Should you take Probiotics?

Health benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics are foods, drinks or supplements that contain beneficial microorganisms. Our health relies on having a healthy and diverse set of microbes living in our gut and eating probiotics is one way to get the good bacteria where we want them!

Let’s have a look at some studies that show us how probiotics were used

  • Treat inflammatory diseases

  • Improve cognitive functions

  • Support weight loss

  • Relieve constupation

  • Stop diarrhea

  • Prevent vitamin deficiency

  • Advert infections

Probiotics improve disease score in patients with Rheumatoid arthtitis [1]

Probiotics improve disease score in patients with Rheumatoid arthtitis [1]

Inflammatory diseases

The bacteria in our gut communicate with the immune system. A study in which researchers treated patients with rheumatoid arthritis with probiotics nicely demonstrates this: Researchers found that by supplementing with the beneficial bacteria strain Lactobacilli casei disease symptoms significantly decreased. The beneficial bacteria helped to regulate the immune system by lowering pro-inflammatory protein levels and increasing anti-inflammatory ones [1].

Lactobacillus Reuteri decreased disease activity in children with ulcerative colitis [2]

Lactobacillus Reuteri decreased disease activity in children with ulcerative colitis [2]

When treating inflammatory bowel diseases medications seem to fail more often than not. However, frontline research shows how probiotics can decrease inflammation in the bowel and treat its symptoms. Supplementation with two species of Lactobacilli showed an improvement in disease severity after only 8 weeks [2].

Brain

In my blog about the Gut-Brain Axis, I talked about studies where probiotics were used to improve our cognitive functions and a review of 15 studies found that probiotics could improve anxiety, depression, memory and autism. [3]

Influence of the gut bacteria on your brain [3]

Influence of the gut bacteria on your brain [3]

Weight loss

Probiotics support weight loss [4]

Probiotics support weight loss [4]

Further studies have also shown how probiotics can support weight loss. Slightly overweight woman were set on a diet and the effect of adding probiotics to it was analyzed. The group of woman that were taking the lactobacillus-containing supplement lost roughly twice the amount of fat. [4]

Constipation and diarrhea

A review from 2010 found that B. lactis and L. casei were effective in relieving constipation. The reseachers looked into five previously published studies that involved adults and children and found that probiotics are helpful to relieve constipations [5]

It also works the other way round; Many studies suggest that probiotics help to reduce the risk of antibiotic-induced diarrhea as well as diarrhea due to infections. [6, 7]

Vitamins

Gut bacteria can produce vitamin b12 [11]

Gut bacteria can produce vitamin b12 [11]

Additionally, the gut microbiome is an important source of vitamins, like vitamin K and certain B vitamins. While we cannot produce these essential vitamins, bacteria can! There are studies that show how a folate deficiency was treated with probiotics. [8, 9]

Another study showed that the vitamin B12 deficiency, which is common in vegetarians and vegans, can be prevented by a supplementation with probiotics. [10, 11]

Infections

Good bacteria also prevent us from infections with the disease-causing kind of bacteria. Many research studies show how the administration of different probiotics help to fight Candida infections [12].
Another good example is an infection with Clostridium difficile, which usually starts after the usage of antibiotics that diminished the healthy bacteria. C. difficile infections can cause severe diarrhea and inflammation in the intestine and just in the United States, C. difficile infections cause around 30,000 deaths yearly. And a new but highly efficient method to treat C. difficile infections, which is a pathogen that still causes 30.000 death just in the united states, is the re-introduction of healthy microbiota communities in the gut of infected patients through probiotic ingestion or stool transplants. [13]

 
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6 Reasons you sould take Probiotics!

