Probiotics are considered the silver bullet for improving overall gut health and boosting immune functions. Probiotics are live bacteria and microorganisms that reside in the digestive system and help to maintain overall health.
The human body needs both good and bad bacteria, but it is essential to maintain a strict ratio to maintain optimal health. A combination of 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria is considered the perfect balance. But various internal and external factors such as consumption of prescription antibiotics, chronic emotional stress and a diet loaded with sugar, grains and GMO foods disrupt the balance of gut flora and leads to overcrowding of harmful bacteria, yeast and fungi.
One of the best and most effective ways to deal with this problem and restore the balance of gut flora is to take a probiotic supplement that has high CFU count of 15 to 100 billion and includes various strains of microorganisms.
Benefits of Probiotic Supplements
1. Treat and Prevent Digestive Disorders
This is by far the most important benefit of probiotics. Probiotics are the beneficial live microorganisms that help to maintain the balance of bacteria in the digestive system and help to relieve digestive issues.
Diarrhea is a common digestive issue faced by people of all ages. Taking excessive antibiotics also triggers diarrhea in most people. Several studies suggest that the use of probiotics can help to reduce the risk of diarrhea caused by antibiotics by almost 42%. Probiotics can also help to treat diarrhea caused by other factors such as traveller’s diarrhea and diarrhea in children. In a review of 35 studies it was seen that there are a few strains of helpful bacteria that can shorten the duration of infections diarrhea by 25 hours on an average.
b. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Studies show that probiotics can help to prevent irritation and inflammation of the lining post ulcerative colitis surgery. Recent research shows that probiotic bacteria can influence the activity of the immune cells and the cells lining the intestine and prevent the disease-causing bacteria from sticking to the lining of the intestines. Probiotics also block the chemical factors that contribute to inflammation.
c. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Those suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome often suffer from diarrhea, constipation, etc. Probiotics work in many ways to treat IBS. These live microorganisms line the surface of the gastrointestinal tract and prevent the harmful organisms from reaching it. They also strengthen the tissues of the colon wall and regulate the response of the immune system.
2. Boost the Immune System
Almost 80% of the whole immune system is located in the digestive tract, so it is quite evident that probiotics affect the immune system functions. The linings of the small intestines are covered with lymph nodes. Inflammation in the intestine triggers the immune system to fight against the harmful viruses and bacteria. Some recent studies reveal that probiotics can boost the immune function in the body and help to ward off infections. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study it was seen that consumption of certain probiotics for a duration of 12 weeks lowered the risk of common cold infections in healthy adults. In addition the symptoms and duration of common cold were also reduced.
3. Prevent and Treat Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
A research published in the Indian Journal of Urology reveals that presence of benign bacterial flora is essential for preventing the overgrowth of harmful microorganisms. Probiotics help to balance the bacteria already present in the vagina and prevents yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infections.
4. Treat Eczema
Probiotic supplements provide protection against immune dysfunction and reduce inflammation – the two main causes of eczema. There are a number of researches which show that probiotic supplements may lower the severity of eczema.
5. Lower High Blood Pressure
A small study presented at a recent AHA meeting revealed that a particular strain of probiotics known as Lactobacillus reuteri found in dairy and meat lowers the level of LDL cholesterol in the participants by almost 12% and overall cholesterol by 9% compared to the group taking a placebo. Researchers believe that probiotics help to reduce blood pressure by breaking down the bile salts and reducing their reabsorption in the gut.
6. Improve Oral Health
Studies show that a particular strain of probiotics called Lactobacillus reuteri destroys the bacteria that causes tooth decay and reduces the harmful effects of gingivitis. Probiotics also fight off bad breath by destroying Candida. Probiotics are a great natural treatment for bleeding gums and tooth decay.
7. Prevent Respiratory Infections
Respiratory infections are a common problems associated with weather changes. But research shows that taking probiotics can help to reduce the risk of respiratory infections in both children and adults. A review of studies from the Cochrane Library shows that probiotics appear to reduce upper respiratory infections better compared to placebos. In another study conducted on children from daycares in Helsinki, Finland, it was seen that children who were given milk with probiotics were 17% less likely to get respiratory infection.
8. Aids Weight Loss
Probiotics can help to reduce weight in a number of ways. Certain probiotics prevent the absorption of fat from foods in the intestine, so the fats are excreted through faeces rather than being stored in the body. Probiotics also enhances satiety and help you to feel fuller for longer which in turn burns more calories and leads to less fat storage. Probiotics may aid weight loss directly as well. In a study it was seen that dieting women who consumes Lactobacillus rhamnosus for duration of 3 months lost 50% more body weight compared to women who did not take any probiotic.
Things to Know about Probiotic Supplements
Know the type of probiotics and its benefits – It is essential to realize that there are different types of probiotic strains and the benefits of one probiotic strain differ from another probiotic strain. While some probiotics boost immunity, others aid digestion. So, selecting a probiotic supplement must be determined by your specific health concern.
Check the CFU (Colony Forming Unit) Count – Colony forming unit is a measure of the viable bacterial or fungal cells. It is best to choose a purchase a supplement that has high CFU count of 15 billion to 100 billion.
Diversity of the Strains – L. Acidophilus, L. Rhamnosus, L. Helveticus, B. Infantis, B. Lactis and Lactogg are few of the most popular probiotic strains that have a number of health benefits. It is best to choose a probiotic supplement that has at least 10 to 15 different strains of bacteria.
There are no potential side effects of taking probiotic supplements. People may experience diarrhea is they take too much of it too fast. So it is recommended to begin with smaller doses and then increase the dosage over time.