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9 Benefits of Probiotics: What You Need To Know

9 Benefits of Probiotics: What You Need To Know

probiotics

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are made of good live bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live in the human body; all of us, at all times, have both good and bad bacteria in our bodies, and when we, for example, get an infection, there’s more bad bacteria than good, ultimately knocking our system out of whack. Good bacteria, in turn, helps eliminate extra bad bacteria, returning the balance, and probiotic supplements are a great way to add good bacteria to your body.

We’ll get to that a little later.

Probiotics are part of a larger picture concerning bacteria and your body – a larger picture known as a microbiome. The best way to think of a microbiome is to liken it to a diverse community of organisms, much like a forest, that work together to keep your body healthy. This community is comprised of elements called microbes, and we have trillions of microbes on and in our bodies.

These microbes are a fusion of:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi (including yeasts)
  • Viruses
  • Protozoa

Bulk Supplements Fun Fact: Each human being’s microbiome is unique; no two people share the same microbial cells – even twins are different. 

Now, for a microbiome to be labeled a probiotic, it must boast some specific characteristics, including being able to:

  • Be isolated from a human
  • Survive in your intestine after ingestion (i.e. being consumed)
  • Have a proven benefit
  • Be safely eaten

What Do Probiotics Do?

We touched on this in the opening section above, but let’s recap a bit – the primary job of probiotics, or good bacteria, is to maintain a healthy balance in our bodies. Think of it as keeping your body in “neutral gear;” when we are sick, bad bacteria attacks our bodies and increase in number, knocking our bodies out of balance. Good bacteria works to fight off the bad bacteria and restore the balance within our bodies, ultimately allowing us to feel better.

Certain types of good bacteria can also:

  • Help your body digest food
  • Keep bad bacteria from getting out of control and making you ill
  • Create vitamins
  • Help support the cells that line your “gut” to prevent bad bacteria that may have been consumed (via food or beverages) from entering your bloodstream
  • Break down and absorb medications

While this balancing act occurs naturally in the body all the time, probiotic supplements can be taken to make the magic happen (x). 

Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics have been linked to a wide variety of health benefits, including for weight loss, digestive health, immune function and more (x) (xx). 

The following, based on our research, are the key health benefits associated with probiotics:

  • They Help Balance the Friendly Bacteria in Your Digestive System – Probiotics are live microorganisms, and when taken in sufficient amounts, they can help restore the natural balance of gut bacteria.
  • They Can Help Prevent and Treat Diarrhea – Several studies suggest probiotic use is associated with a reduced risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (x). 
  • They May Improve Some Mental Health Conditions – An increasing number of studies link gut health to mood and mental health (x). Both animal and human studies have found that probiotic supplements can improve some mental health disorders (x). 

Additional benefits include:

  • Certain probiotic strains can help keep your heart healthy
  • Probiotics may reduce the severity of certain allergies and eczema
  • Probiotics can help reduce symptoms of certain digestive disorders
  • Probiotics may help boost your immune system
  • Probiotics may help you lose weight and belly fat

Probiotics Side Effects

While there are, as we just covered, numerous health benefits linked to taking probiotics, there can also be side effects; most of these are minor and only affect a small percentage of the population. Still, some people with serious illnesses or compromised immune systems may experience more severe complications.

Probiotics may:

  • Cause unpleasant digestive symptoms
  • Trigger headaches if amines in probiotic foods are present
  • Increase histamine levels (some strains)
  • Cause adverse reactions due to some ingredients
  • Increase risk of infection for some

Prebiotics vs Probiotics

We’re discussing probiotics in this article, but what makes them different from prebiotics? We pose this question because these are typically confused; in general, prebiotics are specialized fibers that help nourish the bacteria that live within the digestive tract, and represent the preferred food source for good probiotic bacteria, helping promote their growth throughout the digestive tract. (Biomed J. 2014 Sep-Oct;37(5):259-68)

As prebiotics act as a food source for good bacteria, many of the benefits are complementary to the benefits that probiotics can provide. 

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Probiotics for Weight Loss

Several studies have suggested that probiotics can help with weight loss and belly fat, and it is thought that certain probiotics may inhibit the absorption of dietary fat, increasing the amount of fat excreted via fecal matter (x). 

Simply put, they allow you to “harvest” fewer calories from the foods in your diet.

Probiotics may also fight obesity in other ways, such as:

  • The release of GLP-1, an appetite-reducing hormone (x).
  • The increase of ANGPTL4 protein (x). 

When to Take Probiotics

It’s a question we hear quite often: Is there a perfect time to reap the optimal benefits of probiotics for gut health? And indeed, when you take your probiotics matters a great deal when it comes to reaping these benefits; probiotics have to survive gut acids in order to establish themselves in the GI tract, so if the capsule or encasement doesn’t offer proper protection from stomach acids, it may not be effective (x). 

Research shows that the best time to take probiotics is just before a meal or as you begin a meal, because this is the time when your stomach environment is at its least acidic (the body has not yet begun to produce stomach acid in large quantities to digest food). Taking your probiotics at this time will make their passage to your gut a little easier, and ensure you get the most from those beneficial bacteria (x). 

Top Three Foods with Probiotics

  • Yogurt –This is one of the most familiar sources of probiotics that keeps a healthy balance in your gut; studies suggest that probiotics can help ease lactose intolerance and also may help tame gas, diarrhea and other stomach abnormalities. 
  • Sauerkraut – This and the similar but spicy Korean dish Kimchi are also loaded with immune-boosting vitamins that can help ward off infection.
  • Miso Soup – A popular breakfast food in Japan, this fermented soybean paste can get your system moving.

Bottom Line

Probiotics are made of good live bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live in the human body; all of us, at all times, have both good and bad bacteria in our bodies, and when we, for example, get an infection, there’s more bad bacteria than good, ultimately knocking our system out of whack. Good bacteria, in turn, helps eliminate extra bad bacteria, returning the balance, and probiotic supplements are a great way to add good bacteria to your body.


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and these products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 
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