The benefits of probiotics are vast. They help improve your gut health, they can be used in the treatment or prevention of allergies and ulcers and they also play a role in the production of specific vitamins like Vitamin K2. Probiotics can even be used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But what exactly are probiotics, and what do they really do for you?
What Exactly Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be consumed by eating fermented foods or taking supplements. Recent studies have shown that the balance or imbalance of bacteria in the digestive system is related to overall health and disease. Probiotics can help restore the natural balance of gut bacteria when taken in sufficient amounts.
What Are The Benefits of Taking Probiotics?
Probiotics Help with Food Digestion
As probiotics keep your gut balanced and help maintain the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut, they can also repopulate the microbiome after conditions have disturbed it. For example, the use of antibiotics destroys many of your good gut bacteria. This occurs when antibiotics alter the balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut. Therefore, taking a probiotic is essential for sustained health when taking antibiotics.
It is also widely known that probiotics can prevent diarrhea or reduce its severity. Probiotics can also help other forms of diarrhea that are not caused by antibiotics.
Probiotics Can Improve Your Mood and Reduce Your Stress
Neurotransmitters are the body’s messengers produced in the gut by bacteria. They help you with several functions, from sleep to bladder control. However, gut bacteria are disturbed by stress, which may affect the quantity and function of neurotransmitters.
When stress is present, probiotic supplements can help repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria. These supplements have also been proven to improve mood, sleep and cognitive function.
Probiotics Can Help with Certain Mental Health Conditions
A change in microbiota composition is associated with depression and anxiety. Bacteria in the gut may be responsible for the majority of the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone.
Study results show that healthy participants who took Lactobacillus Helveticus and Bifidobacterium Longum supplements experienced less anxiety and depression after 30 days.
Probiotics Can Reduce Gas and Bloating
Bloating and gas are common digestive problems. Bloating and gas can occur for various reasons, including an imbalance in your gut microbiome, yeast overgrowth and food intolerances. It can also indicate a more severe condition such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). In addition to rebalancing the gut microbiome, probiotic supplements can also crowd out harmful bacteria.
Studies suggest probiotics may help treat these symptoms, particularly in people with digestive disorders like IBS.
Probiotics May Aid in Weight Loss
Probiotics may aid weight loss through various mechanisms. Several probiotics prevent fat absorption in the intestines, for instance. Additionally, probiotics may help you feel full for longer, burn more calories and store less fat.
Weight loss may also be directly affected by probiotics. For example, dieting women who took Lactobacillus Rhamnosus for three months lost 50% more weight than those who didn’t take a probiotic.
In another study, taking even low doses of Lactobacillus gasseri for 12 weeks led to an 8.5% reduction in belly fat. However, not all probiotics help with weight loss. Some studies have found that some probiotics, such as Lactobacillus Acidophilus, may increase weight. Further studies are needed to clarify this connection.
Probiotics Can Boost Your Immune System and Speed Your Recovery from Illness
When you are ill, your gut bacteria are often out of balance, especially when you have a stomach virus, food poisoning or have taken antibiotics. Gut flora can be replenished with good bacteria through probiotics, strengthening the immune system.
Should I Start Taking Probiotics?
Talk to your healthcare provider if you are interested in adding probiotics to your diet. You may be advised to give them a try to see if they benefit your overall health. Remember, not all probiotics behave and act in the same way. Each has different benefits, but in general, they are not harmful. You can begin by adding probiotic-rich foods to your diet, such as yogurt, or drink a small bottle of Yakult every day.
A Parting Reminder
If you’re interested in taking probiotic supplements, speak to your healthcare provider before starting. They can guide you to the right probiotic and help you determine when to take it, how much and how often. Health matters always warrant a conversation!