Probiotics are the latest health craze, but are these so-called “friendly” bacteria the real deal when it comes to improving digestive health? Sure, good bacteria is not a miracle cure for any digestive disorder, but do probiotics really work? To put it short, yes, probiotics can improve digestive and immune health and work to treat various ailments and conditions.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that “confer a health benefit” to the one taking them as long as enough of these tiny bacteria enter the system. It’s estimated that the total number of probiotics in our bodies outnumbers that of human cells by 10 to 1. And having the right amount of good bacteria in your gut is strongly linked to several health benefits besides reducing digestive problems. Thus, probiotics can help with weight loss, allergic disorders, skin conditions, dental problems, common cold, high cholesterol and a reduced risk of developing many other diseases.
Antibiotics, for example, kill the bacteria in your gut, regardless of it being good or bad. So, when you have less beneficial bacteria in the gut, the harmful bacteria overgrows and causes health issues. This is where probiotics come in to restore the lost balance between the good and bad bacteria, ensuring your body is working properly.
Probiotics work to reduce inflammation, which can be very dangerous for your health, as it can cause digestive disorders, harm the arteries, increase the risk for diabetes and fatty liver and even cause cognitive decline.
Let’s see what the benefits of using probiotics are.
Probiotics for Digestive Disorders
It’s estimated that 60 million people, which is more than 20 percent of all Americans, have an irritable bowel? IBS is caused by harmful gut bacteria that produces inflammation and irritation. Alcohol, antibiotics, stress, or a poor lifestyle and diet are all factors that contribute to the overgrowth of bad bacteria.
When your gut lining breaks down, the immune system is exposed to outer microbes, which irritates the gut and causes digestive disorders such as an irritable bowel. Other conditions such as allergies, arthritis or mood disorders may also follow.
To be healthy, you must have a healthy gut. Probiotics colonize your GI tract with beneficial bacteria, which adhere to the walls and make up a barrier, effectively protecting the inner layer of the gut. This way, your gut will be protected from bad bacteria and harmful substances that cause inflammation.
Probiotics work for diarrhea, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, IBS, IBD, ulcerative colitis, cramps, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, indigestion, infectious diarrhea, gas and leaky gut.
It’s no wonder that most doctors prescribe probiotics with an antibiotic treatment, so that your gut is protected against antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Probiotics for Weight Loss
Probiotics work for weight loss because they have been proven to be effective in slowing down the rate at which your body assimilates calories, while also reducing hunger pangs. Scientists believe a probiotic-rich diet is ideal for those struggling with their weight. Probiotics also helps boost fat burning in the organism and helps metabolize complex carbohydrates.
A study from Stanford University has shown people who have a diet that’s high in probiotics also maintain optimal weight levels, whereas those who consume fewer probiotics are more likely to be overweight.
More studies reveal there is a strong link between probiotics, immune function, digestion and obesity, as a reduction in the number of beneficial bacteria inside the GI tract can cause the body to absorb fewer nutrients. And this is somewhat explainable, as current foods, especially cattle and chicken, are fattened using antibiotics. Thus, probiotics help you be in control of your weight once again.
Probiotics for Anxiety and Memory
A recent study shows taking a daily dose of probiotics can help reduce anxiety and stress, but also improve memory. In the test, participants who were given probiotics for one month experienced less anxiety and stress, and lower Cortisol levels than those who received a placebo. It was also revealed that the subjects faired better in memory tests where they were required to pair objects together. Since probiotics help people feel less anxious, while improving memory function, there’s no wonder that bad bacteria growth can cause a decline in cognitive ability.
Probiotics for Vaginal and Urinary Health
Probiotics are naturally found in the vagina and urinary tract, where they fight yeast overgrowth. Helpful bacteria is known to protect against acute cystitis and urinary tract infections by helping to maintain an ideal pH level and acidity in the urinary tract. This way, the bladder wall won’t get infected.
Good bacteria is important for women’s health, as they work to maintain healthy hormonal balance, which helps prevent PMS, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, fibroids or migraines.
Probiotics fight vaginitis and yeast infections, including Candida, which is a result of harmful bacteria overgrowth in the body.
Probiotics for Skin Conditions
While probiotics are mainly used to improve gut health, they can also help with certain skin conditions. The skin is the largest organ in the body and it benefits from probiotic use because these tiny helpful bacteria reduce inflammation.
Thus, using probiotics with acne treatments can improve acne clearance and protect against it by forming a barrier. Another study has shown consuming probiotics during pregnancy results in a reduce chance of the infant developing eczemas.
There are also studies where probiotics were found to reduce the effects of rosacea when applied topically, but you can also take them internally. A face mask that contains kefir can be used to soothe the skin, as it is high in yeasts and beneficial strains that reduce symptoms.
Probiotics are known to have many skin benefits, as they eliminate free radicals, fight pathogens, help the skin retain moisture and protect against sun damage.
Other Health Benefits of Probiotics
Multiple probiotic strains have been shown to be effective in fighting viruses such as the flu, colds or herpes. Probiotics are also known to fight bacterial infections, respiratory infections and allergic airway disease,
Allergies are the immune system’s response when it comes in contact with allergens. Probiotics work to prevent and remedy allergies by improving immune function and preventing pollen allergies in both children and adults, while preventing the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
One study from India followed 100 children aged 2 to 5 who were given Lactobacillus acidophilus for a period of 6 months. In the end, those who were administered probiotics reported fewer instances of colds, flu, fever and diarrhea than the placebo group.
Probiotics have been found to increase the number of lymphocytes, which are the part of the immune system involved in the creation antibodies that fight bacteria, viruses and toxins.
Probiotics have also been shown to stimulate the production of anti-cancer chemicals, while L. casei has been proven to reduce the risk of bladder cancer.
Probiotics are also safe for children, helping their immune system avoid allergies, viruses and pathogenic bacteria. Probiotics can also influence a child’s weight and metabolism, reduce potential side effects from childhood vaccinations, support brain health and help with food digestion.
Probiotics promote immune health by protecting against Salmonella or E. coli, while promoting healthy bowel movements to flush out toxins.
These tiny live microorganisms can also improve energy levels by improving nutrient absorption, reducing fatigue and improving athletic performance.
As far as oral health goes, probiotics are known to reduce the incidence of cavities, bad breath, ear infections, strep throat and tonsillitis.
Since an individual’s health is closely related to having a varied microbacterial flora, we can safely say probiotics support overall health.
Bottom Line on Probiotics
So, do probiotics really work? Yes, considering their numerous health benefits, we can safely say they improve multiple health aspects.
Although probiotics can, without a doubt, improve digestive health, it would be best to also stay away from sugary or fast foods and reduce your intake of processed carbohydrates.
A healthy, balanced gut flora means you have a reduced risk of digestive disorders, heart disease, disrupted sleep patterns, diabetes, allergic diseases, low mood, autoimmune diseases, poor memory recall, skin conditions or depression. What’s more probiotics can be safely used, as they have little to no side effects.
You can get your probiotics from foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut or kombucha, but you have to consume large quantities to reap the full benefits of these tiny and healthy microbes.
However, you can also try a probiotic supplement, which is more effective and contains more probiotic strains and colony-forming units (CFUs).