The bacteria in your body outnumber your body’s cells 10 to one. Most of these bacteria reside in your gut.
Most of these bacteria reside in your gut, and the majority are quite harmless.
Having the right gut bacteria is even linked to numerous health benefits, including weight loss, improved digestion, enhanced immune function, healthier skin and a reduced risk of many diseases (1, 2Trusted Source).
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you, especially your digestive system. We usually think of these as germs that cause diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.
You can find probiotics in supplements and some foods, like yogurt. Doctors often suggest them to help with digestive problems.
Most often, the use of probiotics is intended to promote or improve digestive symptoms. But with the discovery of how our complex gut flora plays a role in other health conditions, many have turned to probiotics in hopes of treating everything from allergies to autism.
In mice and rats, obesity-related microbes can harvest more energy from foods than the microbes that are found in lean animals .
Compared with lean mice with normal genes (wild-type), the gut bacteria of obese mice have more genes that can burn carbohydrates for energy .
During the study, individuals who were overweight but otherwise healthy ate yogurt that contained these Lactobacillus strains for 6 weeks. At the end of this period, the participants had lost an average of 3–4% body fat.
Researchers have also examined effects of Lactobacillus gasseri for fat loss. In this study, people with extra belly fat who drank fermented milk products containing the helpful bacteria lost 8.2– 8.5% of their belly fat over 12 weeks.
However, when they stopped drinking the milk, all of this belly fat returned. This suggests probiotics can help people lose weight in some cases, but researchers still need to do more studies to back up this claim.
Low microbial diversity may also be a risk factor for problems associated with obesity, such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
The most recent systematic review and meta-analysis, which included 19 randomized trials in 1,412 participants, found that supplementation with probiotics or synbiotics (products containing both probiotic organisms and prebiotic sugars, which microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract use as metabolic fuel) reduced waist circumference slightly (by 0.82 cm) but had no effect on body weight or body mass index, although the quality of evidence was low to moderate . The findings from another meta-analysis of 14 trials in 881 adults, 5 trials in 726 children, and 12 trials in 1,154 infants suggested that probiotics promote an average loss of 0.54 kg in adults, an average gain of 0.20 kg in children, and no significant weight loss or gain in infants .
Taken together, these results indicate that the effects of probiotics on body weight and obesity might depend on several factors, including the probiotic strain, dose, and duration, as well as certain characteristics of the user, including age, sex, and baseline body weight. Additional research is needed to understand the potential effects of probiotics on body fat, body weight, and obesity in humans.
Probiotics benefits have been proven effective in supporting immune function, reducing inflammation, promoting healthy digestion, as well as maintaining beautiful skin, especially when combined with prebiotics.
Your good gut bacteria is also responsible for:
- Producing vitamin B12, butyrate and vitamin K2
- Crowding out bad microbes
- Creating enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria
- Stimulating secretion of IgA and regulatory T cells, which support immune function
Probiotics can do more than improve your gut health. They also may indirectly enhance your brain, too.
Research shows that the gut and brain are connected, a partnership called the gut-brain axis. The two are linked through biochemical signaling between the nervous system in the digestive tract, called the enteric nervous system, and the central nervous system, which includes the brain.
How might probiotics fit in the gut-brain axis? Some research has found that probiotics may help boost mood and cognitive function and lower stress and anxiety. For example, a study published online Nov. 10, 2016, by Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that Alzheimer’s patients who took milk made with four probiotic bacteria species for 12 weeks scored better on a test to measure cognitive impairment compared with those who drank regular milk.
Senior investigator Dr. Daniel Merenstein, from the Department of Family Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington D.C., believes that the results could have wide-ranging implications.
“Given this finding, potentially one way to reduce the use of antibiotics is to use probiotics on a regular basis.”
Dr. Daniel Merenstein
This study only looked at acute infections in younger people — so, as lead study author Sarah King explains, “More studies are needed in all ages, and particularly in the elderly, to see if sustained probiotic use is connected to an overall reduction in antibiotic prescriptions.”
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Interestingly, while much of the current evidence suggests that probiotics that may prevent recurrence of ulcerative colitis (arguably the more serious of the two conditions), the same was not seen with Crohn’s disease. Moreover, the benefits were attributed to specific probiotic strains or combinations of strains.
In 2011, VSL#3 (a high-potency combination probiotic) and the probiotic Escherichia coli Nissle 1017 were both given an A rating at the 3rd Yale Workshop on Probiotics based on strong evidence that they sustained remission of ulcerative colitis.
The FDA regulates probiotics like foods, not like medications. Unlike drug companies, makers of probiotic supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or that they work.
Ask your doctor if taking probiotics is a good idea for you. In general, probiotic foods and supplements are thought to be safe for most people, though some people with immune system problems or other serious health conditions shouldn’t take them.
Possible harmful effects of probiotics include infections, production of harmful substances by the probiotic microorganisms, and transfer of antibiotic resistance genes from probiotic microorganisms to other microorganisms in the digestive tract.
The recommended doses range from 1 billion to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU)—the amount contained in a capsule or two—several days per week.
Start with one capsule (60 Billion cfu’s) first thing in the morning (30 minutes prior to eating) and one capsule at bedtime with a full glass of water. Continue this dosage for three days.
After three days raise the dosage to two capsules first thing in the morning and two at bedtime, if need be. Continue for 3 days. If you are not getting the expected results, raise the dosage to three capsules first thing in the morning and three at bedtime. Remain at the dosage that works best for you.
NOTE: Every digestive system is different and unique like a fingerprint. You need to find the dosage that best suits YOU. It may be one, two, four or six capsules per day. This gradual increase is a good way to find your optimum personal dosage.