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Published on May 31, 2018

15 Benefits of Probiotics (And How to Find One That Actually Suits You)

15 Benefits of Probiotics (And How to Find One That Actually Suits You)

We all know probiotics from yogurt commercials and packaging. We’ve heard it’s good for digestion. We might have complained to a friend about bloating and gotten her wide-eyed recommendation, “Oh, you should try taking probiotics!” Beyond that, what do probiotics really do for us? How much should we get? Is yogurt the only way to get them?

Let’s talk about what probiotics actually are, what benefits they might give us, and how to choose the right one for you and your family.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are bacteria that live in your digestive tract that are good for your health.

Your digestive tract is home to a large population of various types of bacteria and yeasts, each with their own function. The community of various microbiota is sometimes called your gut flora. This community works well together when all of the strains of bacteria and yeasts are in balance.

If the population of good bacteria gets too low, the bad forms of bacteria and yeasts in your digestive tract can multiply unchecked, just like weeds taking over a yard.

There’s also something called prebiotics, which are types of non-digestible fibers and resistant starches that feed the good bacteria. Prebiotics are food for the probiotics and help them flourish. It happens that most prebiotic foods are ones that are super healthy for you in general – like garlic, asparagus, wheat bran and bananas – so they’re a win-win.

15 benefits of probiotics that you didn’t know

1. Balance digestive flora

The main benefit of probiotics is in keeping the population of good bacterias in balance so that the bad bacterias and yeasts don’t take over.

Your levels of good flora can be decreased because of antibiotics, stress, antibacterial soaps or hand washes, chlorinated drinking water, foods treated with pesticides and herbicides, colonoscopies or colonics (colon hydrotherapy), or having surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.

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Those are times when it’s important to take a probiotic supplement to repopulate your digestive tract with the good bacteria that keep you healthy.

2. Help relieve infectious diarrhea

If you find yourself with a sudden onset of diarrhea (any time it’s brought on by a virus, bacteria or parasite), get yourself some probiotics. They’ve been shown to reduce the severity and duration of infectious diarrhea. For anyone who has experienced it, every minute you could reduce this experience by is worth its weight in gold.[1]

3. Prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea

After a course of antibiotics, a common reaction is diarrhea. Studies show that taking probiotics directly after can reduce the chances. This makes sense as the probiotics will help repopulate your digestive tract with the good bacteria that promote healthy digestion before the bad bacteria have a chance to flourish.[2]

4. Alleviate symptoms of ulcerative colitis

Since the benefits of probiotics are primarily in digestive health, there’s been research on how they can impact various types of inflammatory bowel disease. So far, they’ve seen a positive effect on symptoms of ulcerative colitis.[3]

5. Ease bloating and gas in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

There’s also been some research into the benefits of probiotics on irritable bowel syndrome. Again, some of the symptoms (bloating and gas in particular) seem to ease when taking probiotics. This seems promising and hopefully there will be more studies to find out which have the most effects to provide relief.[4]

6. Prevent urinary tract infections

A study on urinary tract infections found that women taking a supplement of Lactobacillus crispatus daily for 5 days, then weekly for 10 weeks, had a lower rate of getting a recurrent UTI in that time.[5]

7. Produce vitamins

The bacteria in your gut have a role in creating certain vitamins like vitamin K and some of the B vitamins.[6]

8. Reduce inflammation

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Inflammation is the root cause of lots of different diseases, allergic reactions and immune response as well as linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

As probiotics are studied for their health benefits, researchers are also looking for the way in which they help us. One of those seems to be in reducing inflammation, by reducing the cause or reaction that triggers inflammation in several ways.[7]

9. Help with lactose tolerance

Lactose intolerance is very common because so many of us stop producing the enzyme lactase that we would need to break down the lactose in milk and dairy products. The probiotics in fermented diary products like yogurt break down lactose before it reaches our colon – and the bacteria used to make yogurt help us digest lactose better.[8]

Probiotics might also reduce the allergic reaction to dairy in adults but studies haven’t shown for sure yet.

10. Enhance the immune function

Getting the right community of microbes in our gut is an important part of early development for infants. It also affects the proper development of their immune system.[9]

For adults, probiotics can boost the function of your immune system by promoting the production of natural antibodies and stimulating activity of certain immune cells like dendritic cells and T-cells.[10]

11. Help regulate the blood pressure

Probiotics are being studied for their effect on heart health and might have some impact in lowering blood pressure. So far they’ve only found a slight effect though.[11]

12. Lower the blood cholesterol

Probiotics seem to have some beneficial effects on blood cholesterol as well, specifically lowering total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol.[12]

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13. Promote skin health (get rid of acne, rosacea and eczema)

There’s been some research showing the benefits of probiotics for acne, rosacea and eczema. Study also shows that probiotic supplements (of Lactobacillus GG) by mothers prenatally, and then by infants for 6 months after birth, can reduce the child’s chances of developing eczema.[13]

14. Reduce anxiety and depression

The benefits of probiotics may extend to anxiety and depression by reducing those symptoms of stress.[14] Any mental health issues should of course be treated primarily by a qualified professional, but probiotics may add a risk-free addition to a whole life approach to stress management.

