Benefits of Probiotics: What Do Probiotics Do?
Gut health is all the rage right now. Bottles of kombucha can be found nestled next to green juices in grocery stores, restaurants, and yoga studios across the country. As wellness culture becomes more popular and more and more people prioritize self-care, gut health has become another component in the much larger equation known as healthy living.
And while you’ve almost certainly heard of them, what do probiotics do, exactly?
More people than ever are wondering not just what they are, but what their benefits are and whether they’re worth trying. If you are looking to learn about the benefits of probiotics for women and men, our experts are here to help. To help guide you on your journey toward health and wellness, we’ll break down how to restore gut health, how probiotics work, and discuss 12 key benefits of probiotics.
Gut Health 101
Your gut is a complex internal structure, so to truly understand your gut health, you need to first understand your digestive system. Let’s time-travel back to your days in high school anatomy class.
The digestive system is made up of multiple organs, including:
- The oral cavity or mouth
- The esophagus
- The stomach
- The small intestine
- The large intestine
- The rectum and anus
Don’t worry, that’s all the anatomy vocab you’ll need for the day. What you really need to know is that the gastrointestinal tract ushers the food that you consume on its journey through your body.
Okay then. So, what about gut health?
The gut microbiota, found in your gastrointestinal tract, is established during infancy and evolves throughout your life.
This intestinal ecosystem is full of good bacteria that help you thrive by:
- Sustaining immune and metabolic homeostasis
- Defending against pathogens
- Supporting digestion and assimilation of nutrients
Certain studies have associated changes in gut bacteria with a wide range of inflammatory diseases and infections. Conditions where the gut bacteria is altered and there is a surplus of harmful bacteria can lead to unpleasant symptoms such as chronic bloating.
Considering what’s at stake for your gut microbiome, it’s no surprise that more and more people are choosing to prioritize their gut health—with probiotics, among other things.
How Probiotics Work
One easy way to support your gut and immune function? Probiotics!
Probiotics are made up of living bacteria and yeasts. They help your body maintain a balance of good and bad bacteria. These healthy bacteria have a range of possible roles in your body, including:
- Digesting food
- Competing with bad bacteria for growth
- Synthesizing vitamins
- Educating your immune system
- And a lot more, such as converting fibres into beneficial short chain fatty acids
Choosing Wisely: Healthy Probiotics for a Healthy Gut
Since probiotics are so vital, you’ll want to be sure that you invest in the right kind. Probiotics must meet five criteria established by ISAPP, a group of scientist that specialize in probiotics:
- Identifiable high quality strains
- Guaranteed bioactivity (the probiotic bacteria must be alive to have a beneficial effect)
- Synergy of the strains
- Gastrointestinal survival
- Clinical studies done on the final product, not just on the individual strains
Bio-K+’s probiotics respect all of these criteria, which makes them a high quality product.
As you shop for probiotic supplements, you’ll find that they come in multiple forms, including:
- Liquid drinks
- Capsules or pills
The probiotics sold in stores are usually made of two different types of healthy bacteria:
Sometimes, probiotics also include yeast—most commonly, saccharomyces boulardii.
Bio-K+® probiotics are available in both capsules and drinkables with clinical backing to support their efficacy. Our probiotic product formulations include multiple strains of lactobacillus bacteria to support gut health.
12 Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics offer a wide range of benefits. This is a rapidly growing scientific field, and new discoveries are being made constantly.
For now, here are 12 of the top potential benefits probiotics have to offer.
#1 Disease Mitigation
There’s evidence to suggest that probiotics can help with a variety of conditions, including:
- Digestive conditions – Diarrhea, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may all improve with some specific probiotic supplement intake.
- Infections – Certain infections such as yeast infections and urinary tract infections might benefit from probiotics.
- Other conditions – Other conditions that probiotics might help include lactose intolerance, and eczema.
As researchers perform more and more studies, they’ll get a better idea of how to prescribe the different types of probiotics to manage these various diseases.
#2 Immune System Support
There are preliminary clinical studies into how probiotics might benefit the immune system. Certain studies have noted that probiotics regulate the immune functions of key cells, including those on mucosal surfaces, which are especially prone to infection, and in the intestine.
