What are the Benefits of Probiotics?

1. Probiotics Support a Balanced Microbiome

The gut microbiome is host to more than 1000 bacterial SPECIES that encode for more than 5 million genes. They perform many of the important functions of the gut, like aid in the digestion of foods, immune system development, vitamin synthesis, and ion absorption. When your microbiome becomes imbalanced it can result in overgrowths like candida, small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO), and other dysbiosis, which results in a host of health problems.

Probiotics contain “good” bacteria and are usually found in fermented foods or taken by supplements. Taking probiotics can help keep our microbiome balanced and diverse with healthy gut bacteria.

2. Probiotics Support a Healthy Immune System

The vast majority (70-80%) of our immune system lives in our gut. Some probiotics have been shown to promote the production of natural antibodies in the body and boost immune cells such as IgA-producing cells and T lymphocytes (12).

Therefore, in order for our immune system to function properly, we need to have a healthy gut. Low levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut have been associated with increased infection and lower immunity.

3. Probiotics Support the Overall Integrity of the Gut Lining

The lining of our gut can easily become damaged by medication and antibiotic use, alcohol and poor diet, stress, and more. When the lining of the gut becomes damaged this leads to a leaky gut, which can cause a myriad of other issues such as food intolerance, overgrowths, autoimmunity, and inflammation.

By supporting our microbiome with probiotics, we support the overall integrity of the gut as well.

4. Probiotics Can Help Reduce Symptoms of Certain Digestive Disorders

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disease characterized by abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, distension, constipation and diarrhea. Certain types of probiotics from the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains have been shown to improve these symptoms (3, 4).

5. Probiotics Can Help Improve Some Mental Health Conditions

An increasing number of studies link gut health to mood and mental health. Probiotics have been shown to aid in the production of neurotransmitters such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin, catecholamines, and acetylcholine (5).  When these neurotransmitters are secreted within the gut, they trigger molecules that signal brain function and affect behavior and mood.

A study of 40 patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD)  showed that taking probiotic supplements for eight weeks decreased depression levels and reduction of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) and hormones such as insulin, compared to people who did not take a probiotic (6).

Overall, probiotics have the potential to positively impact brain function and boost mood.

6. Probiotics May Help with Weight Loss

Probiotics can help you feel fuller longer, burn more calories, and store less fat. This is partly caused by certain bacteria increasing levels of hormones that help lower blood sugar levels. In one study, dieting obese women who took Lactobacillus rhamnosus (a strain of good bacteria) for three months lost 50% more weight than women who did not take a probiotic (7). Another study of 210 people found that taking even low doses of Lactobacillus gasseri for 12 weeks resulted in an 8.5% reduction in hip and waste circumference (8).

However, it is important to be aware that not all probiotics will aid in weight loss. More studies are needed to clarify the link between probiotics and weight.

The Best Way to Benefit From Probiotics

You can get probiotics from a variety of fermented foods such as:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Kombucha

If you want to buy a probiotic supplement, there are excellent selections on Amazon with thousands of customer reviews. Some brands of supplements that I personally recommend are VSL3, Designs for Health Probiotic Synergy, and Metagenics Ultra Flora Spectrum. However, be aware that some probiotics can be destroyed by stomach acid before they even reach the gut—meaning that you don’t get any of the intended benefits. In order to get as much health benefits as possible, it’s important to you take adequate amounts on a daily basis. Most studies showing benefits used dosages of 1 billion to 100 billion live organisms or colony-forming units (CFU) per day, such as the ones listed above.

If you are experiencing symptoms associated with a gut-imbalance such as IBS, autoimmune disease, nutritional (or vitamin) deficiencies, skin conditions, food intolerances, inflammation or joint pain, and low energy levels, there are now certain tests that can be done to identify such imbalances. At Rachel Scheer Nutriton, LLC, we offer a comprehensive analysis of your microbial profile from your stool sample to provide you with an actionable report that includes dietary recommendations and other natural supplementation.