10 Health Benefits of Probiotics (Backed By Science)

Best reasons to take probiotics

probiotics health benefits

In this post, you’ll learn about the benefits of probiotics and how it contributes to our health. 

Our body is home to more than a hundred trillion microbes. This is exponentially ten times more than the number of human cells. 

Though they may not be visible to the naked eye, they thrive almost everywhere. 

Microbes exist in our mouth, intestines, skin, vagina, or anywhere else in our body.

Most of these microscopic creatures thrive in our gut – specifically in the large intestine. 

But don’t let their microscopically small size deceive you.These microbes play various roles in keeping our bodies in a homeostatic state. 

It’s not surprising that most health problems can trace to poor gut health. A happy gut is a healthy gut. 

Hence, our microbiome must have the right balance of colonies to keep us away from harm. 

How do you do this? Enter, probiotics.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are microorganisms that help to improve the balance of the gastrointestinal flora. 

Gastrointestinal flora, otherwise known as the good bacteria

Most of these live nonpathogenic microorganisms belong to the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species.

Probiotics exist foods that undergo the fermentation process. For example kefir, milk, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso. 

These good bacteria provide nourishment for the gut flora to survive.

But that’s not all.

They also produce the byproduct called short-chain fatty acid. This fatty acid helps improve immunity, inflammation, and cholesterol levels.

Probiotics are also taken as supplements in a capsule, tablet, or liquid form. 

A probiotic supplement comes in a specific strain of bacteria or a combination of a couple or more strains.

So, what has all these little microscopic creatures has to do with our health? 

Why has it captured the attention of many health researchers? 

Benefits of probiotics 

Let’s dive into the health benefits of probiotics.

1. Strengthens the immune system

Researchers suggest that probiotics can protect us from infectious diseases. This protective effect is through several strain-dependant mechanisms. Let me explain.

Probiotics can promote the production of natural antibodies. This in turn can eliminate disease-causing microorganisms. 

Also, it can help maintain the mucosal integrity of the gastrointestinal tract. And as a result, stimulate systemic immune responses. 

In one study, researchers examined the effect of long-term probiotic milk consumption. 

The researchers enrolled 570 children attending daycare. The children drank milk containing Lactobacillus GG. 

The results showed that they became less prone to respiratory infections by 17 percent.

2. Improves mental health

Are you too stressed or moody? Maybe it’s time to ask your tummy about this. It can be the culprit!

Recent studies linking the effects of probiotics to mental health are growing as well. 

Yes, our gut can communicate with our brain which affects our central nervous system function. And more specifically on the stress response. 

Researchers did a 4-week probiotic food-supplement intervention clinical trial. 

The results revealed that probiotics could be used as part of depression treatment. 

The subjects in this study experienced a reduction of sadness from having negative thoughts.

3. Fights against colon cancer

In a clinical test, probiotics helped control the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

These cytokines have an essential role in carcinogenesis prevention.

They can activate phagocytes to get rid of the formation of cancer cells at the early stage.

Another study revealed that lactic acid bacteria are capable of preventing colon cancer. This is in part due to several mechanisms that boost the body’s immune response. 

These mechanisms also alter the balance of the metabolic activity of the gut microbiome. This ends up destroying and eliminating carcinogens. 

The same results emerged in many in vivo and in vitro studies

Turns out that probiotics have a significant impact on preventing gastrointestinal cancers.

While these are encouraging, more research and human clinical trials are needed.

This will help identify the probiotic strain that fits best as a regimen for specific types and stages of cancer.

4. Restores natural gut balance

Studies show that our diet is a great contributor to microbiome health. Imbalance of the colonies in the gut can lead to health risks. 

For example, you risk diseases relating to autoimmunity, neurological disorders, or chronic inflammation.

How so?

The imbalance between colonies in the gut refers to dysbiosis

This condition disturbs the regular interactions in the microbiome. This in turn makes the body more susceptible to diseases. 

