From weight loss and stronger immune system to better gut health, here’s a detailed look at the top health benefits of probiotics. Engage the bacteria!
Wondering what the big deal is with probiotics?
Or if they can help you lose weight, experience better gut health, and even make you better looking?
(Sorry, just kidding about the last one…)
In this article, we will look at some of the reasons that probiotics are your ticket to better health.
We’ll look at the research and science behind probiotics, and make the case for why you should start supplementing with live bacteria for better health.
Let’s jump right in.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are a form of bacteria—live organisms—that are ingested in order to achieve some sort of health benefit.
Probiotics are found in certain fermented foods (like yogurts) and are also available as a dietary supplement.
There are seven strains of probiotics that are primarily used for health in humans. Probiotic supplements typically include a mix of different strains.
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And finally, probiotics are measured in CFUs (colony forming units), which is an indication of the number of viable cells in a given serving.
Benefits of Probiotics
Now that we’ve gotten a general overview of what probitoics are, let’s jump to the good stuff…
The health benefits of probiotics!
1. Weight loss
Losing weight, as the old saying goes, starts in the kitchen.
But the next place to focus on is where things you make in the kitchen end up—your guts.
Probiotics are surprisingly awesome for helping with weight loss.
Not all probiotics are the same when it comes to weight loss, however.
See also: Are Probiotics Good for Weight Loss?
Another study found that a particular strain, Lactobacillus acidophilus, actually promoted weight gain, so paying attention to the label is crucial when using a probiotic to slim down4.
Looking for a probiotic specifically for weight loss? BioFit, my preferred probiotic of choice, does not include the two strains that encourage weight loss. It’s also a multi-strain probiotic that includes clinically-proven probiotic strains that encourage weight loss, from fat burning to reduced fat intake in the intestines. Read my full review of BioFit here.
2. Probiotics can prevent weight gain
What’s the second best thing next to losing weight?
Not gaining it in the first place!
A study5 found that participants who took a probiotic formula in conjunction with a high-fat and high-sugar diet gained significantly less weight compared to the control group.
While the probiotic formula didn’t regulate insulin sensitivity or fat oxidation rates, it did help to keep the participants from gaining weight and accumulating fat when eating like donkeys.
It’s thought that probiotics are able to reduce the amount of dietary fat that is absorbed, pushing it out with our feces instead of adding it to existing fat stores6.
Although we should all strive to eat a balanced diet, it’s good to know that probiotics can have a role in keeping us from putting on the pounds when we slip up with our diet.
3. Balances gut bacteria
The guts play a huge role in our daily life even though we don’t always notice.
Over the years, researchers have come to realize just how much of an impact an unbalanced gut can have on our physical and even mental health.
Unbalanced gut bacteria can lead to obvious issues like digestive issues, but can also impair the immune system and cause you to gain weight7.
Probiotics are designed to restore balance to your guts so that your digestive system can normalize and your health improve.
4. Probiotics can give your immune system a boost
The body’s immune system is always on guard, dutifully watching over you, protecting from germs, recognizing and disposing of harmful substances, and battling it out with disease-causing cells inside the body (ahem, cancer).
Probiotics are a way to thicken the body’s natural level of armor by cutting down on the amount of harmful bacteria in the gut.
Probiotics also pump up the body’s natural antibodies, with research showing that it was effective in increasing the immune response to respiratory infections and urinary tract infections8.
5. Reduce symptoms of colitis
Ulcerative colitis is a particularly brutal inflammatory bowel disease that attacks the lining of the large intestine and rectum.
There is some evidence that suggests probiotics can be an effective tool in reducing the symptoms of colitis.
One meta-study looked at the benefits of probiotics in treating colitis in both children and adults.
While there was no indication that probiotics “induced or maintained remission” of the disease, there was some evidence that probiotics could lessen disease activity in patients that had milder forms colitis9.
Studies10have shown that probiotic supplementation can help reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Other research suggested that probiotics may be helpful in reducing symptoms associated with colitis when paired with anti-inflammatory medications11.
From a purely anecdotal perspective, my mother started suffering colitis at the age of 47, and after countless colonoscopies, having her large intestine removed, and endless bathroom trips, found that taking daily probiotics helped lessen some of the ongoing symptoms of the disease.
Fun Fact: Multi-strain probiotics have been shown to have more potency and effectiveness compared to single-strain probiotics12.
6. Probiotics can reduce diarrhea
One of the ways to bond with just about any human on earth is to commiserate over the helplessness one feels when faced with a bout of diarrhea.
It can strike out of nowhere at times, leaving us sweaty, nervous, and land-locked to the toilet.
Probiotics are a way to literally slow the guts—or as researchers put it, “gut transit time.”
Probiotics are especially helpful for those who are taking antibiotics and experiencing the runs because of the medications.
A study with children in day cares found that probiotics were effective at preventing diarrhea. Studies with antibiotic-associated diarrhea in adults and children also showed probiotics as effective in reducing diarrhea13.
7. Probiotics are great for cold and flu season
To piggyback on our previous health benefit of a stronger immune system, there is some promising research that suggests probiotics can be a useful tool in getting through cold and flu season.
A study14 with just under 500 otherwise healthy adults found that supplementing with probiotics (as well as multivitamins– so there’s a caveat) sped up the recovery process when they caught the seasonal flu.
By how much?
Nearly two days!
Plus, those who were taking probiotics also experienced fewer and less severe symptoms when sick.
Researchers suggest supplementing with at least three months during flu and cold season in order to keep symptoms low and to decrease the duration of illness.
8. Probiotics can help you absorb your food
We’ve all had a meal where it felt like it went right through us. Before we even finished the plate, we are looking around for the nearest restroom.
One of the underrated health benefits of probiotics is that with a healthy gut, you can actually properly ingest the food—and ALL of its respective minerals and nutrients.
Not efficiently digesting or absorbing nutrients is a form of malnutrition15.
A majority of the ingestion of food happens in the small intestine, and a healthy microflora here will ensure that food is being properly absorbed and deployed for energy and repair.
How to Get the Most from Probiotics
The good news about probiotics is that they are abundant in foods and can also be found in a range of supplements.
In terms of food sources, yogurt and other specific dairy products can include significant amounts of probiotics. Sauerkraut, kefir (a fermented milk drink), pickles, kombucha, and other foods that are fermented are loaded with probiotics.
And of course, there are plenty of probiotic supplements on the market that can have up to 100 billion CFUs per serving.
Whichever manner you choose to get more probiotics in your diet, reap the benefits of an improved immune system, balanced gut health, and weight loss!
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