Like any other supplement, probiotics have found their way into the medical field and general usage worldwide. But what are they, and how may they help your health? The newest research is provided below.
What are Probiotics?
Trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses live on or inside of us. and maintaining a good and balanced relationship with them is our advantage. They outnumber your cells by a 10:1 ratio, as research showed. The colon (aka the large intestine), the final part of the gut, contains millions of helpful and harmful microorganisms. Our microbiome is the sum of all these bacteria. However, your body is teeming with microbes, both beneficial and harmful. Probiotics are sometimes referred to as “beneficial” or “useful” bacteria since they contribute to the health of your gut.
How do They work? As we already know, probiotics are beneficial bacteria. Bad bacteria and other pathogens are flushed out of the stomach by probiotics, which work via a mechanism known as competitive adhesion. They take the place of other bad bacteria from colonizing or infecting us, making more gut-friendly bacteria in the intestines. This avoids infection or inflammation caused by harmful bacteria. For example, excessive yeast in the body might result in a yeast infection, but a well-balanced gut microbiome will keep yeast levels at a minimum.
Where can we find bacteria in our bodies?
Though the gut (particularly the large intestines) is the most prominent region associated with beneficial bacteria, several other sites harbor healthy germs on and inside the body. The following image and table represent the most populated places of the body with bacteria.
1. Mouth 2, pharynx; 3, tongue; 4, esophagus; 5, pancreas; 6, stomach; 7, liver; 8, transverse colon; 9, gallbladder; 10, descending colon; 11, duodenum; 12, jejunum; 13, ascending colon; 14, sigmoid colon; 15, ileum; 16, rectum; 17, anus (1)
Types and Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics have three classifications: genus, species, and strain (in that order). Bifidobacterium lactis BI-07, for example, is the genus, lactis is the species, and BI-07 is the strain. That’s how it’ll look on food and supplement labels!
- Genus: Genus is the broadest class that encompasses several different types of bacteria in the same general category but with lots of different characteristics and health benefits.
- Species: Species get a little more specific. All of the bacterial strains within a species have similar characteristics but some subtle differences between them.
- Strain: A specific strain is one type of bacteria. All of the bacteria identified within a strain carry out the same function within the body.
The probiotics that are most widely consumed are organisms from two primary genera. These probiotic species are the most extensively researched:
- Lactobacillus Lactase is an enzyme produced by this species of bacteria that breaks down lactose or milk sugar. Additionally, lactic acid is produced by these bacteria. Lactic acid contributes to the control of pathogenic microorganisms. Additionally, it acts as a fuel source for muscles and aids in mineral absorption. Only making up approximately 0.01% of the overall bacterial population in the gut. While this may seem like a small amount, it is not. Lactobacillus bacteria naturally occur in the mouth, small intestines, and vagina.
- Bifidobacterium. Bifidobacterium makes up between 3% and 6% of the overall gut microbiome in most individuals, making it one of the most prevalent genera. There are around 48 distinct Bifidobacterium species, and each has a unique effect on your health. It’s found in the intestines. This bacterium genus is often incorporated in meals and supplements.
Naturally, several species and strains exist within the genera Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. Here we will be mentioning good history, and all are backed by scientific research.
- Bifidobacterium lactis. It’s manufactured from raw milk.
- B. animalis. It is beneficial in assisting with digestion and in combating food-borne germs. It is also believed to have immune-boosting properties and helps relieve constipation.
- B. breve. This species is found in the digestive system and vagina. It kills infection-causing bacteria or yeast in both regions. It aids in nutrient absorption by digesting carbohydrates. Additionally, it has been studied to degrade plant fiber to make it digestible.
- B. longum. This species is found in the intestines. It aids in the digestion of carbohydrates and may possibly act as an antioxidant, and promotes homeostasis in the gut.
- L. acidophilus. This species inhabits the small intestine and vaginal tract. It aids digestion and may aid in the battle against vaginal bacteria. Yogurt and cultured soy protein, such as miso, contain it.
- May limit the development of Helicobacter pylori and Staphylococcus aureus, two dangerous bacteria well-known for infecting humans and causing health issues.
The following types of species have been proven beneficial for any health-related problems.
|Bifidobacterium infantis|| |
|Bifidobacterium lactis|| |
|Bifidobacterium longum|| |
|Escherichia coli Nissle|
|Enterococcus LAB SF 68|
|Streptococcus thermophilus |
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics have been at the forefront of research, and they have been backed up with the reason behind it. They are beneficial for our gut health and important for our body health. They are found to be beneficial for mental health and hormone regulation. The following advantages have been proven by research in support of their usage.
