Probiotics are often discussed in the world of health and diet, but what are they exactly? Of course, a probiotic is a live microorganisms, mainly yeasts and bacteria, that provide benefits to the human body.
Typically, when you hear the word “bacteria,” you think of something negative. But not all bacteria are harmful. Probiotics are some of the best kinds of bacteria your body will get! They keep your digestive system healthy and strong, preventing unwanted toxicity and bacteria imbalance.
This reason is why many experts recommend consuming probiotics regularly. They’re great for your gut and have many more benefits besides.
Here are ten remarkable reasons why you should include probiotics in your diet.
1. Cholesterol Reduction
Cholesterol is often defined as fatty substances like lipids start clogging up your arteries and veins. This scenario can lead to all sorts of health problems, such as increased risks of cardiovascular disease. Thankfully, studies have shown that probiotics have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. To elaborate, they:
- Help reduce bad cholesterol and total cholesterol levels
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Provide a more general health boost
That said, probiotics do not provide the same kind of dramatic results you can get from specific drugs. However, probiotics might be a gentler, more general solution should you wish to avoid more harmful side effects like muscle wasting found in cholesterol-lowering medications like statins. They will also promote brain health and stroke prevention via this same mechanism.
2. Mood Improvement
Several studies show a strong correlation between good gut health and positive mental health for both animals and humans. Here’s a few examples of these studies:
- “Clinical and metabolic response to probiotic administration in patients with major depressive disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial” in Nutrition (2015). This study showed that after eight weeks of consuming probiotic supplements, patients with depression had less difficulty with positive thinking and showed lower levels of hormones like insulin and inflammation.
- “Effect of Probiotics on Central Nervous System Functions in Animals and Humans: A Systematic Review” in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility (2016). Researchers have proven that supplementing diets with probiotics for just 1-2 months can create a significant improvement in one’s struggles with memory, positive thinking, depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- “The effects of probiotics on mental health and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in petrochemical workers” in Nutritional Neuroscience (2016). A study done on 70 chemical workers showed a remarkable improvement in the participants’ mental and general health after consuming probiotics daily for six weeks.
3. Travel Diarrhea Relief
Many of us suffer from diarrhea while trying out new cuisines on our trips to foreign destinations. If you are hoping to find a way to stop that, this might be a solution for you.
According to experts, it is possible that probiotics may assist in protecting us against traveler’s diarrhea. This is because probiotics might help us:
- Maintain a healthy gut flora
- Boost or assist our immune responses
- Create ideal results in our digestive system
- Return our gut’s microflora ecosystem to a healthy state after it has been disturbed
- Prevent digestion difficulties with foreign food
- Create a stronger digestive microflora
- Reduces the risk of diarrhea
However, it should be noted that the effects are minor. Additionally, it is uncertain as to which variety of strains – or their ideal dosage – is the one that will provide the desired outcomes. While the results look promising, more research is still necessary.
Of course, it’s best to discuss with your doctor in regards to using this as a potential treatment for traveler’s diarrhea.
4. Antibiotic Diarrhea Relief
Those who take antibiotics will find that a common side effect of such medication is diarrhea. This is because antibiotics are indiscriminate – in the process of killing off harmful bacteria, such remedies will also often kill off healthy bacteria.
There is, however, a way to counteract this. Research confirms that the right kind of probiotics may:
- Reduce the risks of diarrhea caused by antibiotics.
- Help prevent digestive tract infections.
- Assist in maintaining a healthy gut flora.
For this particular task, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii were found to be the most efficient probiotic strain. So if you wish to take probiotics for this purpose, consider looking for these particular strains.
5. Reduction Of Duration Of A Cold
Colds and their symptoms can traditionally last up to well over a week before you can fully recover. Research shows, however, that probiotics may be incredibly helpful in this regard. Indeed, the paper in question shows that probiotics:
- Has a modest, positive effect on preventing cold symptoms from manifesting
- Reduces the duration of respiratory infections
- Encourages faster recovery
- Decreases the number of sick days required for a recovery
- Can boost one’s immune system
- Can help you feel better faster
This news means that if you find yourself struggling to recover from the symptoms of a cold, or just want to feel better sooner, probiotics may just be the pick-me-up you need.
6. Eczema and Allergy Relief
Despite the popular imagery of smooth, soft baby skin, common for babies and toddlers to struggle with eczema. It is easy to assume this is simply part and parcel of being an infant. There is proof, however, that this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. For example:
- A study has shown that infants bottle-fed on probiotic-supplemented milk saw an improvement in their eczema symptoms.