Are probiotics necessary? No not for everyone. If you have a healthy gut community, you can keep it healthy by eating enough fiber and prevent foods and other toxins that can disturb it. However, in our modern diet, many things can potentially disturb healthy microbiome:

  • Antibiotics

  • high sugar diets

  • medications

  • trans-fats

  • heavy alcohol consumption

  • Being born by C-section and/or not breastfed as a baby

6 reasons for probiotics.JPG

 

If you find yourself in any of these categories, stay with me and I will give you a very easy way to include some probiotics in your diet and thereby re-introduce healthy microbes:

Buying probiotic pills is one way to obtain some probiotics. Probiotic supplements vary in the number of different probiotic strains they include. Usually, it would be good to go with a product that contains a high number of different species.
However, if you want to get all you need from your diet or if you don’t want to use supplements, then fermented food is the way to go!
Fermentation is a technique that was used for millennia to preserve food. Only with the invention of the refrigerator in the 20th century we started to forget about our close relationship with fermented food.
There are a few fermented foods you can easily buy at grocery stores that still contain living bacteria.

 
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Yogurt is a good starting point as it usually contains two or more probiotic bacteria.

Then there are Kefir and Kombucha as somewhat refreshing beverages that can be found at most groceries stores. However, producing these yourself is super easy and I recently really got into it and enjoy the process a lot and it also saves you quite some money. Both contain a huge variety of bacteria and yeast. Kefir, for instance, has more than 50 different microbes [16]. There is also quit some research out there showing the health benefits of these fermented beverages but this again would exceed the focus of this blog.

Another two great dishes you can make yourself are Sauerkraut and Kimchi. Unfortunately, the kind you buy at the grocery store is usually pasteurized and doesn’t contain living bacteria anymore. But again, making them yourself is super easy.

Apart from introducing good microbes through probiotic foods, all fermented food is also loaded with vitamins and other molecules the microbes produce during the fermentation process.

Take Home Message:
If you feel a little off because you had some bad-food days, or you were drinking at the weekend or you had to use a antibiotics, definitely consider to include probiotic food for the next couple days!

References

  1. Vaghef-Mehrabany et al., Probiotic supplementation improves inflammatory status in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, Nutrition, 2014

  2. Oliva et al., Randomised clinical trial: the effectiveness of Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC 55730 rectal enema in children with active distal ulcerative colitis, AP&T, 2012

  3. Wang et al., Effect of Probiotics on Central Nervous System Functions in Animals and Humans: A Systematic Review, JNM, 2016,

  4. Doria et al., EVALUATION OF A PHYTO-SUPPLEMENT EFFICACY AS ADJUVANT IN REDUCING BODY WEIGHT AND FAT MASS IN OVERWEIGHT WOMEN, Current Topics in Nutraceutical Research, 2013

  5. Chmielewska and Szajewska, Systematic review of randomised controlled trials: Probiotics for functional constipation, WJG, 2010

  6. Hempel et al., Probiotics for the prevention and treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea: a systematic review and meta-analysis, JAMA, 2012

  7. Allen et al., Probiotics for treating acute infectious diarrhea, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010

  8. Strozzi et al., Quantification of Folic Acid in Human Feces After Administration of Bifidobacterium Probiotic Strains, J Clin Gastroenterol, 2008

  9. Rossi et al., Folate production by probiotic bacteria, Nutrients, 2001 - Molina et al., Lactobacillus reuteri CRL 1098 prevents side effects produced by a nutritional vitamin B deficiency., J Appl Microbiol, 2009

  10. Degnan et al., Vitamin B12 as modulator of gut microbioal ecology, Cell Metab, 2014 - Matsubara et al., Probiotics as antifungals in mucosal candidiasis, Clin Infect Dis, 2016

  11. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/Clostridium difficile

  12. Aljarallah, Conventional and alternative treatment approaches for Clostridium difficile infection, Int J Health Sci, 2017

  13. Singh et al., Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health, J Transl Med 2017

  14. Peterson et al., Drunk Bugs: Chronic Vapour Alcohol Exposure Induces Marked Changes in the Gut Microbiome in Mice, Behav Brain Res, 2017

  15. Zhang and Yang, Effects of a high fat diet on intestinal microbiota and gastrointestinal diseases, WJG, 2016

  16. Ahmed et al., Kefir and Health: A contemporary perspective, Food Science and Nutrition, 2013 Marsh et al., Sequence-based analysis of the bacterial and fungal compositions of multiple kombucha (tea fungus) samples, Food Microbiology, 2013

  17. Tim Spector: "The Diet Myth" 

  18. David Perlmutter: "Brain Maker"

 

Start making your own Kombucha


Start making your own Kefir

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