Health benefits of probiotics for gut health

Looking for something that would help improve your gut health? Probiotics are the best answer for this.

Many of us always associate probiotics with good digestion, and this is not wrong. In fact, probiotics are good bacterias that can greatly help regulate your digestive system.

You can get many health benefits from probiotics, particularly to your gut health. To understand it further, let’s first define probiotics.

What are probiotics?

The term probiotic comes from the Greek language that means “for life,” but its definition changes along with its purposes over time. Basically, probiotics refer to a combination of live beneficial bacteria and yeasts; these two naturally live within your body. Although you may think that bacteria is a negative thing for your body and will only give you several diseases–this may be true, but probiotics are not that. 

There are two kinds of bacteria that stay in and on your body: good and bad bacteria. Probiotics belong to the good bacteria that maintain your body healthily and well-functioning. It helps you keep the balance of bacteria in your body as probiotics can fight off harmful bacteria whenever they are growing in numbers inside your system [1].

In addition, probiotics belong to a larger community of microorganisms called a microbiome. The microbiome is made up of microbes that you have trillions on and in your body. Additionally, microbes are composed of bacteria, fungi like yeasts, viruses and protozoa. 

Every individual has a unique microbiome in their body – even twins don’t have identical microbiomes. A microbe is considered probiotic when it is isolated from a human, can survive after ingestion in your intestine, has beneficial purposes in your system and can be consumed safely. 

What are the types of probiotics?

The different types of probiotics serve a variety of purposes and are made unique through stability, strain diversity and CFU count. There are two major species of probiotics: Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.

Saccharomyces is also one of its common types and has been used as an effective probiotic. These three types have been widely used in products and foods and have been beneficial in one’s immune function, digestive health, weight loss and more.

Some of the best probiotic strains are the following:

  • Bacillus clausii, coagulans and subtilis
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus, fermentum, gasseri, plantarum, rhamnosus, reuteri and sporogenes
  • Saccharomyces boulardii [2]

Here are some gut health benefits of probiotics:

Balance good bacteria in your digestive system

As mentioned, probiotics are good bacteria that fight off unnecessary ones in your digestive system. When consumed, probiotics can restore the natural balance in your gut health. Having an imbalanced number of friendly and bad bacteria in your gut can possibly lead to gut issues, allergies, mental health problems, obesity and more. 

Help prevent and treat diarrhea 

Another health benefit of probiotics is that they can prevent and treat diarrhea. As probiotics can actually balance your gut’s bacteria, they can do it too when you have diarrhea or reduce the likelihood of you having one. It is more apparent for diarrhea that is caused by taking antibiotics. 

Generally, antibiotics can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria, and probiotics are there to restore their balance. Research shows that taking probiotics can reduce diarrhea caused by antibiotics by 42 percent. 

Furthermore, probiotics can also aid diarrhea even with its other causes. In fact, a study proved that probiotics could decrease the time an individual suffers from diarrhea. 

Help reduce symptoms of some digestive disorders

Probiotics can help ease the symptoms of certain digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This good bacteria has the ability to decrease the symptoms of mild ulcerative colitis because of its certain strains. 

In addition, the probiotic E. coli Nissle is found to be helping in maintaining remission in individuals who suffer from ulcerative colitis. Probiotics can also be good for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) because, according to research, they can help reduce IBS symptoms. Another benefit of probiotics in your gut health is reducing the risk of severe necrotizing enterocolitis by 50 percent. 

Help lose weight and belly fat

Certain probiotics can absorb dietary fat in the intestine and then be excreted through faeces. When probiotics do this process, they are minimising the fats in your gut by releasing them rather than storing them in your body.

Taking probiotics can also help you feel full, so you will prevent eating. When you do this, you are allowing your body to burn more calories and store less fat with the help of increased hormonal levels. 

A study also claims that probiotics can directly help you lose weight. The conclusion derived was that dieting women who consumed Lactobacillus Rhamnosus for over three (3) months made them lost 50 percent more than women who opted not to take probiotics. 

Another study found that you can reduce belly fat by 8.5 percent when you casually take Lactobacillus Gasseri for weeks. It is important to note, though, that not all probiotics are good in helping you lose weight or belly fat. The mentioned ones are a few of them, and some are not, like Lactobacillus Acidophilus which can give you the opposite – yes, more fats [3]. 

Help maintain and improve gut integrity

The gut barrier, a thin but ultimately strong wall of cells, protects your digestive tract. Beneficial particles such as electrolytes and water can pass from the intestines to the bloodstream because of the gut barrier.

It also keeps partially-digested food or disease-causing particles from coming through.  Hence, the gut barrier has a crucial role in your digestive system. When it is damaged or inflamed, bad bacteria and proteins may leak through because of a weak gut barrier – this condition is known as increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome. 

Help reduce gas and bloating

Gas and bloating are common and minor gut problems that may occur because of an imbalance in your gut microbiome, overgrowth of yeast and intolerances to certain foods. When you have gas and bloating, probiotics are in action to help rebalance your gut microbiome and crowd out bad bacteria. Although gas and bloating are something to not be worried about, they can be symptoms of more serious and underlying digestive conditions.

Probiotics and lactose intolerance

If you are lactose intolerant, you may find it good for your digestive system to eat yoghurt. This is because yoghurt contains probiotics that help you digest the lactose found in the small intestine before reaching the colon. Yoghurts use Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Streptococcus Thermophilus to break down lactose.

Typically, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus is a probiotic that is used for good digestion, prevention of diarrhea and relief of symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It may also work by aiding the body in keeping a normal consistency of bacteria in the stomach and intestines [4].

How can you get probiotics?

Probiotics are present in different common foods and supplements around. You can find probiotics in dairy products, like yoghurts and milk and fermented foods, such as pickled vegetables, tempeh, miso, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and soy products. 

You can easily find probiotic supplements in drug stores in the form of tablets, capsules and powders – these contain a dried form of bacteria.

An adequate amount of probiotic supplements is recommended to get its health benefits. When you swallow one probiotic supplement, it can be broken down easily when it reaches your stomach before even going to your gut. 

How to choose a probiotic supplement?

If you are considering probiotic supplements, you must know what to consider before consuming them. 

  • High CFU count: CFU means colony-forming units. It is recommended that children take at least 5 billion to 10 billion CFU contents of a probiotic supplement daily. For adults, it must be around 10 billion to 20 billion CFUs every day. Take note that this does not apply to all and depends on your health conditions. 
  • Prebiotics and supplementary ingredients: Probiotic bacteria require prebiotics–specialised plant fibres that serve as fertilisers to trigger the growth of healthy and good bacteria in the gut. Hence, it is better to check whether it is included in the probiotic supplements’ ingredients.
  • Sugar: Rather than using regular sugar, you must choose those with prebiotics, as sugar is not considered a good food source for probiotics. Moreover, prebiotics is the food source meant to maintain probiotics alive. 

Bottom line: Probiotics are basically good for your gut health. Hence, you can start adding probiotics to your healthy diet from probiotics-rich foods or supplements. 

[1] ​​https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4045285/ 
[2] https://draxe.com/nutrition/probiotics-benefits-foods-supplements/ 
[3] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-health-benefits-of-probiotics 
[4] https://www.healthyeating.org/nutrition-topics/milk-dairy/benefits/probiotics 

Photograph: metamorworks/Shutterstock
The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.