No doubt you’ve heard of probiotics but you may not be so sure about how they could benefit you. Probiotics are live strains of microorganisms that can even out the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut.
If there is an imbalance and bad bacteria have been able to start taking over, it’s likely that you’ve noticed some of the effects in your health and wellbeing. Your diet, general health and antibiotics usage can all upset the delicate balance of gut bacteria and this can lead to health problems.
Probiotics and Immunity
Tired of getting sick all the time? According to research, taking probiotics may boost your immunity. This may be because they can help your body to produce more natural antibodies. If you get sick with colds on a fairly regular basis, it might be worth seeing if you can improve your immune function through probiotics.
Some studies have suggested that probiotics can reduce urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women by as much as 50%. If you suffer from UTIs regularly, you might want to try probiotics and see if it helps to cut the amount of infections you get.
Probiotics and Heart Health
Some studies have suggested that probiotics might be able to reduce some of the markers associated with cardiovascular disease, especially cholesterol.
A few small scale studies have shown some great early potential for reducing both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad kind you want less of!).
One study also showed an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol, although it didn’t show much difference with LDL or total cholesterol.
Some studies involving probiotics have also shown a small decrease in blood pressure.
There’s still a fair way to go before we can definitely say that probiotics can help to keep your heart healthy . The theory is that they can break down bile in the gut and stop it being reabsorbed there. This means that less bile enters the bloodstream as cholesterol.
Probiotics and Digestive Health
If you’ve ever taken antibiotics and suffered from loose stools afterwards, you’ll know exactly how they can affect your digestive system for the worse! This is because they kill off a lot of the good bacteria in your gut, which paves the way for the bad bacteria to run riot.
It’s not that uncommon for loose stools to carry on for quite a while after you’ve finished a course of antibiotics due to the imbalance. According to some studies, probiotics can help to prevent this by allowing the good bacteria to keep flourishing.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is another area of digestive health that probiotics may be able to help with. A lot of the uncomfortable symptoms of IBS can potentially be relieved with probiotics, including constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas.
Ulcerative colitis can also be improved with some probiotic strains, especially if the symptoms are fairly mild. The Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains have shown the most promise for this. Another study found that a probiotic called E. coli Nissle can be useful in keeping ulcerative colitis symptoms in remission.
There is also some evidence that probiotics can fight back against Helicobacter pylori, which is a common culprit for stomach ulcers.
Probiotics and Skin Health
If you suffer from eczema, rosacea or acne, probiotics may be able to help. Inflammatory skin conditions can also be improved, including atopic dermatitis. It’s another area that needs more investigation to say for sure but acne in particular looks as though it may respond positively to probiotics.
Probiotics and Mental Health
Gut health is strongly linked to mental health and an influx of bad bacteria could be a factor that makes you more likely to develop mental health issues.
In a review of 15 human studies, supplementing with the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains of probiotics over a 1-2 month period helped to improve symptoms of anxiety, depression and even OCD.
In another study of patients with depression, supplementing with probiotics for 8 weeks reduced their symptoms.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, it might be worth experimenting with probiotics to see if they make any difference to your symptoms.
Probiotics and Weight Loss
There hasn’t been a huge amount of research into whether probiotics can help with weight loss but this is another area that is showing some promise. One study looked specifically at the Lactobacillus gasseri strain and its effects on belly fat. Over 12 weeks, participants lost 8.5% of their belly fat. And when they stopped taking the probiotics, they put it back on again within a month.
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