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Last Updated on May 14, 2021

6 Health Benefits Of Probiotics (Backed By Science)

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6 Health Benefits Of Probiotics (Backed By Science)

Probiotics are often touted as an important component of our daily health regime—and for good reason. There are hundreds of probiotic brands on the market, and many more websites and blogs dedicated to the benefits of probiotics on the internet. But how much do you really know about probiotics and their benefits?

Scientific studies have provided evidence for many of the benefits of probiotics that you have probably already read about. The important thing to know is which benefits are real and which are not! It’s also important to understand that there are many different strains of probiotics, and each strain performs different roles within the body.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live within your intestines. They play a huge variety of important roles in many bodily processes. They help with digesting food, absorbing nutrients, reducing inflammation, producing hormones, and much more.[1] They’re also important for energy production, immune function, healthy detoxification, and proper digestion.

You can get your probiotic bacteria from supplements or food. Popular probiotic foods include sauerkraut, probiotic yogurt, and kefir, but there are many more.[2]

Let’s look at the six most popular health benefits of probiotics and the evidence for each.

1. Give You Energy

Yes! The billions of microbes residing in your gut play a vital role in breaking down the food you eat and absorbing the nutrients within.

Probiotics break down the food you eat into energy-boosting B vitamins. These B vitamins play important roles in releasing energy from carbohydrates and fat, as well as breaking down amino acids and transporting oxygen and energy-containing nutrients around the body.[3]

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Each B vitamin plays an important role in producing energy.

  • Vitamin B1 is involved with the cellular production of energy as part of glucose metabolism. It also helps convert carbohydrates to fat, which can be stored until needed.
  • Vitamin B2 is a building block for two coenzymes that help carry hydrogen, which is used to create ATP when carbohydrates and fats are metabolized.
  • Vitamin B3 is involved with two coenzymes that play a key role in glycolysis in which energy is created from carbohydrates and sugar.
  • Vitamin B5 is also part of the cellular metabolism of carbohydrates and fats to create energy.
  • Vitamin B6 aids the release of glycogen from the liver and muscles so your body can use it for energy.

The strains Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium assist with the absorption of minerals such as iron, copper, magnesium, and manganese, which are crucial for energy production.

Research has also shown that some Lactobacillus strains help to produce vitamin K, which is important for producing prothrombin, a protein that plays a crucial role in blood clotting, bone metabolism, and heart health. Vitamin K also assists with energy production within the mitochondria.[4]

2. Help With Constipation

Yes! Although the exact mechanisms of probiotics are not fully understood, there are several ways in which probiotics are thought to help prevent and alleviate constipation.

First of all, it’s important to know that intestinal bacteria not only affect the motility of the gut but are also involved in the function of the enteric nervous system (ENS). A slow bowel transit time often occurs due to poor gut motility, particularly in the large intestine, which is also linked to abnormalities of the enteric nerves.

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) can also help with constipation. Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli assist in the production of SCFAs by fermenting carbohydrates in the gut.[5] These SCFAs can improve the motility of the digestive tract by stimulating neural receptors in the gut wall smooth muscle, stimulating peristalsis. Probiotics have also been suggested to increase levels of serotonin, an excitatory neurotransmitter that also improves peristalsis.

Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli also help to increase the breakdown of bile salts in the gut, which are important for fat digestion, peristalsis, and intestinal motility.

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Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that Bifidobacteria were especially effective in increasing the number of weekly bowel movements and helping to soften stools, which makes them easier to pass.[6] Other research suggests that using a supplement containing multiple strains of probiotics is also effective in treating constipation.[7]

3. Help You Lose Weight

Although there is no such thing as a “magic pill” that makes you lose weight, it’s now well-established that gut health plays a major role in healthy weight management.

Scientists now know that the composition of your gut microbiota can influence the way your body breaks down carbohydrates in your food, as well as how it uses and stores energy. Moreover, slim people tend to have different species of bacteria in their gut compared to people who are overweight or obese.