15. Prevent allergy development

Probiotics could be helpful in preventing the development of allergies in children, especially if the mother takes probiotics during pregnancy.[15]

Note:

The research into the benefits of probiotics is fairly new, so there isn’t a lot of conclusive evidence yet. But what has been done is promising so far. Many of the results seem to depend on which strain of probiotic is helpful for specific health issues, so there’s a lot of potential to find new results.

Hopefully the more they find, the more research will be done in future to help us understand all the ways in which probiotics keep us healthy.

How to find the probiotics that are suitable for you

Most people think of yogurt when they think of getting probiotics, and there are some excellent non-dairy yogurts that are made with properly cultured probiotics. You could also try kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and other naturally-fermented foods.

One thing to watch out for is that many yogurts (especially the dairy ones) that are sold commercially need to be pasteurized, which involves heat that will often kill the probiotic bacteria. Look on the package to see whether the yogurt has been pasteurized or not.

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There are also probiotic supplements that are wonderful for getting a more concentrated source of probiotics. You’ll want to take a dose of 1 billion or more per day, and the exact strains aren’t as important as having a variety of strains. There are even gummy versions for kids, or anyone who doesn’t like taking capsules.

Although probiotics are most often associated with dairy products, there are plenty of vegan probiotic supplements and non-dairy products. Probiotics are bacteria which feed and grow on sugars, and there’s no need for any animal products in their life cycle.

Most people don’t need to take probiotic supplements every day indefinitely, think of them as a boost every so often. If you notice that your digestion is off or if you had to take a course of antibiotics, take them for a few weeks until your digestion is normal, and then take a break.

Although most supplements are best taken with food for proper absorption, probiotic supplements are best taken on an empty stomach so that the probiotics can get in your digestive system quickly. The best time is first thing in the morning, before having breakfast.

Probiotics recommendations

Some high quality and effective probiotic supplements to try:

The bottom line

Probiotics have a lot of potential benefits, from improving digestion to heart health to immune function. While some of the benefits listed here may not be fully researched yet, what we do know is that probiotics are generally safe and have no side effects for most people. If they can’t hurt, why not give them a try?

Probiotics should always be thought of as a complementary supplement to your regular health care, and of course never go against professional medical advice. Before taking any supplement, you should always consult with your medical doctor.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

Reference

[1]NCBI: Probiotics for treating acute infectious diarrhoea.
[2]NCBI: Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
[3]NCBI: The role of probiotic lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and other related diseases: a systematic review of randomized human clinical trials.
[4]NCBI: The efficacy of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review.
[5]NCBI: Randomized, placebo-controlled phase 2 trial of a Lactobacillus crispatus probiotic given intravaginally for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infection.
[6]NCBI: Randomized, placebo-controlled phase 2 trial of a Lactobacillus crispatus probiotic given intravaginally for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infection.
[7]NCBI: Gut Microbiota-Derived Short-Chain Fatty Acids, T Cells, and Inflammation
[8]NCBI: Probiotic bacteria down-regulate the milk-induced inflammatory response in milk-hypersensitive subjects but have an immunostimulatory effect in healthy subjects.
[9]NCBI: Importance of microbial colonization of the gut in early life to the development of immunity.
[10]NCBI: Gut Microbiota-Derived Short-Chain Fatty Acids, T Cells, and Inflammation
[11]NCBI: Effect of probiotics on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials.
[12]NCBI: Cholesterol-lowering probiotics as potential biotherapeutics for metabolic diseases.
[13]Science Direct: Probiotics and prebiotics in dermatology
[14]NCBI: The effects of probiotics on mental health and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in petrochemical workers.
[15]NCBI: Probiotics for Prevention of Atopy and Food Hypersensitivity in Early Childhood: A PRISMA-Compliant Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.

More by this author

Heather Nicholds

A vegan, a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and a food lover.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2018

35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

Every mature relationship has had a less-than-memorable anniversary. Maybe one of you forgot, or both of you got busy with work, kids, family issues, or something else. Whatever happened, the day came and went without fanfare. And neither of you seemed to notice or much care.

But for the health of any relationship, it’s important to make important days feel special. Anniversaries offer the wonderful opportunity to relive beautiful memories, practice gratefulness for your partner, and to show your love and strengthen your bond. Make this year’s anniversary with your significant other something special  — one that will bring you closer together.

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The best way to create a memorable anniversary is to do something new and different together as a couple. Stretch yourselves a bit.

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While boredom can silently kill a relationship, new experiences reinforce the shared bond you already have and create strong new memories. Just think back to the most significant memories you have right now with your spouse and imagine what new ones you can create!

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While you enjoy your chosen anniversary activity, be sure to keep a positive attitude and make your partner happy too on that day. Leave all arguments and day to day detail behind. Just celebrate your relationship. Whether you’re going to spend the day together at home, getting away, or having a wild and crazy new experience together, you can have your best anniversary yet!