- For babies who are being breast-fed, a different study noted a reduced risk of eczema in infants whose mothers consumed probiotic supplements during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
- Probiotics from a mother’s breast milk can help promote a healthy gut flora, which in turn can positively influence the health of an infant’s skin.
In adults, probiotics may:
- Reduce inflammatory responses in those with milk and dairy allergies
- Reduce eczema symptoms by reducing gut inflammation
- Boost immune system functioning
- Helps better digest milk and dairy products
- Reduces the symptoms of lactose intolerance
So if you are breastfeeding and want your baby to have healthy skin, or if you find yourself needing an extra little boost in the skincare department, consider taking probiotic supplements for that purpose.
7. Bone Strength
It is natural for bones to simply get weaker over time, as bone density decreases. This is primarily due to the deterioration that happens with age as hormones change, and the body becomes more vulnerable. As a result, bones will often become more susceptible to fractures and osteoporosis once you are older.
A study has shown, however, that it’s possible for probiotics to:
- Help prevent age-associated bone loss.
- Regulate calcium and phosphorus metabolism
- Contribute to the strengthening of bones
- Reverse or combat mineral density loss
This is primarily due to the relationship the body has between the gut microbiome and bone metabolism. Probiotics encourage a healthier gut. Plus, they increase the rate of metabolism for bone minerals and subsequent bone density in the process.
However, there is not sufficient research to properly support this idea. Should you be interested in considering this line of treatment, do try discussing it with your doctor.
8. Protection Of Premature Infants
Premature infants, unfortunately, can be vulnerable to many sorts of infections. One of these infections is a severe bacterial infestation based in the intestines. This condition is partially from the lack of beneficial gut bacteria that premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) lack.
Thankfully, there is a solution to this. Indeed, breast milk is a good source of probiotics that the mother already has. Then these probiotics pass on to an infant via nursing. This is important. Research proves that probiotics can counter such life-threatening gut infections by:
- Introducing good gut bacteria to the intestines
- Help promote healthy gut flora.
- Support a healthy digestive system
- Crowd out any bacteria that aren’t beneficial to the body
- Reduce the risk of bacterial infections
As such, breastfeeding a premature baby – and by extension, introducing probiotics to their intestines – helps protect them from such deadly gut bacterial infections. At the same time, probiotics can also help them better absorb and digest milk.
9. Probiotic Treatment Aids in Vaginal Infection Treatment
It may seem strange, given that probiotics are primarily associated with one’s digestive system. Additionally, research confirms that probiotics may help treat vaginal infections when taken with antibiotics. This is because probiotics:
- May help repair the damaged microflora system of the vagina
- Helps replace the bacteria killed by the antibiotics with beneficial microbes
- Assists in keeping a healthy vaginal microflora in check
- Improves the effectiveness of an STD treatment
- May help improve cure rates of vaginal infections
It should be mentioned that trying to treat vaginal infections alone with probiotics is not a viable solution. Instead, probiotics should be taken as a supplement with the appropriate antibiotics to guarantee the best possible outcome.
10. Weight Loss Aid
Our ability to maintain a healthful weight is entirely dependent on our diet. With that in mind, it’s essential to also note that the ability to digest our diet effectively is also a pivotal point in maintaining a healthy weight – something that probiotics can help with.
For example, probiotics may:
- Assist with preventing the absorption of dietary fat
- Forcing fat to be excreted instead of storing it in the body
- Increasing the levels of certain hormones that promote longer satiation time
- Promotes more calorie burn
- Discourages the storage of fat
- Help directly with weight loss, as proven by a study.
- Reduce belly fat, as shown by a study
- Help with healthy weight gain, as shown by a different study.
- Improve the digestive capabilities of the intestines
More studies are necessary to solidify the relationship between probiotics and body weight. However, the said connection is an obvious fact that we cannot ignore. So if you find yourself struggling to reach and maintain a healthy weight, perhaps the solution to your troubles might be probiotics.
Probiotics are fantastic for the body in so many different ways, and their positive effects simply cannot be overlooked. From skin to bones and immunity to digestive, you will find no shortage of ways that these microorganisms can help you.
Finally, you will find probiotics in your local grocer. So consider purchasing everyday foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, and other fermented consumables. Probiotic supplements are also available. However, you should speak with your doctor before taking any form of supplement!