Research has also shown that when obese people lose weight, the diversity of their gut microbiome changes and becomes more like that of slim people.[8] These findings have led scientists to believe that gut bacteria not only affect the way you store fat but also the balance of glucose in your blood and how you respond to hormones that make you feel hungry or satisfied. An imbalance of these microbes can help set the stage for obesity and diabetes throughout life.

Two specific strains have been linked to lower body weight: Akkermansia muciniphila and Christensenella minuta. These strains are often present in slimmer people.

It’s believed that these microbes also produce acetate, a short-chain fatty acid that helps regulate body fat stores and appetite. Studies in mice have shown that higher levels of the Akkermansia muciniphila species are associated with lower body weight and that it may also reverse fat mass gain, improve insulin resistance, and reduce adipose tissue inflammation.[9]

4. Help With Gas

Yes! In fact, the composition of your gut flora is crucial to the production of intestinal gas.

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An imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut can lead to a range of unpleasant symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, gas, and bloating. That can seriously impact the way that you live your life.[10] Some beneficial bacterial strains such as Enterobacteriaceae and Clostridia are known for their gas-producing properties. Fortunately, probiotics can help.

The microbiota in your colon is required to ferment food that you cannot fully digest and isn’t absorbed by the gut. This is why the amount of fiber you eat and the composition of your gut microbiota have a lot to do with how much gas you produce each day, as well as how often you go to the bathroom.

Specific strains of probiotics such as Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus have been shown to reduce the gas produced in the intestines.[11] It’s also been found that taking a multi-strain probiotic supplement can help to keep excessive gas at bay.

5. Help With Bloating

Yes! Bloating occurs when gas builds up in your gut, creating a feeling of fullness. This can be quite uncomfortable, painful, and also somewhat embarrassing.

Often, bloating symptoms can be linked to a specific food you have eaten—particularly onions, dried fruit, or gluten. However, some people may find they bloat up after every meal, which suggests all is not well in their gut.[12]

Probiotics can help to restore the balance of bacteria in the gut by supplying the “friendly” bacteria that counteract the bad. These bacteria modify the composition of gut flora, which may help to reduce the production of intestinal gas.

One particular strain associated with reducing gas and bloating is LGG, which proved to be more effective than placebo in reducing the severity of IBS symptoms. Another study showed that patients treated with L. Plantarum experienced significant reductions in their flatulence compared with a placebo group.[13]

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Remember that your diet is probably a cause of your bloating too. For example, it might be worth reducing the carbs in your diet in addition to taking probiotics.[14]

6. Help With Yeast Infections

Yes! Probiotics help to restore the balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut, which often leads to the development of a yeast infection. These infections occur when yeasts, such as Candida albicans, grow out of control and spread throughout the intestines. However, probiotics may help to “crowd out” these harmful strains and restore the natural balance of your gut flora.

Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast—but a beneficial one. In fact, it has the power to fight Candida by inhibiting its ability to establish itself in the gut. It’s also been shown that S. boulardii may help to reduce the likelihood of Candida yeasts ending up in the digestive tract. This may be because S. boulardii produces caprylic acid, an antifungal substance with powerful anti-Candida properties.[15]

Don’t discount the possibility that your diet may be leading to those yeast infections. A low-sugar diet like the Candida diet can help to suppress intestinal yeast overgrowth and reduce the number of yeast infections that you experience.[16]

Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the most-researched strains and has also been shown to promote the production of antibodies that fight C. Albicans. Most importantly, L. acidophilus can inhibit Candida albicans from forming a biofilm, which is the protective sticky covering that protects the yeast from other treatments.

Bottom Line

The health benefits of probiotics are undeniable, and they can be found in many supplements and foods. Their significant health benefits and accessibility make them an ideal part of your regular diet.

You should try out the best probiotic supplements in the market, and choose one that you think best suits you.