The term “gut flora,” “gut microbiota,” or “gut microbiome” refers to the diverse variety of bacteria that live in the gut, and it is home to 300–500 bacterial species. Probiotics are gaining popularity as evidence of a relationship between the gut microbiota and general health increases as it has also been studied that imbalance in the gut microbiome can lead to many disorders.
- It has been studied in research that probiotics do affect your intestines in a healthy way as they may improve your health by altering your microbiome and aiding your metabolism.
- Some research indicates that probiotics might enhance the activity of various gut bacteria as well as the precise sorts of compounds they generate.
Diarrhea. Inflammation of the gut lining, which causes diarrhea, may be treated with some probiotic strains.
- A 2017 analysis of 17 researchers found that providing probiotics alongside antibiotics reduced the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea by half.
- 2011 research showed that probiotic bacteria might help treat periodic infectious diarrhea, acute watery diarrhea, and rotavirus diarrhea.
- Its beneficial effects have been studied in young people. However, the impacts would depend entirely on the probiotic’s kind and dose.
- It has also been used for cancer-related diarrhea, a typical complication related to its treatment.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
- A 2018 meta-analysis of 53 research (5,545 people) on probiotics for IBS indicated that probiotics may ultimately reduce IBS symptoms and stomach discomfort.
- Probiotic bacteria may effectively cure inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). It may help IBS symptoms, according to a 2019 review.
Constipation. When consumed, probiotics enhance the gut microbiome — the collection of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract that helps regulate inflammation, immune function, digestion, and heart health.
- Probiotics have been shown to treat constipation in children. One study found that taking probiotics for 3–12 weeks enhanced bowel frequency in children with constipation while another found it improved bowel consistency in 48 children under study.
- Probiotics may help in preventing constipation in pregnant women. Consumption of mixed probiotics enhanced bowel movement frequency and reduced constipation symptoms in pregnant women.
- In a 4-week trial of 60 pregnant women with constipation, consuming 10.5 ounces (300 grams) of probiotic yogurt daily increased bowel movement frequency and decreased constipation symptoms.
- A 2017 analysis indicated that eating meals including probiotic Lactobacillus bacteria might lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol. The same effect was proven in another research done in 2018.
- Taking L. reuteri for nine weeks reduced cholesterol levels by 9% and “bad” LDL cholesterol by 13% in 127 patients with high cholesterol according to research.
- A comprehensive meta-analysis of 32 research indicated a substantial benefit in lowering cholesterol.
Mental Health. As a result of recent research, the microbiome may be a new target for antidepressant therapy.
- 2017 research on the effects of probiotics on depression indicated that regular probiotic supplementation helped with both depression and anxiety symptoms.
- A meta-analysis of 15 human trials indicated that taking Bifidobacterium & Lactobacillus strains for 1–2 months improved anxiety, sadness, autism, OCD, and memory.
- In a 2016 small trial, people with severe depression got a probiotic supplement containing three bacteria types for eight weeks. Most reported reduced Beck Depression Inventory ratings after the intervention.
- Another 2017 research found that the Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 may enhance the quality of life and lessen depressive symptoms in persons with IBS.
- 6-week research monitored 70 chemical employees. Those who ate 100 g of probiotic yogurt or took a probiotic pill daily saw improvements in mood, anxiety, and tensions.
Blood Pressure. Supplementation for blood pressure improvements required 8 weeks and 10 million CFU.
- It has been proven that consuming Lactobacilli Plantarum for six weeks lowered blood pressure in 36 smokers.
- Detailed research combining data from 14 additional trials indicated that probiotic fermented milk substantially decreased blood pressure in persons with hypertension.
Infection. Inflammation occurs when your body activates your immune system to fight infection or heal a wound. However, food, smoking, or an unhealthy lifestyle may cause this, which can lead to further problems like heart disease.
- Probiotic bacteria may also help combat Helicobacter pylori infestations, which cause stomach cancer and ulcers. (1) (2)
- According to a 2015 review of 12 research including 3,720 participants, those who take probiotics may have fewer and shorter upper respiratory infections.
