Health Benefits of Probiotics
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Health Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be consumed through fermented foods or supplements. More and more studies show that the balance or imbalance of bacteria in your digestive system is linked to overall health and disease.
Probiotics promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and have been linked to a wide range of health benefits. These include benefits for weight loss, digestive health, immune function and more.
This is an overview of 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.
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.
3. 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 (12).
4. 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.
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