Here’s 7 Reasons Why You Should Take Probiotics
Probiotics are the ‘good’ live bacteria that can help keep your gut stay healthy. These probiotics can be consumed via fermented foods, yoghurt or via supplementation. Most probiotic supplements come from either Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium. Probiotics promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is essential to digestive health and even immune health, but that’s not all. Here is an overview of the 7 health benefits of probiotics and how to take them!
7 Health Benefits of Probiotics
Help Boost Your Immune Function
Probiotics encourage the growth of ‘good’ bacteria; this helps keep the ‘bad’ – harmful gut bacteria from over taking your gut. The ‘good’ bacteria help encourage the production of immune cells and natural anti-bodies that can bolster your immune function. In fact, 70% of the immune system is located in the gut.
Studies have showed that probiotics can regulate the functions of systemic, mucosal immune cells and epithelial cells and this could be therapeutic for immune response related diseases. This regulation is most likely gene-specific and dependent on the probiotic and targeted cells1.
In studies in athletes, that may have compromised immune status due to high training loads, probiotics supplementation during intense training helped reduce the incidence of infection, particularly from URTI (upper respiratory tract infection). Additionally, positive changes in circulating immune markers were evident2.
Help Change Body Composition and Increase Fat Loss
Probiotics may also assist in modulating body composition. Supplementation, both with and without weight training, can decrease levels of body weight and fat mass in overweight individuals and athletes. A review on the effects of probiotic supplementation on body weight, body mass index, fat mass and fat percentage. The review showed that supplementation of probiotics resulted in a significantly larger reduction in body weight, BMI and fat percentage compared to placebo3.
The method by which probiotics exert this action could be due to different mechanisms, but also the type of bacteria. Probiotics may work on different hormones and neurotransmitters related to appetite, or calorie burning, while other probiotics may work by increasing excretion of fat by the gut.
In one study, dieting women who took Lactobacillus rhamnosus for 3 months lost 50% more weight than women who didn’t take a probiotic4. Another 12-week, study of 210 people showed that those taking low doses of Lactobacillus gasseri had an 8.5% decrease in abdominal fat5.
Improve Athletic Performance
Research indicates that probiotic supplementation can promote improvements in exercise performance through various pathways. Supplementation with multiple strains of probiotics has been reported to increase VO2 max, aerobic power, training load and time to exhaustion. Although the exact mechanism is not known, it’s suggested that probiotics may enable better performance by reducing the risk of infections and supporting the immune response during and after exercise.
Another mechanism could be through tryptophan regulation. Higher tryptophan levels may enhance tryptophan transport into the brain, supporting serotonin metabolism and thus improving mood and reducing sensation of fatigue.
As for weight training, probiotic supplementation when added to a protein supplement expedited recovery and decreased muscle soreness. This was evident by lowering serum TNF-alpha concentrations; a factor linked to suppressed protein synthesis, disordered sleep and impaired muscle performance6.
Helps Keep Your Heart Healthy
Probiotics may help keep your heart healthy by decreasing bad cholesterol or LDL and increasing good cholesterol or HDL. It was shown that probiotics create acids as they process food in the gut that counter cholesterol production.
Probiotics break down liver bile acids, which are mostly made up of cholesterol. The result, the liver has to make more bile acids, using up more cholesterol in the process and preventing re-absorption in the gut, where it can enter the bloodstream7. Probiotics have also been shown to break down cholesterol and use it as fuel.
A meta-analysis of 32 randomized controlled trials of 1971 patients showed that supplementation with probiotics including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium significantly reduced serum total cholesterol8.
Help Improve Mood
Probiotics may also help improve mood via a few different mechanisms of the central nervous system. Probiotics can alter the CNS biochemistry such as affecting Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), Gama Butyric Acid (GABA), 5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), and Dopamine, which all influence mood and behaviour9.
Probiotics help balance the gut micro-biome, which helps influence the production of specific metabolites that improves CNS function indirectly, and thus can promote improvement in mood, promote relaxation and decrease feelings associated with stress.
In one randomized double blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted on 70 individuals. After 6-weeks of intervention, using either probiotic yoghurt or probiotic capsules, there was a significant improvement in mental health parameters10.
Help Reduce Symptoms of IBS
IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a gastrointestinal disorder that is directly affected by its gut micro-biome. Probiotics are thought to improve IBS symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain by balancing out gut bacteria.
In an analysis of 7 studies, supplementation in IBS patients significantly improved symptoms compared to placebo. Overall, the beneficial effects were more distinct in the trials using multi-strain supplements with an intervention of 8-weeks or more, suggesting that multi-strain probiotics used over a longer period of time have the potential to improve symptoms of IBS11.
Help Reduce Allergies
Probiotics may help reduce the incidence and severity of allergic reactions, although the mechanisms are not completely understood.
Recent studies suggest that probiotic supplements demonstrate the capability to successfully modulate allergies. In humans, effects have been reported for alleviation of intestinal inflammation, normalization of gut mucosal dysfunction, and down-regulation of hypersensitivity reactions, thereby preferentially targeting allergic conditions with intestinal involvement12.
The performance of strains differs; each probiotic strain is a unique organism itself with specific properties. It’s most likely that many strains of probiotics would be required to elicit a positive effect on allergies. Results seem to be determined by the diet of the individual, the age and the strain of the probiotics used.
How to Take Probiotics:
Consider upping your intake of foods that contain ‘live good bacteria’ such as cultures found in dairy products like yoghurt or Kefir in fermented foods like pickled vegetables, cabbage or sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and even soy products.
Another option – take a supplement in the form of a capsule or powder. Just be sure you’re getting what you pay for. Make sure the probiotics are heat stable and are cold stored. Be sure to read the label. You also want to be sure that the product you choose provide the dose you need – at least 1 Billion CFU (colony-forming units) per serving/day.
Until Next Time…
Be Fierce & Rule the World,
- Yan F, Polk DB. Probiotics and Immune Health. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 27(6): 496-501.
- ISSN Position Stand: Probiotics. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2019. 16: 62.
- Borgeraas H, et al. Effects of probiotics on body weight, body mass index, fat mass and fat percentage in subjects with overweight or obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Etiol Patho.
- Sanchez M, et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. Br J Nutr. 111(8): 1507-19.
- Kadooka Y, et al. Effect of lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 in fermented milk on abdominal adiposity in adults in a randomized controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 110(9): 1696-703.
- Lang CH, et al. TNF-alpha impairs heart and skeletal muscle protein synthesis by altering translation initiation. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2002. 282:E336–E347.
- Saini R, et al. Potential of probiotics in controlling cardiovascular diseases. J Cardiovasc Dis Res. 2010. 1(4): 213-4.
- Lang Wang MN, et al. The effects of probiotics on total cholesterol. 2018. 97(5): e9679.
- Wang H, et al. Effect of probiotics on central nervous system functions in animals and humans: a systematic review. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 22(4):589-605.
- Mohammadi AA, et al. The effects of probiotics on mental health and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in petrochemical workers. Nutr Neurosci. 2016. 19(9): 387-95.
- Fjeldheim Dale H, et al. Probiotics in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: An up-to-date systematic review. Nutrients. 11(9): 2048.
- Isolauri E, Salminen S. Probiotics: use in allergic disorders: a Nutrition, Allergy, Mucosal Immunology and Intestinal Microbiota (NAMI) Research Group Report. J Clin Gastroenterol. 42(Suppl 2): S91-6.