The Top Five Health Benefits of Probiotics
As an internal medicine specialist who emphasizes holistic treatment of the whole patient, Dr. Diane Brzezinski is a firm believer in optimizing health through nutrition. Whether to address potential nutrient deficiencies, treat specific ailments, or promote overall health, Dr. B offers her Naples, Florida-area patients a variety of pharmaceutical-grade standardized nutrients known as nutraceuticals. Key among these supplements are probiotics, which have been receiving a lot of attention in recent years due to their potentially powerful health benefits.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that help balance the good and bad bacteria—gut flora—which populate our gastrointestinal tract in the trillions. Probiotics are found naturally in fermented foods such as pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir, as well as in supplements, such as those offered by Dr. B. Whether through food or a supplement, probiotics replenish important strains of good bacteria, which are believed to help maintain healthy digestive function and confer other health benefits. These strains may be diminished in a person’s digestive tract due to natural fluctuations and/or as a result of diet. Medications can also cause significant havoc with gut flora, especially antibiotics, which tend to arbitrarily kill good and bad bacteria in the intestinal tract.
Research into probiotics is ongoing, and nutritional scientists have identified well over a dozen potential health benefits. Dr. B closely follows probiotics research efforts and believes that the top-five health benefits offered by probiotics are:
Digestive Disorder Alleviation
As a balancer of gut flora, it makes sense that probiotics might help alleviate certain digestive disorders. Initial research suggests that probiotics can:
- Decrease the severity and frequency of irritable bowel syndrome.
- Reduce the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
- Shorten the duration of infectious diarrhea.
- Decrease the symptoms of gastroenteritis.
- Lower the risk of traveler’s diarrhea.
Immune System Booster
Some recent research suggests that probiotics may inhibit the growth of harmful gut bacteria and promote the production of natural antibodies and immune-response cells. This is believed to help strengthen the overall efficiency of the immune system. Evidence suggests that some autoimmune disorders may be more common in people with unbalanced gut flora, and some recent studies have linked probiotics with an improved immune response to certain conditions. One study indicated that probiotics can reduce the frequency and severity of respiratory infections, while another recent study showed evidence that probiotics helped reduce the risk of urinary tract infections in women by 50 percent.
Research has found that obese people tend to have far less gut flora than those who are within normal weight ranges. Probiotics are believed to help with weight maintenance through various means, such as preventing the absorption of dietary fat in the intestines. They may also help elevate certain hormone levels that make people feel less hungry. Additionally, balanced gut bacteria levels are believed to help maintain stable sugar levels, which helps the body burn fat that might otherwise be stored. While direct probiotic-linked weight loss studies are limited, one showed that women taking probiotics lost 50 percent more weight than women who did not take them, while another study showed that regular doses of a probiotic over 12 weeks led to an 8.5 percent reduction in belly fat.
Enhanced Heart Health
Initial research suggests that probiotics may help heart health by reducing bad cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure. While positive results were modest, any boost to heart health is a plus. Researchers believe that probiotics can help reduce cholesterol by breaking down bile and preventing it from being reabsorbed by the body as cholesterol. Several studies showed that probiotics in the diet helped reduce cholesterol by five percent, while other studies indicated that longer-term probiotics consumption helped modestly reduce blood pressure.
Improved Mental Health
In recent years researchers have taken an acute interest in the link between gut health and mental health, with numerous studies conducted on how probiotics may improve mood and mental health. These early studies have shown that probiotic supplements can help alleviate depression, ease anxiety, improve memory and reduce symptoms of autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Consult with Dr. B in Naples to See if Probiotics Can Boost Your Health
If you would like to learn more about probiotics and determine whether a probiotic supplement program might help enhance your overall health or have a role in helping treat a specific condition, contact Dr. B’s Naples-based Internal Medicine practice today through our easy online form, or by calling (239) 261-9990. Dr. B’s office offers two different probiotic supplements – a single strain and a multi-strain. Dr. B or one of her highly trained healthcare providers will work with you to determine which one is right to meet your unique needs.