This how it usually goes with probiotics – make mention of these living microorganisms and the conversation goes straight to how probiotics benefit digestive and gut health. You know the drill: probiotics consist of “good bacteria” that are consumed via fermented foods or supplements and act to restore or strengthen the natural balance of gut bacteria. This aids in proper digestion and helps ward off diseases (such as inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis) and even diarrhea, which can often be a side effect of antibiotic use.
Thing is, probiotics can benefit more than just our digestive health in numerus other ways as well. In other words, they are a good friend to have around, either perched in your fridge in the form of yogurts and milk as well as sour cream and cottage cheese, or stocked in your pantry as nutritional supplements.
For example, probiotics can potentially enhance the effectiveness of our immune systems, in part by inhibiting the growth of gut bacteria that can be harmful, per healthline.com. Probiotics also can enhance the creation of antibodies in the body. Per National Institutes of Health (NIH), some strains of probiotics have been shown through trials to prevent respiratory infections. Another study involving more than 500 children showed how the probiotic Lactobacillus GG diminished the frequency and intensity of respiratory infections by 17 percent.
A Quick History of Probiotics
The use of probiotics can be traced back many years, more than 100, in fact, to Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian microbiologist, who in 1907, per health.harvard.edu, was reportedly the first person to link large amounts of fermented dairy products to the relative good health and longevity of Bulgarians. Metchnikoff postulated that the acid-manufacturing organisms in fermented dairy products (today’s yogurt, sour cream, etc.) could ward off what he called “fouling” in the large intestine, and that these foods, eaten often, could produce a longer, healthier life.
Interestingly, in terms of perhaps being on to something, Elie might have been beaten to the punch by thousands of years. That’s because according to one version of the Bible’s Old Testament, Abraham’s extraordinarily long life – count it, 175 years – might have been attributed to the “consumption of sour milk.” Folks, in today’s world, don’t try this at home – if your “regular” milk is sour, it’s time to toss it, but good.
Other Probiotics Benefits
OK, now that we’ve covered the bases of gut/digestive health, boosting the immune system, and fighting off respiratory infections, let’s look at some of the other benefits that probiotics provide to our bodies:
- Lose fat/drop weight. Per a meta-analysis combining 25 randomized trials – and including nearly 2,000 adults – published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, and cited at mensfitness.com, the ingestion of one probiotic regularly for eight weeks resulted in modest weight loss. More importantly, though, even such a modest decrease (1.3 pounds) can lower the risk for Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Skin conditions. Certain strains of probiotics, per mensfitness.com, have been shown by some studies to reduce skin conditions related to inflammation, such as psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.
- Allergies. A study involving the use of the B. lactis probiotic and allergy sufferers using the probiotic for eight weeks had reduced sniffles two months later compared to others who didn’t use it. The test subjects also showed lower levels of pro-inflammatory markers and helped to keep these compounds from entering the bloodstream, per mensfitness.com.
- Mental health/moods. A growing number of studies have linked gut health, largely dependent on the balance of bacteria provided by probiotics, to improved mental health and mood. No less a health authority than Hippocrates is quoted as having once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Per a triple-blind, placebo-controlled study done with 20 healthy and 20 control participants, per NIH, it was shown that the use of multiple probiotics produce a “significantly reduced overall cognitive reactivity to sad mood,” largely accounted for by diminished rumination and aggressive thoughts.
- Cardiovascular health. Probiotics might be able to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol as well as blood pressure in modest measures. Along those lines, breaking down bile in the gut by certain lactic acid-creating bacteria can also reduce cholesterol, per healthline.com.