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More About Probiotics

Featured photo credit: Daily Nouri via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] BalanceOne: 16 SCIENCE-BASED HEALTH BENEFITS OF PROBIOTICS
[2] The Candida Diet: 12 Probiotic Foods For Improved Gut Health
[3] Frontiers: Metabolism of Dietary and Microbial Vitamin B Family in the Regulation of Host Immunity
[4] NCBI: Vitamin K: the effect on health beyond coagulation – an overview
[5] NCBI: The Effect of Probiotics on the Production of Short-Chain Fatty Acids by Human Intestinal Microbiome
[6] NCBI: Intestinal microbiota and chronic constipation
[7] HealthLine: Should You Use Probiotics for Constipation?
[8] NCBI: The Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Obesity
[9] NCBI: Function of Akkermansia muciniphila in Obesity: Interactions With Lipid Metabolism, Immune Response and Gut Systems
[10] Millenial Magazine: Is Poor Gut Health Ruining Your Social Life?
[11] NCBI: Clinical trial: Probiotic Bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 Versus Placebo for the Symptoms of Bloating in Patients with Functional Bowel Disorders – a Double-Blind Study
[12] AskMen: How to Get Rid of Bloat in a Hurry, According to Experts
[13] Wiley Online Library: Meta‐analysis: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG for abdominal pain‐related functional gastrointestinal disorders in childhood
[14] Eat This, Not That!: The Biggest Danger Sign You’re Eating Too Many Carbs, Say Dietitians
[15] Oxford Academic: Saccharomyces boulardii and Candida albicans experimental colonization of the murine gut
[16] US News: Does the Candida Diet Work – and Is It Safe?

More by this author

Lisa Richards

Nutritionist, Creator of The Candida Diet, Owner of TheCandidaDiet.com

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Published on September 17, 2021

How to Take Probiotics for the Best Health Benefits

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How to Take Probiotics for the Best Health Benefits

Probiotics are a popular topic among health enthusiasts and medical professionals, alike, and rightfully so! As individuals seek to improve their health by becoming advocates for themselves, probiotics are often a good choice to become part of their new health-focused regimen.

However, there are some ways that will allow you to maximize the health benefits that you can get from probiotics. Read on to learn more about how to take probiotics for the best health benefits.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics

are living bacteria that provide countless health benefits when ingested. These bacteria are naturally occurring in the gut but can—and should—be replenished through external means. The gut contains beneficial bacteria that make up the microbiota and plays a key role in maintaining health in both the body and mind. A healthy gut keeps the digestive process working smoothly, which prevents free radical and toxin build up in the body known to lead to many acute and chronic illnesses[1]

It is also thought that probiotics secrete substances that trigger the immune system to react more strongly, thereby preventing pathogens from being able to take root and cause illness.[2]

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Can You Take Too Many Probiotics?

Taking too many probiotics is not a common issue. For those who have taken too many probiotics (and each person will need to find their own tolerance level), they will likely experience gut disruptions and gastrointestinal side effects.

Probiotics are generally safe regardless of the amount taken, and any side effects are generally mild. It is impossible to take a toxic level of probiotics. The most common side effects of taking more probiotics than you can tolerate are gas, bloating, and diarrhea. These side effects can be treated individually and are generally corrected after 24 to 48 hours and stopping the probiotics until they are resolved.

It can be tempting to discontinue probiotic use altogether after a negative experience out of fear of another bad reaction, but simply reducing your dose and taking your probiotic as directed should prevent further issues. It is important for those with a weakened immune system or serious illness to discuss probiotic use with their healthcare provider before starting a probiotic regimen.

Can You Take Prebiotics and Probiotics Together?

