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Why do we need probiotics? The benefits of probiotics beyond the gut

The balance of bacteria in your gut - known as your gut microbiota - can impact more than just your digestion. It can also affect your mood, energy, skin, joints, metabolism, sleep, immune function, hormone balance, and thyroid health.

When your gut bacteria becomes imbalanced, not only your gut health can get knocked out of whack, but all of the above too. An imbalance can be a result of too much ‘bad’ bacteria, when you have an infection for example, or simply not having optimal amounts and types of the ‘good’ bacteria due to an unhealthy diet or consuming too many antibiotics. Probiotics can help balance the gut microbiota by fighting off bad gut bacteria and supporting the good gut bacteria. This can help balance these symptoms and conditions and improve your overall health. 

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are living microorganisms (live bacteria and yeast) that naturally live in your body and benefit your health! They provide beneficial bacteria that help reduce inflammation and support your immunity and digestion. 

For a microorganism to be called a probiotic, it must have several characteristics. These include being able to:

  • Be isolated from a human

  • Survive in your intestines after being eaten

  • Have a proven benefit to you

  • Be safely consumed

Why do we need probiotics? 

The main ways probiotics support your gut and overall health are by:

  • Increasing the bacterial diversity and health of your gut microbiota, encouraging the growth of healthy bacteria

  • Fighting bad gut bacteria

  • Promoting faster recovery from imbalances in your gut microbiota, known as dysbiosis

  • Promoting a healthy immune system

  • Reducing gut inflammation 

  • Reducing leaky gut, aka damage to your gut lining

  • Helping with digestion

  • Producing important vitamins

Why do we need probiotics for our immune system?

Poor gut health can lead to an overactive immune response, which is when your immune system starts attacking things it shouldn't. This is partly because most of the immune cells in your entire body, roughly 70%, live in your small intestine. 

Your gut bacteria play a major role in training your immune system and helping it function properly, so it's important to keep it in check.

    Why do we need probiotics for inflammation?

    An overactive immune system produces high levels of inflammation. This inflammation causes numerous problems, as most health problems are linked to inflammation of some sort. Some of these include:

    • Fatigue

    • Low mood

    • Brain fog

    • Insomnia 

    • Acne or other skin conditions

    • Female hormone imbalances

    • Male hormone imbalances 

    • Hypothyroid symptoms

    • Immune system dysregulation and autoimmunity

    So by improving your gut health with probiotics and reducing inflammation, you might be able to fix some other issues too!

    Why do we need probiotics for nutrient absorption?

    This inflammation can also damage the gut lining, which then impacts nutrient absorption. If you're eating a healthy diet but not adequately absorbing the nutrients, it can be similar to eating an unhealthy diet. 

    Ultimately, you are what you eat, but you are also what you absorb. When we understand this, it helps us to appreciate the wide reaching impact our gut health has. We can make connections between these core fundamentals (immune function, inflammation, and nutrient absorption) and certain symptoms.

    Probiotic benefits

    The most common uses and scientifically supported benefits of probiotics are for: 

    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Improving symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal pain 

    • Irritable Bowel Disease: Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis 

    • Mood: Depression and anxiety 

    • Gut microbiota imbalance: SIBO, H. pylori, candida/fungus, pathogens 

    • Leaky gut 

    Less common but encouraging scientifically supported reasons we need of probiotics are for:

    • Cognition 

    • Sleep 

    • Thyroid health 

    • Autoimmune conditions 

    • Metabolism 

    • Blood pressure and cholesterol 

    Summary

    We all need probiotics for a variety of different reasons, but the impact of probiotics on our gut microbiota cannot be overstated. It’s essential to make sure we get enough probiotics and that our gut bacteria are balanced. An imbalance, or dysbiosis, can have a number of health implications that aren’t necessarily limited to our gut. 

    References 

    1. Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the effects of probiotics on functional constipation in adults

    2. Remission induction and maintenance effect of probiotics on ulcerative colitis

    3. Psychobiotics: A Novel Class of Psychotropic

    4. Role of Probiotics in health improvement, infection control and disease treatment and management

    5. Oral spore-based probiotic supplementation was associated with reduced incidence of post-prandial dietary endotoxin, triglycerides, and disease risk biomarkers

    6. Efficacy of probiotics on cognition, and biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in adults with Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment - a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

    7. Sleep, circadian rhythm, and gut microbiota

    8. Thyroid-Gut-Axis: How Does the Microbiota Influence Thyroid Function?

    9. Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the effects of probiotics on functional constipation in adults

    10. Probiotics in Autoimmune and Inflammatory Disorders

    11. Adipose tissue inflammation and metabolic syndrome. The proactive role in probiotics

    12. Efficacy of Probiotics in Patients of Cardiovascular Disease Risk

    13. Meta-analysis of probiotics for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome 

    14. Probiotics and prebiotics in the management of irritable bowel syndrome

    15. Probiotics Ameliorate Stool Consistency in Patients with Chronic Constipation 

    16. Effects of 28-day Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis HN019 supplementation on colonic transit time and gastrointestinal symptoms in adults with functional constipation

    17. Efficacy of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics in irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation

    18. Comparative clinical efficacy of a probiotic vs. an antibiotic in the treatment of patients with intestinal bacterial overgrowth and chronic abdominal functional distension

    19. Bacillus clausii as a treatment of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth

    20. Probiotic effects on intestinal fermentation patterns in patients with irritable bowel syndrome

    21. Probiotics in Curing Allergic and Inflammatory Conditions - Research Progress and Futuristic Vision

    22. Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745 supports regeneration of the intestinal microbiota after diarrheic dysbiosis

    23. Characterization of spore forming Bacilli isolated from the human gastrointestinal tract

    24. "Bacillus mediterraneensis," a new bacterial species isolated from human gut microbiota

    25. Fate, activity, and impact of ingested bacteria within the human gut microbiota

    26. Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 Modulates Faecalibacterium prausnitzii in Older Men and Women

    27. Mucosa-reparing and microbiota-balancing therapeutic effect of Bacillus subtilis alleviates dextrate sulfate sodium-induced ulcerative colitis in mice

    28. Oral spore-based probiotic supplementation was associated with reduced incidence of post-prandial dietary endotoxin, triglycerides, and disease risk biomarkers

    29. The efficacy of a synbiotic containing Bacillus Coagulans in treatment of irritable bowel syndrome

    30. Lactulose plus live binary Bacillus subtilis in the treatment of elders with functional constipation

    31. Effects of dietary fiber with Bacillus coagulans lilac-01 on bowel movement and fecal properties of healthy volunteers with a tendency for constipation

    32. Efficacy of combination therapy with probiotics and mosapride in patients with IBS without diarrhea

    33. Bacillus clausii therapy to reduce side-effects of anti-Helicobacter pylori treatment

    34. Probiotics - American Family Physician

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