The market of Probiotics has gained immense popularity over the past few years. People have become more aware of the probiotics benefits, their nutritional significance, and how they benefit human health.
There has been scientific evidence that proves that some bacteria or microorganisms help in digestion and are good for our body’s immune system.
Companies are using these “good or friendly” bacteria to make probiotic supplements and foods that are safe and are good for our health.
Now, before going into the health benefits of probiotics, let us know a bit more about them. So, what are these probiotics?
Our body is inhabited by millions of live bacteria. Some of them are bad or harmful for our body and some of them are good. Probiotics belong to this group of “good or helpful” bacteria. They are good for our gut and helps in the digestion of food. Foods like yogurt and fermented foods are rich in probiotics and are good for our health.
How do probiotics work?
Probiotics are of different types and have different effects on our bodies.
- Probiotics can replace the good bacteria in our body after a chronic illness or prolonged use of antibiotics.
- They help in maintaining a balance between the body’s good and bad bacteria. They overpower the bad bacteria and prevent them from causing infections in the body.
- Prevents multiplication or growth of bad bacteria that can cause infections or inflammation.
- Good bacterial enzymes kill bad bacteria.
- They help in digestion and keeps our gut healthy.
- It help in maintaining the immunity in the body.
Probiotics can be divided into two main categories:
This bacterium is mostly found in dairy products. They help in maintaining our immunity and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine.
Bifidobacterium converts the lactose molecules into nutrients that can be absorbed by the body. Bifidobacterium is helpful in controlling irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.
This bacterium produces an enzyme called lactase which helps in the breaking down of lactose commonly found in milk products.
Lactobacillus contains lactic acid which kills bad bacteria. It also helps the body to absorb minerals and aids in muscle growth.
Lactobacillus is mainly produced in the small intestine, mouth, and vagina. This probiotics benefits people who cannot digest milk sugar or lactose.
3. Saccharomyces boulardii
These probiotics are found in yeast and helps in digestion and fights diarrhea.
Probiotics Benefits and Uses
There are different strains of probiotics. Each strain has a different impact on our health. Let us now have a look into some of the health benefits of probiotics.
1. Probiotics Benefits Gut Health
Probiotics especially Lactobacillus GG are good for our gut and restores a balance between the good and bad bacteria in the digestive system.
Often due to prolonged use of antibiotics, a chronic illness, or poor diet, there may be a surplus of bad bacteria in our body. Probiotics can replace these harmful bacteria and help retain a balance in the digestive system.
2. Probiotics Can Treat Diarrhea
Probiotics can treat diarrhea as well as constipation. Diarrhea is a common ailment and can occur due to food poisoning or long-term use of antibiotics.
Probiotics are very useful in treating diarrhea in children and infants. It can also reduce the duration of diarrhea by killing the harmful bad bacteria in the gut.
Probiotics can help in treating “travelers’ diarrhea” which can occur due to contamination of food or water during travels. Probiotics can also be used for treating chemotherapy-induced diarrhea for cancer patients. However, the success rates are still inconclusive.
Strains that are used to reduce diarrhea include:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus.
- Lactobacillus casei.
- Saccharomyces boulardii (a type of yeast).
3. Probiotics for Constipation
Probiotics are helpful in treating constipation in adults and children. There is evidence that shows probiotics have been extremely helpful in treating chronic constipation in older people.
Regular use of probiotics can soften the stools and increase their frequency. Researchers have found that Bifidobacterium longum is the bacteria that can reduce constipation.
4. Probiotics Benefits Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD
Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is the inflammation of the digestive tract. IBD is mainly of two types:
- Ulcerative colitis.
- Crohn’s disease.
Symptoms of IBD include:
- Acute pain in the abdomen.
- Loss of weight
Treatment includes antibiotics, medicines, and in severe cases surgery. Probiotics have been proved to be helpful in preventing recurrence of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
5. Probiotics Benefits Mental Health
Studies show that probiotics can improve mental health such as:
- Mood swings
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD.
- Memory loss.
Research shows that our mental health is related to our gut health. Bacteria strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium can benefit our general health which gets reflected in our mental health.
Regular consumption of probiotic capsules and yogurt can check on our hormone levels and reduce C-reactive proteins which can lead to inflammation.
6. Probiotics for Healthy Heart
Probiotic supplements are good for the heart. They can lower your LDL or bad cholesterol, help in digestion, and regulate blood pressure.
Our liver produces bile which helps in the digestion of food. Probiotics help in the breaking down of cholesterol into bile which helps in the digestion of food. This reduces cholesterol in the blood.
Research shows that a daily intake of probiotic yogurt can reduce cholesterol and LDL and increase HDL or good cholesterol. Probiotics can also help in regulating your blood pressure.
7. Probiotics Benefits for Vaginal Health
Probiotics help to maintain the normal vaginal pH balance. The Lactobacilli bacteria helps in maintaining this balance by destroying the harmful bacteria in the vagina.
Common urogenital problems in women include:
- Yeast infections.
- UTI or urinary tract infections.
- Bacterial vaginosis.
Reasons for female urogenital infections include:
- Long-term use of antibiotics.
- Use of spermicides.
- Birth control pills.
- Lack of hygiene.
Probiotics like Lactobacilli can be used for treating vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis can cause pelvic inflammatory disease or complications during pregnancy. Oral pills or vaginal application can help in managing the infection.
Probiotic yogurt can also help in treating yeast infections. There is an old remedy of applying yogurt in the vagina for the treatment of the infection. However, there is a lack of evidence to support the theory.