- Several probiotics have been demonstrated to stimulate the body’s natural antibody production. Additionally, they may promote the growth of immune cells such as IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes, and natural killer cells. (1) (2) (3)
Weight Loss. Gut bacteria and obesity have been related by researchers. It also reveals that microbial alterations in the gut have a role in adult obesity. Obese individuals have different gut microbes than slim ones, study shows.
- In one study, 210 obese people took Lactobacillus gasseri every day. They lost 8.5% of their belly fat in 12 weeks. This fat loss came back within four weeks of discontinuing the supplements.
- In another study, for 12 weeks, 114 obese people were given either Lactobacillus sakes or a placebo. The probiotic reduced body fat mass and waist measurement significantly.
- Additionally, evidence shows that Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis may assist with weight reduction and obesity prevention.
Skin Diseases. Probiotics have proven to be beneficial for acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis as well as other skin problems. By topically applying probiotics to the skin, a protective coating is formed, blocking skin cells from coming into touch with harmful bacteria and parasites.
- In 2013, researchers discovered that Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 may help psoriasis and chronic fatigue syndrome.
- In a 2020 research, topical application of probiotics has been found to be very beneficial to treat a variety of conditions such as eczema, hypersensitivity, acne, and allergic inflammation, as well as hypersensitivity UV-induced skin damage, wound healing, and as a skincare product.
Muscular Soreness. As proven by new research, consumption of fermented milk before and after resistance exercise decreased muscular soreness, perhaps owing to improved glucose use for muscle regeneration.
Which Types and How Much Probiotics to Get from Food?
Probiotics are ingested in two basic ways: via the consumption of certain foods that contain helpful bacteria and through the use of probiotic supplements. You may choose to begin taking probiotics by simply adding some natural probiotic-containing foods to your diet. Some of the most well-known and readily available sources are mentioned in the table.
|1. Yogurt||1,000,000, or one million CFU/5 grams|
|2. Kefir||150 billion CFU per tablespoon or 2.4 trillion/cup|
|3. Sauerkraut||1,000–100 million CFUs/ tablespoon|
|4. Tempeh||10 billion CFU/ gram|
|5. Kimchi||1 hundred million CFU/gram.|
|6. Miso||100 billion CFU/ gram|
|7 Kombucha||roughly 10 billion CFU/ gram|
|8. Pickles||one to ten million CFU/gram|
|9. Buttermilk||1 million CFU/ gram|
|10. Cheese||10 thousand billion CFU/gram|
A broad range of probiotic strains and dosages are available as dietary supplements (capsules, powders, liquids, etc.). According to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), around 4 million (1.6 percent) US adults reported using probiotics. Apart from vitamins and minerals, they were the third most often utilized dietary supplement among adults.
In the US, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most often taken probiotic strains. However, several probiotic supplements are on the market with varying bacteria kinds and dosages. Because there is no regulation, each batch may be unique. Producers are responsible for ensuring that their products are safe before they are sold and that any promises stated on the label are accurate and reliable.
Remember that probiotics are considered dietary supplements and are not regulated by the FDA. Also, probiotic producers are not required to verify efficacy claims, nor is the FDA.
As a general guideline, a probiotic should include at least 1 billion CFUs (colony forming units, i.e., live cells), with average daily dosages for adults ranging between 1 billion and 10 billion CFUs. Most of the studies showing benefits used doses of 1 billion to 100 billion live organisms or colony-forming units (CFU) per day.
Some studies advocate taking a probiotic with or immediately before a meal on an empty stomach. Taking uncoated probiotic pills with or right before a meal containing fat may be helpful.
What to Take Supplement or Food? It all boils down to the concentration of probiotic bacteria in the product, the diversity of strains, their ability to survive transit through your stomach, the bacteria’s ‘liveness,’ and a range of other criteria. Probiotic supplements are often more effective than foods in providing the necessary health benefits. Three benefits of supplementing with probiotics are,
- In conjunction with problem strains of bacteria, supplements provide you with the option of selecting a multi-strain mix for microbial variety, as opposed to a food product such as yogurt, which may only contain one or two strains of bacteria.
- Several probiotic supplements are flavoring and sweetener free. Sugar may upset the equilibrium of your body’s healthy microbes. Unlike many probiotic-rich meals made from soy or dairy, many probiotic supplements are devoid of common allergies (i.e., dairy, soy, wheat, gluten). The additional sugar and sweeteners found in probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha may also be avoided with probiotic supplementation.
