Growing up, we've all been taught that germs (i.e. bacteria) are harmful to you; they’re the cause of several life-threatening diseases, including pneumonia, meningitis, strep throat, and food poisoning (1, 2, 3). So, understandably, after years of diligently disinfecting your hands and wiping down office keyboards, the idea of voluntarily swallowing billions of live bacteria–also known as probiotics–in the name of better health might seem (literally and figuratively) hard to swallow. But that's what a growing number of studies suggest. To be fair, not all bacteria are the 'bad guys.' Your body is home to an estimated 100 trillion 'good' bacteria, many of which reside in the gut (4).
These beneficial bacteria help protect us against their harmful counterparts that cause disease by crowding them out in the gut, stimulating the immune system to fight them off, and inhibiting their growth (5). In the face of this new information, wouldn’t you say that self-dosing with bacteria (beneficial ones, of course) doesn’t seem as outlandish as before? Need further convincing? Continue reading. This article dives into the various health benefits of taking probiotics.
#1 – Reduces Symptoms Of Digestive Disorders
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a general term used to describe disorders that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract (6, 7). There are 2 main types of IBD: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. As both types of IBD are characterized by diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss, they bring about the risk of life-threatening complications. And while anti-inflammatory drugs are typically the first step in IBD treatment, they come with many side effects–including rashes, inflammation, and worse, aggravation of existing IBD symptoms (8, 9, 10).
Thankfully, though, it appears that probiotics show promise as an au-natural treatment option for individuals with IBD. A 2015 study published in the BioMed Research International found that probiotics from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains improved symptoms in participants with mild ulcerative colitis (11).In fact, according to a 2004 study, probiotics could even be as effective as drugs in maintaining remission in individuals with ulcerative colitis (12)!
#2 – Treats And Helps to Prevent Diarrhea
There's no enjoyment to be had in a diarrhea episode. The painful, abdominal cramping, bloating–and the rather nasty watery stools. All these symptoms can last up to 2 awful weeks. This begs the question: Is there any way to quicken the recovery process (apart from taking any necessary medication and staying well-hydrated)? Well, yes. And it comes in the form of probiotics.
According to an extensive review of 35 studies published in 2010, researchers found that certain strains of probiotics can cut down the duration of infectious diarrhea by an average of 25 hours (13). Other studies also highlighted that probiotics could reduce diarrhea risk in both children and adults–be it traveler's diarrhea or other diarrhea causes (14, 15, 16).
#3 – Boosts Immune System
New research shows a clear association between having a healthy gut microbiome and an immune system (17). When your gut microbiome is diversified (i.e. containing many types of beneficial bacteria), your immune reactions can be more balanced–helping better protect you against foreign ‘invaders’ and diseases as a result (18). So, it really shouldn't be a surprise to learn that probiotics can boost your immune system by inhibiting harmful bacterial growth in the gut (19). Studies have also shown that probiotics could help promote your body’s production of natural antibodies and immune cells like the IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes, and natural killer cells (20, 21).
This translates into real-life preventative health. According to an extensive 2015 review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, probiotics supplementation reduced both the likelihood and duration of respiratory infections (22). A 2011 study also found that supplementing with probiotics (of the Lactobacillus crispatus strain) helped reduce the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women by 50% (23).
#4 – Can Support Mental Health
An increasing number of studies indicate that the gut microbiome can help regulate brain function through something called the 'gut-brain axis' (24, 25, 26, 27). Researchers believe that gastrointestinal system irritation may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS), triggering mood changes–and potentially causing mental health conditions (28). And given the mounting evidence that probiotic supplements can improve several mental health conditions, this hypothesis appears to hold some ground.
For instance, a 2016 review published in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility found that probiotics supplementation (with the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains) for 1 to 2 months led to improvements in anxiety, depression, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and even memory (29). Probiotic supplementation for 8 weeks also alleviated symptoms in individuals with major depressive disorder (30). These findings were further supported by a 2015 study, where researchers found that participants who’d supplemented with probiotics experienced benefits for depression, anxiety, and stress (31).
#5 – Keeps The Heart Healthy
Your heart works round the clock, delivering oxygen- and fuel-rich blood that keeps you alive. So, to say that your heart is one of the most vital organs is a massive understatement. You most likely already know that a healthy diet and structured exercise routine can keep your ticker going strong. But what else can you do? One word: probiotics. It appears that certain probiotics strains–more specifically, those of a lactic acid-producing nature–can help keep your heart working optimally by lowering LDL (i.e. ‘bad’) cholesterol and blood pressure (32, 33).
A 2000 meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for instance, found that the consumption of probiotic yogurt for 2 to 8 weeks reduced total cholesterol by 4% and LDL cholesterol by 5% (34). A 2014 review of 9 studies also found that probiotic supplements led to a modest reduction in blood pressure (35).
#6 – Helps With Weight Management
If you’re like most people, you’re likely trudging along on your progress for New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. And of course–while one of the most significant contributors to a successful weight loss attempt is a consistent calorie deficit, there are many things you can do to aid your efforts. One of them? Taking those probiotics (36). There are several ways probiotics can help you manage your weight. Some probiotics, for example, inhibit dietary fat absorption in the intestine. Thus, instead of absorbing and storing this fat, your body will excrete it through feces (37, 38).
Then, there are those probiotics that increase your levels of hormones, such as GLP-1, that make you feel fuller for longer and burn more calories in a given amount of time (39, 40). Just how much weight can you expect to lose, though? While results will undeniably differ between individuals, a 2014 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that dieting women who supplemented with Lactobacillus rhamnosus for 3 months lose 50% more weight than those who didn’t take a probiotic (41). Another 2013 study published in the same journal found that taking even low doses of Lactobacillus gasseri for 12 weeks results in an 8.5% reduction in abdominal fat (42).
#7 – Manages Skin Problems Like Eczema
Move aside, collagen. It appears that probiotics are good for your skin too. Various studies have found that certain probiotic strains can produce antimicrobial substances that battle harmful skin pathogens (43). According to a 2000 study published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, infants fed probiotic-supplemented milk experienced a significant improvement in eczema symptoms compared to those who’d been fed without probiotics (44). Another 2012 study, which followed women who took probiotics during pregnancy, found that the children had an 83% lower risk of developing eczema in the first 2 years of life (45).
Make Sure The Probiotics You Buy Are High Quality
Convinced of the many health benefits probiotics can offer? Wait a minute before you sweep a random probiotic supplement off the shelves. Just so you know: to make it to your intestines (the target organ), these friendly, health-boosting live bacteria must first pass through the stomach–a hostile acidic environment that can kill your probiotics. Thus, rendering them useless (46). What’s the solution then? Well, simple. You have to purchase a probiotics that are especially designed to survive through such harsh conditions, so that they can get where they need to go.
Oh, and that's not all you have to worry about either. Because your probiotics are living organisms, they can die when it's too hot (47). Meaning if you leave them in a hot car or shelf? Your probiotics could die if they are the wrong kind. Of course, an easy solution is to refrigerate your probiotics. But here's the kicker. How would you know these probiotics haven't died during the transport to the retail stores? There's no guaranteeing that a company's supply chain kept the probiotics cool (and, more importantly, alive) the whole way. This seems like a tough problem to address, eh?
Well… Not at all. That’s because you can just opt for Dr. Danielle’s Probiotics, which are special Bacillus spores. These spores naturally come with a hardy natural outer shell that protects them, so they stay alive in spite of destructive factors such as heat, stomach acid, light, etc. Rest assured that these bacteria have been studied to make sure they get to your intestines.