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  • Kelin M

Benefits of Probiotics

In a healthy microbiome, both "good" and "bad" bugs live in harmony. Health problems arise when something disturbs this harmony.

Top benefits of probiotics - good bugs and bad bugs

Probiotics are live bacteria found in food (such as yogurt or kefir) or supplements. You can find our guide to everything you need to know about probiotics here.

Consuming probiotics can help restore (or maintain) harmony in your digestive system. By restoring balance, we can treat or prevent the numerous health conditions linked to our gastrointestinal system.

You might be surprised how many conditions have been connected to the microbiome! It's important to take the right strains. This article will go over the main benefits research has found from probiotics, and tell you the specific strains that have been studied.

The Benefits of Bugs

The majority of the microbes in our body are found in our gut.

The microbiota are also responsible for protecting you from pathogens and breaking down toxins, synthesizing vitamins and amino acids, and perhaps most importantly, for a properly-functioning immune system.

Consuming probiotics either in the diet or by supplementing has numerous proven benefits, in addition to being very safe:

1. Improve diarrhea

Gut dysbiosis often starts after a round of antibiotics. One of the symptoms that antibiotics have thrown the balance of good and bad bacteria out of harmony is diarrhea.

Probiotics have been shown to reduce the duration and severity of diarrhea or even prevent diarrhea as a result of antibiotic use. The strains that are most effective are Saccharomyces boulardii and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, as well as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus.

2. Mood and mental support

Mental health and gut health are strongly connected. There are studies linking probiotic consumption with improvements in anxiety, depression, memory, stress, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and new studies are proving the connection every day.

A systematic review of research on mental health and probiotics found that in 38 studies, the most common strains were in the Bifidobacterium (B. longum, B. breve, B. infantis) and Lactobacillus (L. helveticus and L. rhamnosus) genus at doses between 100 Million and 10 Billion CFUs (colony-forming units) per day.

For anxiety specifically, L. rhamnosus has been shown in animal studies to increase cortical expression of GABA genes, reduce cortisol, and reduce anxiety in general.

3. Vaginal health

Yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and bacterial vaginosis are common health conditions with the same root: imbalance in the microbiota of the vagina. They’re typically caused by overgrowth of Candida or E. Coli (in the case of urinary tract infections, there are a number of other potential pathogens).

Lactobacillus crispatus has been shown to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections by 50%.

4. Helps with digestive disorder symptoms

Digestive disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease affect over a million people in the United States.

The strain E. coli Nissle was found to be as effective as drugs (mesalazine) for ulcerative colitis treatment.

A meta-analysis (study of studies) found that irritable bowel syndrome severity and pain was reduced by using probiotics, although the particular species or strains that are most effective is still unclear.

5. Helps with immunity

Harmful gut bacteria (E. coli) have been shown to be inhibited by probiotics. Probiotics also help boost immune cells like T lymphocytes and natural killer cells.

The best strains in general for immunity, based on studies of athletes, are Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus fermentum, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Bifidobacterium bifidum.

While there’s still much to be studied when it comes to probiotics and immunity, one illness whose treatment is very promising is Clostridium difficile overgrowth. This infection is common after antibiotic treatment and the main strains that have been studied are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii.

6. Can help with weight loss

There are two strains you need to know when it comes to weight loss.

L. gasseri has been linked to both metabolic system corrected and weight loss.

Another study gave women L. rhamnosus and they lost 50% more weight than those taking a placebo!

7. Improves Allergies and Eczema

Subjects with hay fever from pollen were given the strain Lactobacillus paracasei. In one study, adults had reduced nasal itching and congestion. In another, children had reduced nasal itching, eye swelling, and sneezing.

It’s also been proven to reduce eczema by improving skin barrier function.

How to Take Probiotics

For probiotics to be effective, they need to be taken in a significant dose. Most studies are done with at least 10 Billion CFU (colony-forming units, or number of live bacteria) so it’s ideal to take this concentration or higher. You’ll want something with at least 1 Billion CFU to notice effects from it.

You should take them on an empty stomach so the contents have the best chance possible to make it to the gut. Ideally you should take them first thing in the morning, but you could also take them before bed well after you’ve eaten.

Want specific recommendations? Learn more:

-What are probiotics (all you need to know)

-Best probiotics for women

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