You’ve probably heard of probiotics, since they’re one of the most popular health supplements available today. These healthy bacteria bolster digestive, immune and total body health. Probiotics are without a doubt one of the best supplements you can take for your body. They feature potential benefits ranging from less GI ailments, to better mood, to fewer illnesses and more.
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But if you don’t know much about probiotics, it can be a pretty confusing topic. And this starts with what they actually are, which is healthy, essential live microorganisms (or bacteria). Usually, we think of bacteria as being bad. But there are actually two different types. You need the good bacteria to fight off the bad and bring your body into balance and optimal health.
Probiotics are life-giving bacteria. They help your body build an entire colony of healthy, disease-fighting bacteria in your gut! And this colony strengthens and empowers your gut microbiome, positively influencing your most vital systems. (1)
In this article we’ll answer your questions such as what are probiotics, (as well as their cousin, prebiotics)? How do they benefit your body? Where do you get them? And how can they help with weight loss? Plus, we’ll instruct you on how to pick the best probiotic for you. Read on to learn more about how these essential bacteria have such important roles in your body…
There are lots of different strains of probiotics, which all offer unique benefits. However, there are two main species, or groups, under which most of these strains fall… (2)
Lactobacillus– This is the most common type of probiotic, which you’ll find in yogurt (the less processed the better), other fermented foods and probiotic supplements. Strains under this group may help with diarrhea and various digestive issues. They’re also particularly helpful for those who can’t digest lactose (or the sugar in milk), but want to have dairy.
Bifidobacterium – You can also find this species of probiotic in foods (such as some dairy products) as well as in supplements. Probiotic strains under this group are known for helping to support your immune system. They can also help break down lactose into nutrients the body can use. Finally, they may also help ease the symptoms of certain digestive disorders.
As mentioned, underneath each species of probiotic are unique probiotic strains, which are known as subtypes of the species. It’s important to know the difference in strains because they all benefit specific areas of your body, and you need to know which is which. (3)
Here are some of the most common strains you will see on probiotic supplement labels. The specie names are usually abbreviated as B. (for Bifidobacterium) and L. (for Lactobacillus). You’ll see them listed before the strain name, as shown below…
6 Most Common Probiotic Strains
These are some of the most pertinent things these strains do, but they aren’t the only things. We’ll go into the specific details later on…
B. breve – Helps your body absorb nutrients by fermenting sugars and fights off infection-causing bacteria.
L. reuteri – May help prevent tooth decay and bolster the digestive system.
B. animalis – Found in some yogurt, it helps boost your immune system, aid digestion and fight food-borne bacteria.
L. acidophilus – Found in some yogurt and fermented soy products, like miso. Supports optimal digestion and vaginal health.
B. lactis – Derived from raw milk, it’s a starter for buttermilk, cottage cheese and some other cheeses. May boost immune and digestive functions and help fight tumor growths.
B. longum – This strain can help your body break down the carbohydrates you eat and also offers antioxidant benefits.
Those are the 6 most common probiotic strains, but they’re by no means the only ones. There are many more strains, which means there are many more benefits. The bottom line is that taking one of the best probiotic supplements each day can greatly bolster your health in a multitude of ways. And it all starts in your gut. (4)
Your gut is called your “second brain”, since it’s responsible for creating 95 percent of the serotonin. This significantly impacts both brain and mood function! It also houses your immune and digestive systems. In fact, 80 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive tract (or your gut)! All of these connections make it clear why gut health matters so much.
Many health issues (including thyroid imbalances, joint pain and more) stem from an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. When you consume the right probiotic strains that your body needs, your gut health can flourish. In turn, you can experience enhanced wellness.
Studies show that probiotics are helpful in treating and preventing a number of gastrointestinal diseases. Eating foods containing an abundance of probiotics or taking a high-quality supplement may protect against inflammatory bowel diseases (like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s). Probiotics can also help heal GI symptoms and provide relief from diarrhea, constipation, gas and more.
Inflammation is the root cause of many health problems, and probiotics help reduce inflammation in your body. This makes it a powerful immune booster! Having stronger immunity helps you more effectively fight everyday sickness, flu and diseases. In addition, probiotics have been proven to be particularly helpful to seniors, who may have weakened immune systems. (5)
As mentioned, neurotransmitters that regulate mood (like serotonin) can be found in the gut. A healthier gut therefore leads to a more positive and relaxed mood. The gut is also connected to your brain through something called the vagus nerve, sending important feedback and signals about the environment there. In studies, people who took probiotics daily for 30 days were less stressed than those who didn’t!
