A new wave of supplements has risen to the fore in recent years. These supplements are most commonly known as probiotics or good bacteria. Probiotic supplements are easily available, can be bought without a medical prescription, are reasonably cheap, do not hurt patients and most importantly, might help combat patient diseases and enhance human health.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living microorganisms, including bacteria that affect human health in a beneficial way. The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” They are found in the human body, most often in the gut, where trillions of them exist in unique populations. Probiotics vary in terms of the different types, amounts and exact location within the human body. The probiotic bacteria act in several ways to enhance health. These include, but are not limited to, effects on food absorption, immunity and levels of inflammation. Probiotics can also be found naturally in certain foods such as yoghurt but are also sold in more concentrated formulation as dietary supplements to be eaten or applied on the skin or mucosa of the body.
The key health benefits linked to probiotics.
1. Probiotics Help Balance The Friendly Bacteria in Your Digestive System.
Probiotics include “good” bacteria. These are live microorganisms that can provide health benefits when consumed .These benefits are thought to result from the ability of probiotics to restore the natural balance of gut bacteria .
An imbalance means there are too many bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria. It can happen due to illness, medication such as antibiotics, poor diet and more.Consequences can include digestive issues, allergies, mental health problems, obesity and more .
Probiotics are usually found in fermented foods or taken as supplements. What’s more, they appear to be safe for most people.
2. Probiotics Can Help Prevent and Treat Diarrhea.
Probiotics are widely known for their ability to prevent diarrhea or reduce its severity.
Diarrhea is a common side effect of taking antibiotics. It occurs because antibiotics can negatively affect the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut .Several studies suggest probiotic use is associated with a reduced risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea .
In one study, researchers found that taking probiotics reduced antibiotic-associated diarrhea by 42% .Probiotics can also help with other forms of diarrhea not associated with antibiotics.
A large review of 35 studies found certain strains of probiotics can reduce the duration of infectious diarrhea by an average of 25 hours .
Probiotics reduced the risk of travelers’ diarrhea by 8%. They also lowered the risk of diarrhea from other causes by 57% in children and 26% in adults .Effectiveness varies, depending on the type and dose of the probiotic taken.
3. Probiotic Supplements Improve Some Mental Health Conditions.
An increasing number of studies link gut health to mood and mental health .Both animal and human studies find that probiotic supplements can improve some mental health disorders .
A review of 15 human studies found supplementing with Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains for 1–2 months can improve anxiety, depression, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and memory .
One study followed 70 chemical workers for 6 weeks. Those who consumed 100 grams of probiotic yogurt per day or took a daily probiotic capsule experienced benefits for general health, depression, anxiety and stress .Benefits were also seen in a study of 40 patients with depression.
Taking probiotic supplements for 8 weeks decreased depression levels and reduced levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) and hormones such as insulin, compared to people who did not take a probiotic.
4. Certain Probiotic Strains Can Help Keep Your Heart Healthy.
Probiotics may help keep your heart healthy by lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and blood pressure.Certain lactic acid-producing bacteria may reduce cholesterol by breaking down bile in the gut .
Bile, a naturally occurring fluid mostly made of cholesterol, helps digestion.By breaking down bile, probiotics can prevent it from being reabsorbed in the gut, where it can enter the blood as cholesterol .
A review of 5 studies found that eating a probiotic yogurt for 2–8 weeks reduced total cholesterol by 4% and LDL cholesterol by 5% .
Another study conducted over 6 months found no changes in total or LDL cholesterol. However, the researchers did find a small increase in HDL (“good”) cholesterol .Consuming probiotics may also lower blood pressure. A review of 9 studies found that probiotic supplements reduce blood pressure, but only modestly .
In order to experience any benefits related to blood pressure, supplementation had to exceed 8 weeks and 10 million colony-forming units (CFUs) daily.
5. Probiotics May Reduce the Severity of Certain Allergies and Eczema.
Certain probiotic strains may reduce the severity of eczema in children and infants.
One study found eczema symptoms improved for infants fed probiotic-supplemented milk, compared to infants fed milk without probiotics .Another study followed children of women who took probiotics during pregnancy.
Those children had an 83% lower risk of developing eczema in the first two years of life .However, the link between probiotics and reduced eczema severity is still weak and more research needs to be done.
Some probiotics may also reduce inflammatory responses in people with milk or dairy allergies. However, the evidence is weak and further studies are needed.
6. Probiotics Can Help Reduce Symptoms of Certain Digestive Disorders.
Over one million people in the US suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease .
Certain types of probiotics from the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains have improved symptoms in people with mild ulcerative colitis .
Surprisingly, one study found that supplementing with the probiotic E. coli Nissle was just as effective as drugs in maintaining remission in people with ulcerative colitis .
However, probiotics appear to have little effect on symptoms of Crohn’s disease .
Nevertheless, probiotics may have benefits for other bowel disorders. Early research suggests they may help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) .
They have also been shown to reduce the risk of severe necrotizing enterocolitis by 50%. This is a fatal bowel condition that occurs in premature infants.
7. Probiotics May Help Boost Your Immune System.
Probiotics may help give your immune system a boost and inhibit the growth of harmful gut bacteria .
Also, some probiotics have been shown to promote the production of natural antibodies in the body. They may also boost immune cells like the IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells .
A large review found that taking probiotics reduced the likelihood and duration of respiratory infections. However, the quality of the evidence was low .
Another study including over 570 children found that taking Lactobacillus GG reduced the frequency and severity of respiratory infections by 17% .
The probiotic Lactobacillus crispatus has also been shown to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women by 50%.
8. Probiotics May Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat.
Probiotics may help with weight loss through a number of different mechanisms .For example, some probiotics prevent the absorption of dietary fat in the intestine.
The fat is then excreted through feces rather than stored in the body .Probiotics may also help you feel fuller for longer, burn more calories and store less fat. This is partly caused by increasing levels of certain hormones, such as GLP-1 .
They may also help with weight loss directly. In one study, dieting women who took Lactobacillus rhamnosus for 3 months lost 50% more weight than women who didn’t take a probiotic .Another study of 210 people found that taking even low doses of Lactobacillus gasseri for 12 weeks resulted in an 8.5% reduction of belly fat .
However, it’s important to be aware that not all probiotics aid in weight loss.Surprisingly, some studies found certain probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, can even lead to weight gain .
More studies are needed to clarify the link between probiotics and weight.
Enhancing Human Health – What are Probiotics and Can They Help?/https://insights.omnia-health.com
8 Health Benefits of Probiotics /https://www.healthline.com