The gut microbiome alters depending on a person’s health condition. Probiotics restore the health of the gut microbiome. 

They do this by restoring the balance of microbial communities in a balanced and healthy state.

What if you have lactose digestion?

Studies show that probiotics from milk products can reduce lactose intolerance symptoms. Whether it’s fermented and unfermented milk.

The probiotic in the food provide the gut preformed lactase to digest lactose. 

5. Prevents diarrhea

One of the health benefits of probiotics is diarrhea related. Let me explain.

According to research, diarrhea can be relieved with the use of probiotics containing lactic acid. 

The probiotics work its way in the gut by restoring the balance of the microbial colonies. 

These good bacteria shorten the illness within a day and not more than three days. 

The study found something profound.

55 out of 100 people taking probiotic treatment got rid of diarrhea after three days.

This compares to those who did not receive the supplement which only cured 34 out of 100 people.

6. Lowers cholesterol levels

There is evidence that indicates probiotics supplements can reduce cholesterol. 

This includes both Total Cholesterol Levels (TCL) and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) levels in the blood. 

The stains Lactobacillus probiotics, L. plantarum, and L. reuteri were significantly effective in lowering cholesterol levels.

In another study, 127 people with high cholesterol participated in a 9-week intervention period of taking L. reuteri. 

Compared to the placebo group, people who got the intervention decreased total cholesterol levels by 9 percent. And “bad” LDL cholesterol reduced by 12 percent. 

Generally, probiotics have the potential to enhance the cholesterol levels of a person. 

Probiotics attract cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestines. It aids in the production of bile acid that metabolizes fats and cholesterol. 

They produce short-chain fatty acids that prevent the build-up of bad cholesterol in the liver.

7. Aids in weight loss

Tiny microbes can help you lose weight

But, they don’t necessarily make you cut those pounds off though.

Instead, they are helpers in inhibiting dietary fat absorption in the body and excretes it together with the feces. 

Hence, your body absorbs fewer calories from the foods instead.

One study explains that probiotics can help suppress appetite by promoting the release of the hormone called GLP-1. 

A suppressed appetite switches off the urge from eating extra calories.

8. Detoxifies toxic substances out of the body

In a physiological aspect, the gut–liver axis is one of the essential links between extra-intestinal organs and the gut microbiota. 

I’ll explain so keep reading.

The liver removes toxic substances from the body. Most of the detoxification process takes place in the human gut. 

The absence of the gut flora will tend to overwork the liver, leading to liver problems. 

Scientific research has shown that Lactobacillus, one of the probiotic strains consumed as supplements, strengthens the health of the gut flora. 

This particular strain assists the filtration of heavy metals before the body absorbs it. 

9. Treats oral infections

Probiotics have recently caught the attention of researchers focusing on oral health research. This is one of the health benefits of probiotics.

Probiotics can be helpful in oral health when it comes to fighting plaquebad breathgingivitisgum inflammation, and oral cancer.

10. Promotes skin health

Probiotics can hasten the healing of skin conditions caused by ultraviolet exposures.

Another study found probiotics are effective in treating acne and rosacea. It also protects against aging and photodamage. 

Takeaway

Studies show that taking probiotics has several health benefits, especially on gut health. 

A healthy gut is equal to healthy digestion. 

Having healthy digestion strengthens our immune system, improves our mental health.

It also promotes our skin and oral health. Probiotics are also helpful in weight management, cancer prevention, and detoxification.

Experts urge that consuming probiotic foods is a healthier option. 

But if you need a specific strain of bacteria that is not available in probiotic foods, then the supplements may help. 

Here’s a little piece of reminder for everyone:

“The road to health is paved with good intestines!” – Sherry A. Roger

(Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian)

Dorothy is a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian and a candidate for a master's degree in Public Health (MPH) major in Public Health Nutrition. She has a passion for teaching to her university students about food, nutrition, and health. Dorothy is a coffee lover and she enjoys traveling, writing, cycling, running, cooking, baking, and cooking.