I’m sure you’re aware of probiotics and how good they are for your digestion and immunity. But did you know that these healthful microbes also play a role in bone health and overall health?
Found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, probiotics offer some amazing health benefits. And today, we’re going to look at six of them.
The first one is about digestion, because there’s no doubt that probiotics have tremendous benefits for the gut.
Keep reading – the sixth benefit is especially amazing!
1. Constipation Relief
Constipation can be more than just an inconvenience. It can actually cause great harm, especially if it’s allowed to continue untreated. If impacted fecal matter remains in the gut for long, it can create blockages and toxicity that can make you quite ill. But probiotics have been shown to prevent this painful condition.
Scientists studied the effects of probiotics on a group of 274 male and female participants, aged 18 to 65, with constipation-predominant IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). For six weeks, the participants consumed either a fermented milk drink containing Bifidobacterium animalis DN-173 010, S. thermophilus and L. bulgaricus, or yogurt that had been heated to kill the bacteria. Both products had a similar taste and texture, so participants assumed they were all consuming the same thing.
The probiotic group experienced decreased bloating and abdominal pain, and greater frequency of bowel movements, as well as improved health-related quality of life (HRQoL). 1
The study authors conclude that,
“…the present large-scale study strongly suggests a beneficial effect of a probiotic food containing B. animalis DN-173010 on HRQoL discomfort score and bloating, and also on stool frequency in those subjects with <3 stools per week.” 1
So if you’re looking for yogurt or fermented dairy products to boost your probiotic population, read labels and make sure it contains live and active cultures.
2. Relief Of Constipation’s Unpleasant Opposite: Diarrhea
Diarrhea is another digestive symptom that can be more than just inconvenient, and it is also relieved with probiotics.
In a comprehensive review published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers studied the effects of probiotics on antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). The data included studies of probiotics on various degrees of diarrhea, from mild to severe with complications such as electrolyte imbalance.
They found that those who ingested probiotics were 42% less likely to come down with diarrhea than control groups who took a placebo.
Researchers concluded the following,
“…our review found sufficient evidence to conclude that adjunct probiotic administration is associated with a reduced risk of AAD,” 2
3. Reduce Upper Respiratory Infections
Multiple studies have shown that probiotics ward off colds and flu. A Chinese meta-analysis, which included 3,720 participants from childhood to approximately 40 years old, found that probiotics were superior to a placebo at the following:
- Preventing upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) by 47%
- Reducing the duration of URTIs by nearly 2 days
- Reducing school absence due to URTIs
- Decreasing antibiotic use 3
This is hopeful news for anyone, but for those with young children or grandchildren who are exposed to URTIs at daycare and school, a Finnish study provides even more good news.
The study involved 18 daycares in Helsinki, Finland. Researchers found that young children who drank probiotic-enriched milk were 17% less likely to come down with a URTI, and a similar reduction in likelihood of illness-related absence. 4
4. Promote Dental Health
Tooth decay is caused by bacteria, and research shows that Lactobacillus reuteri kills this harmful bacteria. L. reuteri also decreases the damage caused by gum disease and gingivitis.
Specifically, scientists looked at the effect of L. reuteri on a major cavity-causing bacteria, Streptococcus mutans. The L. reuteri inhibited the harmful bacteria significantly, out-performing other probiotic strains commonly found in yogurt. 5 As you’ll see in a moment, the specific strain of probiotic matters.
5. Boosts Cardiovascular Health
The same probiotic that reduces tooth decay, L. reuteri, was found to decrease levels of LDL cholesterol by 12%. Researchers believe this is due to the effect of L. reuteri on bile salts, breaking them up and reducing their uptake in the intestines. 6
In a day and age when heart disease is a top killer, this is especially hopeful news. But that’s not all – I saved the best for last.
6. “Synbiotics” Enhance Mineral Absorption And Structure Of Bone
When combined with substances called prebiotics, probiotics are referred to as “synbiotics,” because these two substances work synergistically. Research shows that synbiotics are more effective than probiotics alone at facilitating mineral absorption in bone. 7
The study notes in its conclusion that,
“…prebiotics are the most promising but also best investigated substances with respect to a bone-health-promoting potential, compared with probiotics and synbiotics.” 7
Prebiotics include carbohydrates that do not digest in the gut, such as inulin fiber and oligofructose. Because they are nondigestible, these prebiotic substances provide “food” for the probiotics to thrive and multiply.
For optimal health benefits, a synbiotic blend is ideal, especially where bone health is concerned.
Till next time,
1 Guyonnet, D., et al. “Effect of a fermented milk containing Bifidobacterium animalis DN-173 010 on the health-related quality of life and symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome in adults in primary care: a multicentre, randomized, double-blind, controlled trial.” Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. May 4, 2007. Vol. 26, Issue 3, Pages 75-486. Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036. 2007.03362.x. Web. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2007.03362.x/full
2 Hempel, Susanne, PhD., et al. “Probiotics for the Prevention and Treatment of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea.” JAMA. May 9, 2012. Vol 307(18): 1959-1969. Doi: 10.1001/jama.2012.3507. Web. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1151505
3 Hao, Qiukui, Dong, Bi Rong, and Wu, Taixiang. “Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections.” The Cochrane Library. February 3, 2015. Doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006895.pub3. Web. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006895.pub3/abstract
4 Hatakka, Katja, et al. “Effect of long term consumption of probiotic milk on infections in children attending day care centres: double blind, randomized trial.” BMJ. June 2, 2001. 322:1327. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7298.1327. Web. http://www.bmj.com/content/322/7298/1327
5 Nikawa, H., et al. “Lactobacillus reuteri in bovine milk fermented decreases the oral carriage of mutans streptococci.” International Journal of Food Microbiology. September 1, 2004. Vol. 95, Issue 2, Pages 219-223. Doi:10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2004.03.006. Web. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168160504001552
6 “Daily doses of a new probiotic reduces ‘bad’ and total cholesterol.” Abstract 11348. American Heart Association news release. November 5, 2012. Web. http://newsroom.heart.org/news/daily-doses-of-a-new-probiotic-239562
7 Scholz-Ahrens, Katharina E., et al. “Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Synbiotics Affect mineral Absorption, Bone Mineral Content, and Bone Structure.” J Nutr. March 2007. Vol. 137, No. 3 (8385-8465). Web. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/137/3/838S.full