When the natural mix of bacteria in the vagina gets disrupted, women are more prone to diseases and infections. Taking a high-quality probiotic supplement can help replenish the healthy bacteria to help prevent urinary tract infections and other imbalances. (6)
Antibiotics do their job by wiping the bad bacteria out of your body, but in the process, they also kill off the god bacteria – leaving you with gut issues. This can cause digestive troubles and uncomfortable symptoms, including diarrhea. But certain probiotic strains can help reduce these side effects and repair your system. A recent review showed that taking a supplement with the strain, S. boulardii, helped reduce antibiotic-related diarrhea by 25-30%. It also acts as temporary protective microflora in your gut while yours recover.
In addition to the 5 most popular probiotic benefits, research shows they may also be helpful to:
Along with probiotics, it’s also important to know what prebiotics are, because the two of them work hand in hand to benefit your body. (8)
What are prebiotics? They’re a type of fiber that your body actually cannot digest – instead, they serve as food for the probiotics, or the healthy bacteria within your body. Prebiotics support total gut health by helping the probiotics thrive and do their job.
Since prebiotics are essential to the survival of probiotics, you want to make sure your getting enough in your daily diet. Luckily, there are lots of good food sources where you can find this fiber.
Some of the Best Prebiotic Foods: (9)
Whereas you can find prebiotics in many of the foods you eat on a normal basis, getting probiotics in your normal food supply is a bit more tricky. This is because probiotics are found in fermented foods – and most people don’t eat a lot of fermented items.
Though yogurt is a popular fermented food, many of them are very processed, which kills the live, active bacteria that will benefit you. A natural Greek yogurt is your best bet for active probiotics.
Probiotic Food Sources:
Since it’s much harder to get the probiotics you need from your everyday diet, it’s recommended to take a high-quality probiotics supplement to get what you need. We’ll talk about how to find the best probiotic supplement for you a little later in this article. But first…
Another burning question you probably have is can probiotics actually help me with my weight loss goals? Research says yes!
Here is how probiotics may support your body’s natural slimming processes… (10)
Two of the best probiotic strains for supporting weight loss include:
L. Gasseri– Probably the best strain for weight loss, it’s been shown that taking it daily can help reduce body weight and belly fat. In one study, those taking this probiotic lost 8.5 percent of their belly fat in just 12 weeks.
L. Rhamnosus– Another proven strain for weight loss and weight management, you can find it in supplements and in some dairy products. In one study that included 125 overweight men and women, participants followed a 12-week weight loss diet followed by a 12-week maintenance period. The women who took two daily probiotics from the L. rhamnosis family lost double the weight as those who didn’t take the probiotics!
Additional proven probiotic strains for weight loss:
It’s most important that the probiotic supplement contain L. Gasseri and L. Rhamnosus, which are the two best strains for weight loss benefits. In addition, they should also include some of the proven strains listed above, which have also been shown to support weight loss and other health benefits.
Though probiotics are safe for most people, just like anything, your stomach has to get used to them. To minimize side effects, start with the smallest dosage possible and work your way up. (11)
Initial side effects of using probiotics (which usually go away after your body gets used to them):
In addition, there are some people that shouldn’t use probiotics. Some reports have linked probiotics to serious infections and other negative health effects in certain groups of people.
Those who fall into any of these categories shouldn’t take probiotics:
Ready to take the next step and uncover the best probiotic supplement for you? It all starts with your goals and what you hope to accomplish. Use this guide based on probiotic reviews to choose a supplement that may greatly enhance your life and health…
Qualities of the Best Probiotic Supplements:
Reputable brand– First and foremost, the probiotic should come from a reputable brand that offers transparency. This means they should make the label with the exact probiotic strains clearly visible. Furthermore, there should also be customer reviews available.
Strain diversity– You want a supplement with a variety of different strains, to give you benefits in various areas. If you’re looking for a probiotic for weight loss and weight management, it should include the strains Lactobacillus gasseri and lactobacillus rhamnosus.
Included prebiotic – The best probiotic supplements will also include a prebiotic ingredient to help feed the probiotics in your gut and ensure their survival. Since chicory root contains prebiotics, chicory oligofructose (Orafti P95) is one you will see in some supplements.
Optimal CFU count– Many probiotics are quite low in CFU, or the amount of live, active bacteria in each serving. You want a probiotic that has 10 billion CFU or more for the best results.
Shelf-stable– Many probiotics require refrigeration to stay potent. However, these options are not as convenient, especially for travel and on-the-go. Instead, look for a high-quality probiotic that is also shelf-stable.
Finally, some of the best meal replacement shakes will also include probiotics, but usually in smaller amounts than you will find in a supplement. The addition of probiotics to shakes makes it easy for you to get them into your day. Additionally, it can also help improve digestive processes. A popular probiotic strain that you will see in some diet shakes is lactobacillus acidophilus.
This strain is very versatile, with benefits in different categories, including digestive, bowel and vaginal health. It also has proven success in assisting with weight loss, lowering cholesterol, preventing allergies and the common cold, and reducing flu symptoms. If your shake contains a probiotic, it’s likely only one or two specific strains. Combine it with a high-quality multi-strain probiotic supplement for the best results.