Bacteria have a tainted reputation due to the myriad of diseases they cause. Thus, the idea that tossing down several billions of these microorganisms a day can be good for your health might seem—figuratively and literally—hard to swallow.
But, science suggests that you can prevent and even treat some illnesses by ingesting certain types of live bacteria.
Dubbed “the good bacteria,” these beneficial microorganisms are known as probiotics. They can be found in probiotic foods such as yogurt and other fermented foods, as well as in certain beauty products. Just like vitamins, they can also be ingested as dietary supplements, particularly in the form of capsules.
But should you be taking probiotic capsules? More importantly, how can they improve your health?
Read on to find out.
What is a Probiotic Capsule?
These are capsules that come infused with live food supplements that can benefit your body by improving the microbial balance. There are two types of these live microbial supplements; Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Lactobacillus is more common and exists mainly in fermented foods such as yogurt. Different strains of these bacteria can help with diarrhea and may be beneficial to lactose-intolerant people. Bifidobacterium, on the other hand, can be found in some dairy products and may be beneficial to those struggling with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other conditions.
Why Should I Be Taking Probiotics?
Scientific studies suggest that a bacterial imbalance in your digestive system can affect your overall health and even cause diseases. When ingested in the right amounts, probiotics can help restore and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut.
Benefits of Taking Probiotics
Here are some of the benefits that come with taking probiotics:
1. Prevention and Treatment of Diarrhea
Diarrhea is one of the most undesirable side effects associated with taking antibiotics. Antibiotic-associated diarrhea occurs because this type of medication interferes with the balance of good and bad gut bacteria.
Scientific evidence shows that probiotic use can reduce the risk of diarrhea caused by antibiotics. In one study, taking probiotics was found to reduce antibiotic-caused diarrhea by up to 42%.
Probiotics can also reduce the severity of other forms of diarrhea. In a review of 35 scientific studies, findings indicated that certain strains of “good” bacteria could minimize the duration of infectious diarrhea by 25hrs on average.
2. Constipation Treatment
In a review of results from several scientific studies, researchers sought to examine the effectiveness of probiotics in easing constipation in adults. They found that probiotics slow down “gut transit time” by up to 12.4 hours, increase bowel movements by 1.3 per week, and soften stool so it can be easier to pass.
Thus, taking a probiotic pill can help unblock your gut.
3. Maintaining a Healthy Heart
Taking a healthy dose of the “good bacteria” can also help keep your heart healthy by lowering blood pressure and LDL (AKA "bad") cholesterol. Some strains of these microorganisms break down bile and prevent it from being reabsorbed into the bloodstream as cholesterol.
A review of five clinical studies concluded that consuming probiotic yogurt for two to eight weeks can reduce total cholesterol levels by 4%, and bad cholesterol by 5%. Another scientific review found that consuming probiotic supplements can also reduce blood pressure.
4. Boosting your Immune System
Certain types of probiotics promote the natural production of antibodies in your body. They also boost the various cells involved in an immune response such as the natural killer cells, T lymphocytes, and the IgA-producing cells.
Last but not least, consuming probiotic supplements can protect your gut from infections by inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria.
5. Maintenance of Vaginal Health
Naturally, the vagina is protected by certain lactobacilli strains that make it too acidic for germs to survive. But, this healthy PH balance can sometimes be altered by factors such as spermicides, birth control pills, antibiotics, and certain soaps. When this happens, infections such as bacterial vaginosis, Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), and yeast infection strike.
Treatments such as the DD probiotic restore healthy microflora in the vagina. This helps the sexual organ maintain a healthy PH balance and keep harmful microorganisms at bay.
6. Weight Loss
Probiotics help you lose weight in several ways. For instance, they prevent your body from absorbing dietary fat in the intestines. They also make you feel fuller and burn more calories, as evidenced by a study where women who ingested Lactobacillus rhamnosus for three months shed 50% more pounds than those who didn’t.
7. Improving Oral health
Studies on the effect of probiotics on oral health have yielded positive results, particularly when it comes to reducing halitosis, the risk of oral cancer, gum bleeding, and gingivitis.
8. Better Mood
A published study carried out at the University of Toronto concluded that probiotics affect L-tryptophan levels in the human body. In case you're wondering what L-tryptophan is, it’s an amino acid that your body converts into serotonin—a hormone that plays a critical role in mood regulation.
9. Help With Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
IBD manifests in different forms, but the most common ones are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Although research on the topic is somewhat limited, some interesting studies suggest that taking probiotic supplements can help ease these two conditions, particularly ulcerative colitis.
10. Remedy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The good bacteria found in probiotics can improve the regularity of bowel movements and reduce inflammation in the gut, thus easing the discomfort and bloat that often comes with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Of the two types of live microbes found in probiotics, Bifidobacterium is the most effective remedy for IBS.
Where Else Can I Get Probiotics?
Having learned of the potential probiotic benefits, you’re probably wondering where you can get your daily dose of these healthy microbes.
Supplements such as probiotic capsules are a great way to ingest “good bacteria” in the right amounts, and you can easily buy them at your local store. But if you prefer the dietary way, you can up your probiotics levels by consuming foods such as yogurt, Kefir, Sauerkraut, Tempeh, Kimchi, Miso, Pickles, and traditional buttermilk.