As probiotics grow in use, prebiotics is beginning to get attention as well. Prebiotics come in supplement form but can also be fiber-rich foods that feed good gut bacteria. Probiotics replenish the good bacteria in the gut while prebiotics maintains the gut microbiome by feeding the good bacteria we have in the gut. Because of this relationship between prebiotics and probiotics, it is perfectly acceptable to take them together. However, if your diet already contains healthy, fiber-rich foods then you will likely not require prebiotic supplements.

Prebiotics contain fibers and natural sugars that encourage the growth of essential gut bacteria. They are easy to digest and keep the gut in balance. Prebiotic foods contain fiber and can include bananas, garlic, and dark leafy greens. Probiotic foods contain live cultures and include miso, some yogurts, kimchi, and sauerkraut.[3]

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You can learn more in my other article: Prebiotic vs Probiotic: What’s the Difference and Why Are They Important?

Can You Take Probiotics While Pregnant?

When carrying a child, a mother wants to create the safest environment possible. This is a time where the mother-to-be will begin integrating new and recommended health practices like exercise, supplements, and new diet habits. One question that is asked by pregnant women is whether or not probiotics are safe to take while pregnant. The benefits of probiotics are well documented, and many pregnant women want to know if probiotics will benefit them as well.

Pregnancy may be a good time to integrate a probiotic into your regimen simply due to the increased potential for an imbalance in gut bacteria that pregnancy naturally produces. Stress, medications, diarrhea, and vomiting as well as certain diet choices can cause bad bacteria to overrun the gut and lead to a dampened immune response, inflammation, fatigue, and more.

The simple answer is yes, probiotics are generally safe to take while pregnant. However, it is always recommended to discuss any introduction or discontinuation of supplements with your healthcare provider.

Many studies have shown that not only are probiotics safe to take while pregnant but also that they can add great benefits for mother and baby. A 2019 study by Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology found that the pregnant women’s gut microbiota improved through probiotic supplementation and that her immune system was enhanced.[4]

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During pregnancy, the pregnant mom’s immune system will go into a dampened state as the body works to protect and grow the fetus. This places her at greater risk for common illnesses she may have been able to fight off naturally before. Therefore, integrating a probiotic into her supplement regimen may help keep her and her baby safe from unwanted and avoidable illness.

One important factor to consider when taking a probiotic during pregnancy is the quality of the product you are purchasing. Not all probiotics are created equal. To maximize benefits while also avoiding unnecessary ingredients, it is crucial to choose a high quality and reputable probiotic.

When Is the Best Time to Take Probiotics?

As with many supplements and medications, there are certain times and factors that can change their efficacy, for good or bad. Research shows that the best time to take a probiotic is 30 minutes before a meal.[5] Consistency is key when it comes to taking a probiotic and experiencing as many of the potential health benefits as possible. This means that it is necessary to take it daily to ensure routine and regular replenishment of the gut’s bacteria.

The stomach is a highly acidic environment, which can make it difficult for many supplements to pass through in their most bioavailable form. The same is true for probiotics. Look for a high-quality probiotic that uses time-release tablets to deliver its bacteria safely to the gut.

The composition of your meal can also help or hinder your probiotic’s efficacy. A large meal will move more slowly through the stomach and trigger more stomach acid production. If your probiotic is taken along or prior to this type of meal, the probiotic will move more slowly and be exposed to a hostile environment for longer.

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The Bottom Line

When taking a probiotic, the most important thing to consider is product quality. Carefully read packaging and websites to ensure you are getting a product that is safe, pure, and effective. Look for a probiotic that will release its bacteria slowly and deliver them safely past your stomach acid.

Probiotics have been shown to support the immune system, prevent gastrointestinal issues, combat side effects from chronic conditions, and give extra support during pregnancy. These are just a few from a long list of scientifically backed benefits. Regardless of your motivation, just about every individual can benefit from adding a probiotic to their supplement and health regimen.

Lastly, here’s my recommendations on probiotics: 7 Best Probiotic Supplements (Recommendation and Reviews)

Featured photo credit: Christopher Campbell via unsplash.com

Reference

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