It’s common to associate bacteria with disease, but that’s not always correct. The truth is that there is “good” and “bad” bacteria. Even though both “good” and “bad” bacteria are found in our body, the presence of certain species, as well as the disruption of the microbiome, can result in disease.
Studies show a connection between unbalanced levels of bacteria and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (1). Some of the associated diseases and conditions are cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
The good news is that bacteria help maintain the balance of our immune system. It’s thanks to the presence of the “good” bacteria in our body that the “bad” bacteria don’t grow out of control.
According to the World Health Organization’s definition, probiotics are “live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health beneﬁt on the host.” Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. This “good” bacteria is naturally found in our body, in certain foods and supplements.
The usage of probiotics in the treatment of digestive problems is quite common. However, recent research shows the benefits of probiotics go beyond stomach-related problems.
7 Benefits of Probiotics
1. Avoid Infection
Probiotics are not expected to eradicate infection. Still, they have been used to lower its rate of recurrence and prevent the development of bacterial resistance. They’re seen as the most powerful alternative for the prevention and treatment of chronic infection (2).
2. Boost Your Immune System
Among the primary functions of good bacteria is stimulating the cellular immune response. Supplementing with probiotic organisms in infancy could help prevent immune-mediated diseases in childhood (3).
3. Improve Women’s Health
Bacterial overgrowth in women is a common and uncomfortable issue. Studies have shown that the use of probiotics, as well as changes in diet, helps restore and maintain urogenital health (4).
4. Help Fight Obesity
Probiotics have shown lowering effects on abdominal fat, body weight and other measures of individuals with obese tendencies (5). With the administration of probiotics, the composition of the microbial communities of an obese individual changed. As studies proceed, the intention is to develop a process of probiotic treatment against obesity.
5. Prevent Allergies and Cold
Probiotics have a beneficial effect in allergic reactions by reducing symptom severity and medication use (6). A difference in the intestinal flora of allergic children and healthy children has also been noted. There is promising evidence to recommend the addition of probiotics to foods for prevention and treatment of allergic diseases.
6. Support Oral Health
Two studies around the benefits of probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri have showed it was effective in:
- reducing both gingivitis and plaque in patients with moderate to severe gingivitis (7).
- inhibiting bacteria that causes cavities (8).
7. Help With Certain Skin Problems
The usage of probiotics in combination with prescription medications or OTC topical treatments could support the treatment of acne and rosacea (9).
There is no proof that acne is a disease of the gastrointestinal tract. Yet, there is evidence to suggest that gut microbes, and the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract itself, are contributing factors of acne.
New benefits of probiotics are discovered every day. As research advances, new applications are found. Before, our standard intake was richer in probiotics, but since the appearance and spread of highly processed foods, there is a greater need for replenishing the nutritional values of our intake. You will find that probiotics are a great addition to your diet.
- Tlaskalova-Hogenova, H., et al. (2011) - The role of gut microbiota (commensal bacteria) and the mucosal barrier in the pathogenesis of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and cancer: contribution of germ-free and gnotobiotic animal models of human diseases - Cell Mol Immunol. 2011 Mar; 8(2): 110–120.
- Doron S1, Gorbach SL. - Probiotics: their role in the treatment and prevention of disease. - Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2006 Apr;4(2):261-75.
- Ashraf R1, Shah NP. - Immune system stimulation by probiotic microorganisms. - Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(7):938-56. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.619671.
- Gregor Reid, PhD MBA, BSc (Hons), Jeremy Burton, PhD, and Estelle Devillard, PhD - The Rationale for Probiotics in Female Urogenital Healthcare - MedGenMed. 2004; 6(1): 49.
- Y Kadooka, M Sato, K Imaizumi, A Ogawa, K Ikuyama, Y Akai, M Okano, M Kagoshima and T Tsuchida - Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055) in adults with obese tendencies in a randomized controlled trial - European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2010) 64, 636–643; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2010.19.
- Vliagoftis H1, Kouranos VD, Betsi GI, Falagas ME. - Probiotics for the treatment of allergic rhinitis and asthma: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. - Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2008 Dec;101(6):570-9. doi: 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)60219-0.
- asse P1, Carlsson B, Dahl C, Paulsson A, Nilsson A, Sinkiewicz G. - Decreased gum bleeding and reduced gingivitis by the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri. - Swed Dent J. 2006;30(2):55-60.
- H. Nikawa, S. Makihira, H. Fukushima, H. Nishimura, Y. Ozaki, K. Ishida, S. Darmawan, T. Hamada, K. Hara, A. Matsumoto, T. Takemoto, R. Aimi - Lactobacillus reuteri in bovine milk fermented decreases the oral carriage of mutans streptococci – International Journal of Food Microbiology, Volume 95, Issue 2, 1 September 2004, Pages 219–223
- Whitney P. Bowe, MD, FAAD - Could probiotics be the next big thing in acne and rosacea treatments? - SCHAUMBURG, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, (Feb. 3, 2014)