You can’t see them but that doesn’t mean they’re not working
There’s been a lot of buzz around the health benefits of probiotics in recent years. While it may seem too good to be true, those tiny micro-organisms really do have some remarkable healing properties. Let’s sort out exactly how probiotics can help your body and mind by exploring the latest research.
Starting with what may be the most common health claim, probiotics restore the good bacteria in your intestines. If your intestinal microbiome is unbalanced, it may ultimately lead to metabolic disorders, gastrointestinal infection, and inflammation. By introducing probiotics to your gut, it can help restore some of its natural defenses against disease.
Everyone has loose stools at some point. We may get diarrhea after taking a round of antibiotics. We can experience traveler’s diarrhea, which is usually caused by parasites found in food or drinking water. Unfortunately, cancer patients may have diarrhea after chemotherapy, and children often get infectious diarrhea from viruses, such as the rotavirus. While there are many different causes, probiotics may help treat or reduce the risk of diarrhea in these situations.
Fungal infections, such as candidiasis, are caused by excessive yeast in the body, usually found in the mouth or stomach or on your skin. For years, doctors have recommended patients use antifungal drugs to treat infections, but yeast has become increasingly resistant to these medications. As a result, researchers have been studying alternative therapies for yeast infections. They have found that probiotics are an effective alternative for successfully reducing the presence of excessive yeast in the body.
Our mouths are a haven for bacteria. When there’s an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria, it can cause gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease. When left untreated, gingivitis may result in periodontitis, a serious infection that can lead to gum destruction and tooth loss. Many probiotic strains can protect our mouths from this harmful process. In addition to foods and supplements, there are a wide variety of other probiotic products to help fight gum disease, such as chewing gums, lozenges, and mouthwashes.
Lactose is a sugar found in dairy. A digestive enzyme, called lactase, breaks down lactose so our bodies can absorb it. Those who are lactose intolerant can’t break down the sugars from cheese, yogurts, and milk. This can result in gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Unfortunately, 60 percent of the population suffers from lactose intolerance, but fermented milk products have been shown to reduce symptoms. In particular, those products containing probiotic strains S. thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii have the most positive effect.
Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is an itchy, red rash. It often persists in young children, but people can experience eczema at any age. While there’s no cure for it, probiotics, taken orally or applied topically, may help reduce symptoms. Promising new research shows that the strain Roseomonas mucosa improves eczema symptoms and stays on the skin for at least eight months after application.
High blood pressure is a common condition caused by several factors, such as sleep apnea or thyroid disease. High blood pressure can lead to complications like heart failure and dementia if left untreated. Taking probiotics has a moderate effect on blood pressure providing the largest benefit when blood pressure is elevated above the baseline.
Depression is a common condition that results in sadness, tiredness, brain fog, sleeplessness, and pain. While specific treatment depends on the cause of depression, probiotics have been shown to significantly reduce sadness and our reaction to sadness—an indicator of our vulnerability to depression. Probiotic strains Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus have been found to offer an improvement in anxiety and depression.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders resulting in inflammation in the intestines. The two most common types are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. While the cause of IBD is unknown, it’s believed a combination of bacteria, antigens, and viruses can trigger an immune response. Improving your gut health may help reduce symptoms. Probiotics may be effective in prevention and treatment of IBD, especially in patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis.
High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease. In addition to maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, like eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise, eating probiotic-rich foods or adding a daily probiotic supplement to your routine can also help to lower your cholesterol. Eating fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, has shown the potential to reduce cholesterol levels. Three Lactobacillus plantarum strains have been particularly effective in lowering cholesterol.