The Power of Probiotics

Extensive research has shown that beneficial bacteria, aka probiotics, can play a significant role in numerous areas of human health. Because these good microorganisms are concentrated in the digestive system, and especially in the intestinal tract, their interactions with food and their impact on all things related to digestion are of most interest.

For example, one of the strengths associated with probiotics is an ability to help balance the healthy bacteria in your digestive system. An imbalance can occur for many reasons, including use of antibiotics, illness, and eating a poor diet, such as one that includes processed meats, sugary beverages, and refined carbohydrates. We could easily be talking about a hot dog or sausage on a white flour bun accompanied by greasy French fries and washed down with a cola. This combination could cause some internal fireworks!

Probiotics can defuse that fire. For example, people who take probiotics have experienced a reduced risk of experiencing diarrhea. Several factors can be involved in diarrhea, including the use of antibiotics and traveling to a different country, but it also can develop if you consume foods that have been left out on a serving table too long or not stored properly. Cases of food poisoning are not uncommon during the summer months because higher temperatures foster more rapid growth of harmful bacteria.

Probiotics are insurance

Taking probiotics is an insurance policy. Even if you try to eat a balanced diet and avoid food additives and other harmful ingredients, it’s a challenge. Holidays and special occasions are prime opportunities to step away from your usual diet. Although the end result may be stomach pain, diarrhea, or other intestinal disturbances, use of probiotics can step in and help restore balance.

In fact, daily use of a wide spectrum probiotic, which is one that contains many different species of beneficial bacteria, is a prudent way to protect your digestive and immune systems every day.

Health benefits of probiotics

If you take probiotics on a regular basis, you can set yourself free from stressing over the detrimental effects of poor dietary choices. That does not mean you can make bad food choices on a continuous basis and expect probiotics to save you! However, if you provide your body with beneficial bacteria daily, you can help create and maintain a healthy intestinal (gut) environment where beneficial bacteria secure the upper hand over disease-causing, system-disrupting microorganisms.

For example:

Heart health. Heart disease is still the number one killer of men in the United States and many other countries, and probiotics can help change that statistic. Studies show probiotics can lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and blood pressure and also raise good cholesterol (HDL). It’s recommended you take at least 10 billion CFUs daily for 8 weeks to experience results.

Digestive disorders. If you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel syndrome, then probiotics can be helpful. One study even found that a specific probiotic called E. coli Nissle was as effective as drugs in maintaining remission in ulcerative colitis cases. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can be reduced when using probiotics.

Immune system function. Probiotics can enhance the function of the immune system. One study, for example, showed that probiotics limited damage to the epithelium by certain pathogens and also promoted the restoration of the tissue. In a 2018 Swiss report, the authors noted that probiotics can increase the activity or natural killer cells and other natural antibodies, modulate the secretion of cytokines (molecules that regulate immunity and inflammation), enhance the epithelial barrier in the gut, and help keep out damaging bacteria.

Weight problems. How can microorganisms help with weight loss? Study results suggest probiotics may prevent the absorption of dietary fat in the intestinal tract and help you feel fuller for longer, store less body fat, and burn more calories.

In one study in women, use of Lactobacillus rhamnosus for three months resulted in a 50 percent greater weight loss than among women who did not take the supplement. Another showed that those who took L. gasseri for 12 weeks had an 8.5 percent reduction in belly fat. Given the challenge associated with losing weight, probiotics could offer this benefit along with the other health advantages.

Mental health. Studies in both animals and humans show that probiotic supplements can improve some mental health issues. In a review of 15 human studies, for example, supplementation with various Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains resulted in an improvement in anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and memory.

In a group of chemical workers, those who ate 100 grams of probiotic yogurt daily experienced improvement in anxiety, depression, stress, and general health when compared with those who took a placebo. In a study of 40 individuals with depression, taking probiotics daily for 8 weeks reduced levels of depression and levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) and insulin when compared with individuals who did not take the probiotic.

Bottom line

Are you ready to set yourself free from worry about the damaging effects of some of your dietary choices? Would you like to improve your heart health, boost your immune function, enhance the ability to lose weight, and improve symptoms of digestive problems and depression and anxiety?

Then a daily dose of probiotics may help. A wide spectrum of strains should be present in the supplement you choose (i.e., at least 8 to 10). Declare your independence from worry about digestive health or slipping up on your diet. Always strive to eat organic, all-natural foods and exercise regularly, and complement your efforts with daily probiotic supplementation.

References

Agerholm-Larsen L et al. The effect of a probiotic milk product on plasma cholesterol: a meta-analysis of short-term intervention studies. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000 Nov; 54(11): 856-60

Aronsson L et al. Decreased fat storage by Lactobacillus paracasei is associated with increased levels of angiopoietin-like 4 protein (ANGPTL4). PLoS One 2010 Sep 30; 5(9)

Behm B. Avoid food poisoning during summer picnics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2017 Jul 10

Kadooka Y et al. Effect of Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 in fermented milk on abdominal adiposity in adults in randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition 2013 Nov 14; 110(9): 1696-703

Kiessling G et al. Long-term consumption of fermented dairy products over 6 months increases HDL cholesterol. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2002 Sep; 56(9): 843-49

Khalesi S et al. Effect of probiotics on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Hypertension 2014 Oct; 64(4): 897-903

La Fata G et al. Probiotics and the gut immune system: indirect regulation. Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins 2018 Mar; 10(1): 11-21

Moayyedi P et al. The efficacy of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review. Gut 2010 Mar; 59(3): 325-32

Mohammadi AA et al. The effects of probiotics on mental health and hypothalamic-ituitary-adrenal axis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in petrochemical workers. Nutritional Neuroscience 2016 Nov; 19(9): 387-95

Ogawa A et al. Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 suppresses fatty acid release through enlargement of fat emulsion size in vitro and promotes fecal fat excretion in healthy Japanese subjects. Lipids in Health and Disease 2015 Mar 20; 14:20

Resta-Lenert S, Barrett KE. Live probiotics protect intestinal epithelial cells from the effects of infection with enteroinvasive Escherichia coli (EIEC). Gut 2003 Jul; 52(7): 988-97

Sanchez M et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. British Journal of Nutrition 2014 Apr 28; 111(8): 1507-19

Wang H et al. Effect of probiotics on central nervous system functions in animals and humans: a systematic review. Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility 2016 Oct 30; 22(4): 589-605

 

by Mens Health Editor

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