8. Probiotics for Kids
A common dilemma that many parents face today is whether they should include probiotics in their kid’s diet.
The answer is yes. It is absolutely safe to include probiotics in your kid’s diet. Probiotics are a natural product and it helps to regulate diarrhea and gastrointestinal diseases.
Probiotics have been found to be extremely beneficial during pregnancy and lactating mothers. They can reduce the risk of getting allergies and eczema in babies.
Probiotics are also used for treating sepsis in babies. Sepsis can be fatal and it can affect the whole body. In severe sepsis, the vital organs of our body stop working and eventually the patient dies. Probiotics have been proved to be beneficial in treating sepsis in infants during premature delivery.
Probiotics benefits in infants and children include:
- Reduce symptoms of colds and respiratory infections.
- Probiotics are often given to infants during the first three months of their birth. It can reduce the frequency of infant colic, acid reflux, and constipation.
The benefits of probiotics are many. However, it should be remembered that whole foods are better than any kind of supplement for your child.
9. Probiotics can boost Immunity
Probiotics can improve our immunity by fighting the bad bacteria that inhabit our bodies. It keep our gut healthy and produce natural antibodies that kill germs and fight against infections.
Lactobacillus GG bacteria prevent respiratory ailments. The Lactobacillus crispatus bacteria fight against urinary tract infections. Probiotics are also known to produce immunity-producing cells like T lymphocytes and IgA antibodies.
10. Probiotics Help in Losing Weight
Probiotics can reduce body weight. There are hundreds of microorganisms in our digestive system. These friendly bacteria help in the breaking down of food into fatty acids. Probiotics prevent fat to be absorbed by the intestines. Instead, the dietary fat is passed down through the stools.
Certain hormones like GLP-1 and ANGPTL-4 make you feel full and store fewer calories in your body. Probiotics help to increase the levels of these hormones and helps you burn down extra calories and lose weight.
Probiotic supplements like Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus gasseri help in burning down belly fat. Probiotics help in reducing inflammation of the brain and protects our body against obesity.
11. Probiotics for Women
Probiotics are good for women’s health. Urinary tract infections are very common in women. About 50% of women have experienced urinary tract infections or UTIs at least once in their lifetime.
Probiotics can help regulate the frequency of UTIs or help in subduing the symptoms which can be quite irritating.
Probiotics can strengthen your immunity and is good for your overall health. It helps in building your body’s immunity and prevents you to fall sick quite often.
Did you know that probiotics can improve fertility? There has been extensive research where it has been found that certain strains of bacteria can help you conceive.
Probiotics can treat urogenital infections, vaginal yeast infections, and helps maintain the vaginal pH balance.
Who doesn’t love good skin? Probiotics can improve your internal health and digestion and if you are happy from inside, that gets reflected in your skin.
Certain probiotics can heal skin problems like eczema, rosacea, and acne.
12. Probiotics Benefits for Skin
Probiotics can benefit your skin health. It can help you tackle common skin problems like acne, fungal infections, dermatitis, and premature aging.
Probiotics are healthy microbes that keep you healthy from inside and boosts your immune system. The benefits for probiotics for healthy skin include:
- Keeps allergies away.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Protects skin from harmful UV rays of the sun.
- Moisturizes and gives a glow to the skin.
- Prevents premature aging.
- Protects skin from fungal infections.
- Safeguards skin from hypersensitivity.
Atopic dermatitis is a skin problem and is very common in young adults and early childhood. Probiotics can be helpful in controlling the symptoms of dermatitis.
13. Probiotics can keep your Mouth Healthy
There have been numerous researches that show that probiotics are good for your oral health.
Probiotics prevent plaque
In 2016, a research study revealed that a bacterium called A12 can prevent tooth cavity. Streptococcus mutans is a bacterium that converts sugar molecules into lactic acid that can cause cavities. Probiotics can fight these bacteria and prevent the tooth from decaying and the formation of plaque.
Prevents bad breath
Bad breath is a common problem. This occurs due to the presence of bad bacteria in the mouth or digestive system. Antimicrobial mouthwash along with probiotics can fight the bacteria and reduce bad breath in the mouth.
Reduces risks of oral cancer
Recent studies have revealed that Lactobacillus salivarius, which is a type of bacterium can reduce the risks of oral cancer.
Prevents Gingivitis or gum disease.
Gingivitis is gum disease. Symptoms include inflammation of the gum, bleeding from the gums, and teeth sensitivity. Probiotic supplements containing Lactobacillus reuteri can significantly improve the symptoms of gingivitis and reduce gum inflammation.
Probiotics Risks and Side Effects
Probiotics help us in many ways but they do have side effects. Many people who have a weak immune system or are suffering from a serious illness have reported about side effects after using probiotics.
Some of the common side effects of probiotics are:
- Probiotics can cause digestive problems like bloating, constipation, increase in thirst, and gas. Doctors usually advise taking small doses of probiotics, in the beginning, to get your body adjusted to the dosage.
- Certain probiotics like yogurt and kimchi which are fermented products can trigger headaches.
- Probiotics can increase the levels of histamine which can cause allergic symptoms like irritation of the skin, watery eyes, difficulty in breathing, and cold-like symptoms.
- Some probiotics can cause allergies especially with people who are lactose intolerant.
- People with low immunity or who have undergone recent surgery or hospitalization are susceptible to probiotic-induced infections. Certain probiotics contain yeast bacterium which can pass into the bloodstream and cause infections.