If You’re Staying In

  1. Spend an evening with no technology, just the two of you and maybe a board game. It’s hard to keep ourselves away from our computers and smartphones long enough to have a meaningful conversation. Make a rule not to use your tech and you’ll rekindle your relationship!
  2. Make wine or beer together. If you enjoy drinking together, this is a fun activity to try together. Just remember to buy the necessary equipment ahead of time.
  3. Learn something new about each other. With an open mind, try asking some of the New York Times’ 36 questions that lead to love. They’ll help spark intimacy and will lead to some really honest moments.
  4. Have a lazy day. Breakfasts in bed, spend all day in bed talking and napping. Follow breakfast with champagne and dessert! If you feel like getting more active, cook together or play some games. Here’re some simple breakfast ideas for you.
    • Learn to dance at home. This is best for those active couples who work out together and also enjoy learning something new together. Just go on Youtube to find any music with dance tutorials and learn together.
    • Visit model homes or open houses and plan your dream home.
    • Have a special dessert – champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. Having an unusual treat makes a day feel extra special. If you want to make the dessert really special, try these tasty dessert recipes.
    • Create a playlist of your favorite songs as a couple. Choose songs that tell your story, and songs that you bonded over throughout your relationships. Here’re some love songs ideas for your inspirations.
      • Write your love story. Write it together or ave each of you write your own and then bring them together in an interesting, both sides of the story format.
      • Get a fondue pot. Fondue is a fun way to enjoy melted cheeses (for savory items) and melted chocolate (for sweeter treats).
      • Decorate! Turn your home into a dressed-up french cottage, a sophisticated restaurant, or simply with flowers. The different ambience will immediately change the feel of your home and make it feel like a staycation.
        • Talk about the future together. It might sound simple and everyday, but imagining how you want to spend your retirement together, or planning future trips can be exciting and romantic.

        If You Want to Get Away

        1. Take a day trip together to your favorite spot. If you live in a city, it can be incredibly refreshing to get away for an afternoon and drink in the outdoors.
        2. Go on a scenic drive and stop at a wine and cheese bar. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have lots of options where you live, try a brewpub. There are tons of small craft breweries with fantastic food options too.
        3. Go camping. Relatively affordable and, if the weather’s right, beautiful and romantic.
          • Take an overnight backpacking trip. For the more adventurous couples, backpacking is an even more intense way to challenge yourself physically while becoming one with nature.
          • Take a wine tasting tour. If you live on the West Coast or in the Northeast, take a drive to the nearest winery. Many offer relatively inexpensive tastings and deals if you purchase a certain amount.
          • Take a scenic train trip. Taking the train means less stress traveling: nobody has to drive, you don’t have to stop for breaks every few hours, and you can sleep if you need to!
          • Save up for a destination vacation. What better time than your anniversary to enjoy the beach at a beautiful resort?
          • Explore a new city. Whether you’re on a budget or have a lot saved up, you can have a great time just exploring an unfamiliar town.
          • Rent a cabin for a weekend away, in the woods or next to a lake or ocean. If you like the outdoors but can only take so much nature, try glamping.
            • Go on a retreat. Yoga retreats, meditation retreats, beautiful natural surroundings … they’re all the rage. Search for centeredness and calm with your partner.
            • Spend a day at a food festival. Many cities have fun and affordable food festivals, occasionally based on a theme. Check out your town’s (or a nearby city) calendar for inspiration!

            New & Exciting Experiences

            1. Go spelunking. Dark, damp, and utterly exciting!
            2. Go on a hot air balloon ride. Because the basket is relatively small, this can be a romantic and deeply personal – and yet thrilling –
              experience.
              • Try sky diving. If you and you S.O. are real thrill-seekers, sky diving can really push you to the edge!
              • Explore the underwater world by snorkeling or scuba diving. This may take you far away from where you normally live and work, which is an added bonus.
              • Experience white water rafting.
              • Drive or hike to the highest spot nearby for a new view of the world. America has tons of beautiful mountains where challenging hikes (or drives) can deliver breathtaking views.
              • Take a craft or cooking class. Up your craft skills or food  making skills, and enjoy something new!
                • Take a wine and painting class today. These classes are easily found these days and even a beginning painter can create a nice painting. Challenging but relaxing, fun, and you get to go home with some artwork!
                • Learn to salsa dance. Dancing is a fantastic way to actively get closer and coordinate physically with one another.
                  • Visit a nearby festival you’ve always wanted to go to. Have fun and let go with fellow audience-members!
                  • Spend the day at an amusement park together. Laugh and carry on like teenagers.
                  • Meet new people! At a restaurant, concert, or class, make it a point to meet new friends. Striking up conversation with someone you don’t know – but with whom you have shared interests – can be an adventurous and rewarding experience.

                  Whether your budget is big or small, and whether you have a little or a ton of time together, focus on each other. There are tons of options, in terms of location, level of physical activity, and cost. You can make the day special in a way that’s right for you!

                  Featured photo credit: Photo by Taylor L. Spurgeon on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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