You might have heard the word “probiotics” but have not tried taking any. Well, probiotics are live bacteria that confer many health benefits, but a lot of people find it hard to comprehend when they’re told to toss down a few billion bacteria a day for their health’s sake.
Yes, it does offer many health benefits and more scientific studies show that foods and supplements containing these beneficial microorganisms can help you treat and prevent many diseases.
Many digestive disease specialists are now recommending probiotic supplements to treat some disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that are hard to tackle with conventional medicine.
There are pieces of evidence to show a link between the gut microbiome and overall health, and this has raised a lot of interest in probiotics.
You can learn about the key health benefits of probiotics below:
1. Probiotics help to create a balance in your digestive system.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that offer health benefits when consumed. So when there are more bad bacteria than the good ones in the gut, it creates an imbalance, and it is often a result of medication, illness, poor diet, and more. But probiotics restore the balance of gut bacteria.
You can find probiotics in fermented foods or take them as supplements. The good part is that they appear to be safe for almost everyone but it is always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new supplement regimen.
2. Probiotics help to treat digestive disorders.
Certain strains of probiotics help to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal issues like indigestion, gas and bloating.
More so, gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are often a result of an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. Sadly, over one million Americans suffer from these types of diseases.
However, the good news is that certain types of probiotics from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains have helped improve symptoms in people with Ulcerative Colitis.
3. Probiotics support a healthy heart.
You may be able to lower your blood pressure and LDL cholesterol by taking probiotics. Studies have shown that certain lactic acid-producing bacteria break down bile in the gut, thereby reducing cholesterol.
One review of five different studies found that taking a probiotic yogurt for 2-8 weeks caused a 5% reduction in LDL cholesterol and a 4% reduction in total cholesterol levels.
Consuming probiotics can also help lower blood pressure, but for you to experience this benefit, you need to supplement for at least 8 weeks with 10 million colony-forming units (CFU) per day.
4. Probiotics help improve some mental health conditions.
Studies have shown that there is a link between gut health and mental health. A probiotic supplement can help improve some mental health disorders. It may also decrease depression levels.
One study conducted on 70 chemical workers for a period of 6 weeks found that those who took a daily probiotic capsule or consumed 100 grams of probiotic yogurt per day experienced benefits for anxiety, stress, depression, and general health.
Another study also showed that supplementing with probiotics for 8 weeks caused a reduction in levels of C-reactive protein and hormones such as insulin, compared to those who did not take the probiotic.
5. Probiotics may help you lose belly fat and weight.
Probiotics may work through different mechanisms to induce weight loss. For example, probiotics may help you feel fuller for longer, store less fat, and burn more calories. This may be due to increased levels of hormones like GLP-1.
Some probiotics may prevent the absorption of dietary fat in the gut. So, instead of fat being stored in the body, it is excreted through feces.
However, you need to note that not all probiotics support weight loss. Some strains like Lactobacillus acidophilus have been studied to even lead to weight gain.
Hence, more studies are still ongoing to justify the link between probiotics and weight.
6. Probiotics support a strong immune system.
Probiotics help to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in your gut and give your immune system a boost.
Some probiotics induce the production of natural antibodies in the body. They also boost immune cells like T-lymphocytes and IgA-producing cells.
One study shows that supplementing with probiotics can help reduce the likelihood and duration of respiratory diseases.
Taking the probiotic, Lactobacillus crispatus, is shown to cause a reduced risk of UTIs in women by 50%.
How to benefit from probiotics
Probiotics are now added to many foods and supplements. You can also take probiotics as capsules, tablets, and powders containing the bacteria in dry form.
However, live probiotic cultures are contained in fermented dairy products such as milk drinks and yogurts. Some other fermented foods that may contain some lactic acid bacteria include tempeh, kefir, miso, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, and soy products, and kimchi.
But in all, be aware that some probiotics may not offer any benefits because they can be destroyed by stomach acid even before they reach your intestine.
That’s more reason why it is important to consume adequate amounts of probiotics to experience all the health benefits they offer.
Probiotics offer many health benefits which are proven by scientific studies. You can enjoy improved health and a strong immune system. Because the world is facing so many health and environmental problems, keeping your gut health strong is a good step to take.