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The 6 Main Benefits of Probiotics

Published: 13th May 2018. Last updated: 21th July 2019.

Matthew Smith

Staff Writer


Introduction

The idea that consuming bacteria can improve your health sounds quite crazy when you think about it. But it is something that has been talked about in the scientific world for a long time. Probiotic drinks such as Yakult have been around since the 1930s despite tasting horrific.

Many of the supposed benefits of probiotics have been debunked by science. Today, manufacturers of probiotics have to be very careful about what claims they make about their product [1]. But there are still many benefits associated with probiotics that are supported by scientific research. In this article, we are going to talk you through six health benefits of probiotics.

1. Probiotics May Lower Cholesterol

A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2000) looked at the effects of a probiotic milk product on plasma cholesterol [2]. The study found that those who took the probiotic saw a 4% reduction in total cholesterol, and a 5% reduction in LDL Cholesterol (the “bad cholesterol”).

There are many benefits to reducing your total cholesterol level. It can reduce the formation of plaque on your arteries, which causes strokes and heart attacks. Lowering your cholesterol can help you lead a long and healthy life.

2. Probiotics May Help People Who Are Lactose Intolerant

While there is no evidence that probiotics can cure lactose-intolerance, there does seem to be quite a bit of evidence that taking a probiotic drink can allow people who are lactose-intolerant to consume slightly more lactose than usual without suffering any side effects [3].

This may not sound like a big deal, but it could make quite a bit of difference to a sufferer.

3. Probiotics Can Reduce The Duration Of Diarrhea

Diarrhea is one of the least pleasant ways to spend a long-weekend, right up there with visiting the in-laws. When you realize what you’re dealing with, your first thought is to find a way to get rid of it as soon as possible!

One possible solution is taking a probiotic. Studies have shown that certain probiotics can help to reduce the duration of diarrhea by as much as 25 hours. A 2010 study stated that:

“Used alongside rehydration therapy, probiotics appear to be safe and have clear beneficial effects in shortening the duration and reducing stool frequency in acute infectious diarrhea” [4].

Next time you find yourself glued to the toilet why not try a probiotic drink? It could help shorten the amount of time you are suffering, and reduce the time spent rushing to and from the bathroom.

4. Probiotics May Prevent Eczema When Given To Young Children

Eczema is an irritating condition (literally) where the skin becomes red, dry, and itchy. It often affects children, and can last for years. Science is uncertain about what it is that causes eczema, but there may be a link to allergies.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology found that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers who used probiotics had children who were less likely to have eczema [5].

One thing that the study makes clear though is that more research is definitely needed. This is due to there not being enough evidence, and because scientists do not understand why probiotics might be able to reduce the risk of eczema.

Still, eczema is not a pleasant condition. If there is a medium chance that taking a probiotic while pregnant or breastfeeding can reduce the risk for children, then it is definitely worth trying!

5. Probiotics Can Help To Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a condition that becomes more and more serious as you get older. It can be caused by diet, lack of exercise, genetics, medical conditions such as diabetes, or medication. Untreated, high blood pressure can lead to strokes or heart attacks.

A 2014 study analyzed a range of randomized-controlled trials on the effects of probiotics on blood pressure [6]. The study found that “consuming probiotics may improve BP” particularly in people who already had high blood pressure.

6. Probiotics Could Help Relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition involving the large intestines. It can cause bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, and cramping (to name a few symptoms). Many sufferers have had to completely change their lifestyles so that they can cope with it.

While there is not really a cure, there are many ways that you can lessen the effects of it. One possible way is through probiotics. A 2010 study by Moayyedi et al found that probiotics tend to have a beneficial effect on IBS sufferers, but how effective they are still needs to be studied further [7].

Conclusion

There appears to be quite a few benefits to adding probiotics to your diet, you may also find that a lot of probiotic foods are really enjoyable to eat. Sauerkraut (made the traditional way and not pasteurized) and kimchi are two excellent sources of probiotics. As is yoghurt, buttermilk, kefir, and some soy products.

If you are currently looking for ways to reduce your cholesterol and lower your blood pressure, then why not try a probiotic drink? IBS sufferers and those that are lactose-intolerant should also consider adding probiotics to their diet. Next time you have an upset stomach, maybe grabbing a probiotic food should be on your agenda?

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