Some studies identified signaling pathways through which probiotics can affect both immunity and inflammation caused by disease-causing pathogens. As a result, scientists are hopeful that probiotics might not only be able to support the immune system but also help with diseases associated with the immune response such as:
- Viral infections
We’ll look more closely at how probiotics might benefit some of these conditions later.
#3 Vaccine Response Efficacy
Building off of the potential beneficial connections between probiotics and immune system function, some studies have suggested that probiotics could affect the immune response to vaccines. A recent review of 26 studies found that about half showed improved vaccine responses when using probiotics.
The benefits were strongest for two types of vaccines:
- Oral vaccinations
- Parenteral (non-digestive system) influenza vaccinations
While researchers are still collecting more information, they’ve found that probiotics could represent an inexpensive option to boost:
- Vaccine efficacy
- Duration of protection
#4 Reduced Antibiotics Side Effects
Anyone who has ever suffered from a sinus infection knows the benefits of antibiotics; however, after antibiotics treat your infection, they can leave you with unpleasant lingering side effects, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD).
Reports show that more than one-third of patients who take antibiotics will develop antibiotic-associated diarrhea. As a result, many researchers recommend taking probiotics with antibiotics to mitigate this consequence.
#5 Allergy Management
There have been a number of studies demonstrating how probiotics might benefit allergy sufferers. Several studies have found that probiotics can help:
- Relieve allergic rhinitis, inflammation inside the nose as a result of pervasive allergens like dust, pollen, mold, or hair.
- Prevent, reduce, or manage allergies, including controlling atopic eczema and allergy to cow’s milk.
#6 Healthy Brain Function
The body is intertwined and interconnected in ways we’re only starting to realize—for example, recent research has focused on the gut-brain axis and is showing promising findings.
Essentially, the gut bacteria in your GI tract communicate with the central nervous system, which creates a link between your brain and your gut. It’s not yet clear whether probiotics can affect mental health or mood; however, there is evidence that associates gastrointestinal illness with mental illness.
What does that mean? For example, people with irritable bowel syndrome develop depression and anxiety at higher rates, so although the effects of probiotics on the brain are still coming into focus, scientists are noticing promising results from the gut-brain connection.
#7 Acne Treatment
Preliminary research has pinpointed the mechanisms by topical probiotics could treat acne. While scientists are still working toward conducting more human studies, this is yet another avenue that scientists will continue to study as they learn more and more about how probiotics can benefit a wide range of conditions, including skin disorders.
#8 Reduced Cholesterol
Some research proposes that probiotics could reduce cholesterol by affecting how your body responds to it. Future research will focus on the efficacy of probiotics as a cholesterol-reduction agent as well as the dose, duration, and probiotic strains that deliver the best results.
#10 Oral Health
You’re never fully dressed without a smile! Luckily, certain research has demonstrated the potential benefits of probiotics on oral health by reducing dental carries for example.
#11 Cancer Prevention
Studies have demonstrated that the gut microbiota helps to keep the human body in homeostasis. When an imbalance occurs, it can trigger inflammatory immune responses that, if maintained for a long period of time, can lead to diseases such as cancer. For example, long-term inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract in patients with Crohn’s disease can lead to colon cancer. Certain probiotics may reduce the incidence of side effects from cancer prevention and cancer radiation therapy.
#12 Lactose Intolerance
Depending on the strain and concentration, probiotics may be able to increase lactose metabolism, providing relief to those suffering from lactose intolerance. While further studies will hopefully illuminate this connection with more and more clarity, it’s a promising treatment that doctors can share with those experiencing bloating, gas, discomfort, and diarrhea—and missing chocolate ice cream and cheese pizza dearly.
Banish Bloating and Support Your Gut Health
The evidence is almost overwhelming: probiotics could be the key to unlocking a whole new world of health and wellness.
Whether you’re suffering from one of the conditions above or simply trying to prioritize self-care, probiotics are an easy way to help support your gut health. As you take stock of your current self-care routine, know that Bio-K+ probiotic supplementation is a great addition to your healthy lifestyle and maintain beneficial bacteria in the gut. When you start consuming probiotics on a regular basis, you'll be able to support your digestive health while taking a step toward reducing the amount of harmful bacteria in your body. Take your first step into the world of probiotics with one of our premium products and rediscover what healthy feels like.
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