The 6 Key Benefits of Probiotics Beyond Digestion

Posted on August 24th, 2022 By in Gut Health Read Time: 12 mins.

By now you’re aware of the benefits of probiotics as far as improving your digestive health. From the occasional stomach ache to minimizing diarrhea related to antibiotic use, probiotics are super well-known for supporting gut health.

woman holding jar of unico probiotics in front of ocean scene
A comprehensive probiotic can provide benefits beyond the gut.

However, new research is on the horizon suggesting that probiotics may have a much broader range of health benefits beyond that of your gut. 

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are living, healthy bacteria that naturally live in your body.

You can get probiotics from foods prepared using a process of bacterial fermentation, or from supplements.

Probiotics help balance the complex community of microorganisms in your gut, also known as your gut microbiome.

This balance of bacteria may have far-reaching health benefits beyond that of healthy digestion. 

Health Benefits of Probiotics

While more research is needed, probiotics can help your body by maintaining a healthy community of microorganisms within your gut, your skin, and even within your vagina.

The following are the potential health benefits of probiotics that show promise in areas outside of digestive health:

1. Supporting Your Immune System

Between evading the flu season, dodging the common cold, and a global pandemic that just won’t quit, who doesn’t want to give their immune system an extra boost?

It’s no wonder that probiotics can help support your immune system considering roughly 70% of your body’s immune cells live in your gut.

One recent review published in the journal Nutrients found that probiotic use was associated with a lower rate and duration of mild respiratory tract infections in both children and adults.1

But before running out to buy a probiotic, you may have just what you need in your refrigerator.

Products like yogurt, miso, and tempeh that contain Lactobacillus acidophilus can also help boost your immune system according to one 2020 meta-analysis.2 

2. Weight Management

Besides supporting gut and immune health, probiotics may also play a role in supporting a healthy weight.

Some evidence has emerged showing that probiotics can even get rid of bloating as well.

While the connection is still being sorted out by researchers, there does appear to be a link between weight and the gut microbiome.

Research has shown that the microbiome of individuals with obesity is less diverse and more imbalanced than in individuals with an ideal weight.3

One 2020 review of clinical trials found that taking probiotics may help reduce body weight particularly when a mix of probiotics strains, versus an individual bacterial species, is used.4

Researchers noted that weight reduction was also enhanced when a prebiotic (a type of food that serves as food for a probiotic) was added to the probiotic.

Furthermore, one 2017 systematic review found that people that were overweight and obese experienced a reduction in body fat when taking various strains of probiotics.5

So which probiotics are most effective when trying to shed some pounds?

Some probiotics strains are best for weight loss while others assist in other areas of the body.

Look for probiotics with the following strains as they have been shown to be effective in supporting a healthy weight, such as:

  • Bifidobacterium lactis B4206
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 (LPR)7
  • Lactobacillus gasseri BNR178
  • Bifidobacterium breve B-39

3. Reduce Allergies Symptoms

Stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes?

Oh, the joys of seasonal allergies!

You may have tried a variety of meds to ease your allergy symptoms, but may not have thought of probiotics as an option.

Emerging research suggests that probiotics may offer a treatment option for allergy sufferers.

Probiotics appear to help regulate the immune system and limit the release of the pesky inflammatory markers involved in an allergic response.

One 2017 clinical trial analyzed the effects of a combination of three probiotic strains (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2) on quality of life for seasonal allergy sufferers.

Researchers found that the probiotic combination helped reduce allergy symptoms while enhancing the quality of life.10

One smaller study found that allergy sufferers who took a supplement of a probiotic called B. lactis once a day for eight weeks had reduced allergy symptoms compared to those who didn’t take anything.11 

4. Enhances Mood

Sad, anxious, depressed?

If so, you’re not alone.

In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health nearly a quarter of U.S. adults experience any mood disorder at some time in their lives.12

Thankfully, there is exciting research underway showing a surprising connection between your gut and brain, also known as the gut-brain axis.

This research suggests that your gut microbiome may be able to influence your brain and in turn, your mood.

Additionally, many neurotransmitters that regulate mood, like serotonin and dopamine, are located right in your gut.

That’s why even though they are often overlooked, in favor of adaptogens or saffron, probiotics are some of the best natural supplements for depression.

This suggests that a balance of good bacteria in the gut may be capable of producing these important mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters.

While more research is needed to understand the link, one 2017 meta-analysis of 10 clinical trials found that probiotics decreased the symptoms of anxiety and stress in people with these symptoms compared with control groups.13

One 2020 review analyzed the effects of probiotic and prebiotic therapy in depression and anxiety disorders.

Researchers found that probiotic therapy significantly improved symptoms of both depression and anxiety.14  

The bottom line?

Try probiotics, along with some of our other favorite techniques for improving vagal tone, in order to turn that mood around.

5. Helps Prevent Vaginal Infections

Did you know that your vagina is home to a vast variety of bacteria, that when in balance, can keep it free from infection, happy, and healthy?

Probiotics may be able to support a healthy vaginal microbiome by restoring a healthy balance of vaginal bacteria.

Probiotics prevent and treat a variety of issues “down under” including bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and urinary tract infections.

For example, recent studies show that two specific species of Lactobacillus, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, may help prevent and treat bacterial vaginosis.15

Additionally, the probiotic strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGR-1) and Lactobacillus reuteri (LRC-14) inhibit the growth of a strain of Candida that can cause yeast infections.16

If you’re suffering from recurrent urinary tract infections, listen up. One 2018 study found that Lactobacillus species (especially L. rhamnosus GR-1 and L. reuteri) may be useful for preventing urinary tract infections.17 

6. Benefits Your Skin

Probiotics aren’t limited to just benefiting the inside of your body; they may positively affect the outside too.

Your skin, the largest organ in your body, actually has its own microbiome that when in balance, can ward off certain skin issues like acne, eczema, and rosacea.

Emerging research suggests that using probiotics in topical skincare products and in pill form may help to prevent and treat a variety of skin conditions.

There are also some beneficial antioxidants for your skin that can help reduce conditions like eczema, dry skin, body acne, allergic inflammation, and UV-induced skin damage.18

Some evidence shows that certain supplements can even help reduce hormonal acne – one of the trickiest conditions to treat.

Summary

As you can see, the benefits of probiotics go well beyond digestive health.

Having a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut can boost your immune system, help support a healthy weight, reduce allergy symptoms, promote skin health, and may even ease anxiety and mood disorders.

Additionally, certain strains of probiotics may benefit your vaginal microbiome, keeping issues like bacterial vaginosis at bay.

While there’s more to come, exciting new research has increased our understanding of probiotics and their positive effects on the human body. Stay tuned!

Sources:

1https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/10/3163/htm

2https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2212429219308971

3https://www.nature.com/articles/nature12506?utm_medium=affiliate&utm_source=commission_junction&utm_campaign=3_nsn6445_deeplink_PID100064639&utm_content=deeplink

4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7465252/

5https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/obr.12626

6https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27810310/

7https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24299712/

8https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29688793/

9https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6081611/

10https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/105/3/758/4569700

11https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn2012197

12https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-mood-disorder

13https://essentialformulas.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Neuropsychiatry-London-2017-7-6-862.pdf

14https://nutrition.bmj.com/content/3/2/351

15https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30525953/

16https://sfamjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jam.12772

17https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6134985/18https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2012.680078?journalCode=bfsn20

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