- Supplements may help to target specific needs. Taking supplements gives you greater control over the bacterial strains you intake, which may benefit some health issues. For example, DDS®-1, a lactobacillus acidophilus strain, may help relieve lactose intolerance symptoms, while Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG may help relieve antibiotic-associated diarrhea symptoms.
How Long Do Probiotic Supplements Take to Become Effective?
A recent study has shown that the kind of microbe strain, the health state, the product formula, the dosage, and the product’s quality are all important for efficacy. Researchers compared the timelines for numerous common illnesses that probiotics are known to help (and some differences, too).
Diarrhea. Sixty people with H. pylori trial revealed that antibiotic-induced diarrhea and nausea disappeared after 14 days. Another study of 63 research indicated that probiotics might help relieve acute diarrhea in as little as two days.
- Bloating. As little as 21 days after participating in the research, individuals reported substantial reductions in bloating. Another trial offered 60 people probiotics for eight weeks. Symptoms improved by week four and continued to improve until week eight. Probiotics may occasionally cause bloating, so discuss the strain and timing with your doctor if you’re experiencing this.
- Constipation. Probiotic-rich beverages improved constipation severity and stool composition in a four-week trial on functional constipation. Another research provided 47 people with the same probiotic-rich drink and found that the most substantial changes occurred in week four, although minor benefits occurred early.
- Skin health. The outcomes of research on skin health varied depending on the condition. One analysis indicated that although probiotic treatment may help clear up dermatitis or eczema in 4 weeks, it might take up to three months. According to another research, after 12 weeks, probiotic-rich milk improved skin inflammation and visible acne in 18 individuals.
- Weight Maintenance. Results for problems beyond the gastrointestinal system may take longer. Taking a probiotic pill for 12 weeks helped reduce visceral fat in 90 overweight or obese people. While 24-week research that coupled probiotic supplements with a low-calorie diet found comparable advantages for weight reduction and maintenance.
| ||2 to 14 days|
| ||3 to 4 weeks|
| ||7 days to 1 month|
| ||8-12 weeks period|
| ||1-3 months|
How to Choose the Right Probiotic Supplement?
Increase your probiotic intake by eating more probiotic-rich foods, such as fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt. Alternatively, you might try supplementing with probiotics. Picking the right probiotic is key as certain strains may not be as effective as others. However, consult your physician before beginning supplements, particularly if you already take any drugs or have any underlying health concerns.
Also, it’s a good idea to get your probiotic tested by a third-party laboratory to check that it includes what it claims and that the bacterial strains are alive and active. Refer to our article here to learn more about a complete medical examination and checkup required for a human.
OR confused about taking supplements? Do they really work? Read it here.
Read Probiotic Labels. The way a probiotic work varies from one kind to another. That is why it is necessary to get as much information as possible before purchasing. Listed below are some of the features you should be able to locate on the label:
- The genus, species, and strain of the probiotic (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, for example)
- The number of organisms that will be alive by the use-by date.
- The dosage
- The company name and contact information
If you can’t find this on the label, you may be able to find it on the company’s website. While you’re there, look for studies that back up the product’s health claims. On product labels, amounts may be expressed as 1 x 109 for 1 billion CFU or 1 x 1010 for 10 billion CFU. While most probiotic supplements contain between one and ten billion CFU per dosage, some brands contain up to fifty billion CFU or more.
If you choose yogurt or another dairy product, search for the term “has live active cultures” or “contains probiotics” on the label, which indicates that the product contains live active cultures. Not all yogurts include probiotics. Some frozen yogurts include living cultures, while others do not.
Side Effects of Probiotics
Side effects associated with probiotic intake are very limited, and they are fairly safe for most people; adverse effects are possible.
- The most prevalent negative effect of probiotics studied is minor gas and bloating.
- Certain bacterial strains used in probiotic supplements have been shown to create histamine in the human digestive system. So, it is better to avoid such supplements or use an alternative.
- Certain ingredients in the supplements include yeast, lactose and milk sugar, etc. It can cause allergic reactions.
In general, the body reaps the most advantages from ingesting probiotics via food, which often includes helpful nutrients as well. However, if you’re using probiotics to treat a sickness or condition, a supplement with a greater number of strains may be more beneficial. Both dietary and supplemental sources seem to be helpful. Probiotic supplements should be purchased from reputable companies that ensure the presence of a live strain. Make sure that it is stored appropriately.