.
Restoring the balance of bacteria in the gut may help reduce symptoms of certain digestive disorders. Digestive disorders are on the rise today, and over one million people in the US suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Certain types of probiotics can improve symptoms in people with IBD. Research suggests that probiotics may have benefits for other bowel disorders as well. Some studies show they may even help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).†
80% of your immune system is located in your intestinal tract. Your GI tract acts as a barrier between your body and the external world, protecting you from the various toxins that you ingest. Probiotics also help promote the production of natural antibodies and help to prevent the growth of harmful gut bacteria.†
Researchers have discovered that probiotics may help with weight loss through a number of different mechanisms. Some probiotics prevent the absorption of dietary fat in the intestine. The fat is then excreted through feces rather than stored in the body. Probiotics may also help you store less fat and burn calories faster due to the increase in certain hormones in the body that probiotics may effect.†
Another popular use of probiotics is their ability to prevent diarrhea or reduce its severity. Diarrhea is often a common side effect of taking antibiotics—compounds that kill bacteria in the gut. Sometimes antibiotics disturb and negatively affect the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. Consuming probiotics can help to restore this imbalance, and also potentially remedy antibiotic-associated diarrhea.†
Research suggests that the effectiveness of probiotics for reducing diarrhea varies depending on the type and dose of the probiotic taken. Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus casei and the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii are considered to be the most effective strains for reducing the risk and severity of diarrhea.
Probiotics parasite cleanse as well, supporting the elimination of parasites from the body through strengthening gut bacteria diversity and immunity. Parasites can contribute to many conditions, including diarrhea. So probiotics parasite cleanse support might also help with treating this bowel condition.
Gut health, mood and mental health are all connected. There are millions of neurons in your gut that tell your brain what do to, as well as neurotransmitters including serotonin. Gut bacteria influence the neurons in your gut through what is known as the gut-brain axis, a two-way biochemical signaling that takes place between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system.
Research shows that probiotics may improve mental health and mood due to their ability to support hormone production, as well as their influence on the gut microbiome as a whole and the gut-brain axis.†
Some probiotics may also lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and blood pressure, helping to improve heart health.† Research on lactic acid-producing bacteria shows that they may be able to reduce cholesterol levels by breaking down bile in the gut. Bile is a naturally occurring fluid that helps digestion, and is made mostly of cholesterol. By breaking down bile, probiotics can prevent it from being reabsorbed in the gut, where it can enter the blood as cholesterol.†
Some probiotic strains may also reduce the severity of skin conditions and eczema. The gut plays an essential role in the health of our skin, and many attribute skin conditions to an imbalance in the gut. It is possible, therefore, to correct skin conditions with probiotics if they are indeed caused by an imbalance in the gut microbiome.† Probiotics liver detox can occur too through probiotic supplementation. Liver health and skin health are commonly linked together.
Around 90 percent of nutrient absorption happens in the small intestine, and intestinal microflora play an important role in this process. Probiotics help break down food into nutrients that can enter the bloodstream and be used by the body.
Those who suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s or any other type of gastrointestinal disorder will often have trouble absorbing nutrients from food. Research now shows that both probiotics and prebiotics can help to improve the absorption of micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals from foods that we eat.
Probiotics May Reduce Gas and Bloating
Intestinal gas is often a result of too many species of bad bacteria in the gut, which cause food to ferment badly. Gas is actually a normal byproduct of digestion, and contains a combination of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and often methane. The average human actually produces between 1-4 pints of intestinal gas each day.
The many bacteria in our intestines help to break down food, and also help to consume excess gas as well. It is actually the ‘friendly’ bacteria in our gut that swallow up gas. The more colonies of friendly bacteria we have, the less gas we are likely to have as well. However, the opposite is also true: when we have large amounts of bad bacteria, we end up with more gas and flatulence.
This is why certain strains of probiotics can help to relieve gas and bloating. It appears that Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis bacteria are able to help reduce gas production in the gut. They also help to crowd out unhealthy microbial populations and deter more gas from being created. This can make a huge difference in the amount of bloating and flatulence someone experiences in a regular day.
Benefits of Probiotics for Women
Probiotics may also offer benefits specific to women’s health. Research shows that 40-60% of women experience urinary tract infections (UTI) with some regularity. Probiotics help to strengthen the immune system and fight off bad bacteria, and may help reduce the frequency in which women experience UTIs. Probiotics may also protect women from vaginal yeast infections.†
Benefits of Probiotics for Men
Just as probiotics have benefits specific to women’s health, they also appear to have benefits specific to men’s health. Research has identified a link between gut bacteria and prostate health. While more research is needed, early studies suggest that probiotics may help men keep their prostate healthy, which is increasingly important as men age. Another thing that men struggle with as they age is decreasing levels of the hormone testosterone. Research suggests that probiotics may boost testosterone in men, as well as boost sperm production and sperm count.†
Can Probiotics Make Candida Worse?
Some people argue whether probiotics can make Candida worse. Probiotics are the main factor responsible for keeping Candida from growing out of control. In general, the answer is no, they do not make Candida worse. However, there are some who are concerned about fermented foods and whether the fermentation can contribute to yeast overgrowth. While this is unlikely, it may be a good idea to focus on getting probiotics from supplements until your Candida infection clears just to be safe.
There is also an argument whether yogurt is helpful or not for Candida. When it comes to probiotics vs yogurt, probiotic supplements are more effective. Especially since the dairy could cause issues for some people. Like fermented foods, it is recommended to wait until your infection has cleared to eat yogurt, except for in small amounts in moderation if you have no issue with dairy.
Is it Ok to Take Prbiotics Every Day?
Yes, as long as it is a good quality probiotic supplement.
What to Look For In Probiotic Supplements
When looking for a good probiotic supplement, look for a multi-strain probiotic that can help to colonize the gut with multiple strains of good bacteria. Additionally, time release probiotics, or a probiotic supplement with a time release capsule is recommended as it will ensure it reaches the lower gut instead of being destroyed by stomach acid. This is why capsules in general are better than powder probiotic supplements.
How to Include Probiotics in Your Diet
Adding probiotics to your diet can have many benefits, and it is easy to do. You can get probiotics from a variety of foods or supplements. Foods that contain probiotics include fermented foods such as:
- Soy sauce (only traditional soy sauce like Nama Shoyu)
You can also take probiotics as supplements. When choosing a probiotic supplement, be sure to go for a multi-strain probiotic as this will help to colonize your gut with a diverse balance of different beneficial bacteria. A multi strain probiotic is also the best probiotic for Candida.
If you want to experience the health benefits mentioned above, it’s important to make sure that you consume adequate amounts. Most of the studies showing benefits used dosages of 1 billion to 100 billion live organisms or colony-forming units (CFU) per day.