The microorganisms that inhabit your large and small intestines play many important roles in your health. We know that bad bacteria can cause us to be ill, but good bacteria actually help our intestines do some of their most important jobs, from breaking down and absorbing nutrients to making our immune system strong.
Because toxins in the air we breathe, stress, antibiotic therapy, antibacterial soaps, poor diets and alcohol all break down the good bacteria in our guts, replenishing that good bacteria should be a priority for all of us. Fermented goods such as miso and kimchi help the body with probiotic production. Prebiotics are the food that good bacteria need to colonize and thrive in the gut.
In these recent studies, scientists discovered five more good reasons to make sure you have a probiotic plan as part of your healthy diet and supplement choices.
Prebiotics for Asthma
People with asthma take pharmaceuticals to reduce airway inflammation, but these can cause side effects. In this study, 29 people with stable asthma fasted for 12 hours while not taking short- or long-acting medications, then ate a placebo meal of mashed potatoes or one containing 3.5 grams of inulin prebiotic soluble fiber plus L. rhamnosus in about 6 ounces of low-fat, probiotic yogurt. Four hours after the meal, the inulin group had several signs of lower inflammation, and improved lung function, while the mashed potato group had not changed. Doctors said inulin is a safe, less costly way to help manage asthma and reduce pharmaceutical side effects. Reference: Nutrients; January, 2017, 09-00057, Published Online
Healthy Gut: Probiotics promote good digestion, reduce infection
Probiotics relieve constipation
With age, changes in the gut microbiome can increase chances for constipation. Treating the condition in older adults is a challenge. The typical drug therapies prescribed by doctors have had inconsistent results, and sometimes produce harmful side effects. Here, researchers reviewed the literature for constipation studies in older adults that used probiotics as a remedy.
Doctors identified nine probiotics trials covering 778 men and women, aged 65 to 102, who were complaining of constipation. The studies lasted from two weeks to six months, with the most frequent probiotics being B. longum, L. casei shirota, or S. thermophiles. Overall, probiotics reduced constipation by 10 to 40 percent compared to placebo. Reference: Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics; 2017, July, 2017, Vol. 71, 142-9
Probiotics reduce C. difficile infection
Earlier studies found that probiotics reduce the chances of developing the bacterial infection clostridium difficile (C. diff) while taking antibiotics, but few studies have tested probiotics with antibiotics during an initial C. diff infection. C. diff is the most common hospital-acquired infection, and is also common during courses of broad-spectrum or long-term antibiotics, particularly in older adults.
In this study, 33 people with an initial mild to moderate C. diff infection took a standard antibiotic treatment with or without 17 billion total colony-forming units of the probiotics L. acidophilus and paracasei, and B. bacterium lactis.
After 28 days, those taking probiotics saw symptoms ease 24 hours sooner than placebo. Discussing the findings, doctors said even a small decrease in the length of infection can have a large benefit in the cost of care and can improve the quality of life. Reference: Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy; August, 2017, Published Online
Probiotics and MS
In multiple sclerosis (MS), the immune system mistakenly attacks the fatty tissue surrounding and protecting nerve fibers, disrupting nerve impulses to and from the brain. In this study, 60 people with MS took a placebo or the probiotics L. acidophilus, casei, fermentum, and bifidobacterium bifidum. After 12 weeks, compared to placebo, the probiotics group had less depression and anxiety. Those taking probiotics also saw lower levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, circulating insulin, and insulin resistance, while the ability of the body to produce insulin improved. Also, HDL, the “good” cholesterol, increased as a percentage of total cholesterol, improving lipid profiles. Reference: Clinical Nutrition Journal; 2016, August, 2016, Published Online
Gestational Diabetes Update: Prebiotics and probiotics improve metabolism in gestational diabetes
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes occurs when women without diabetes develop high blood sugar levels while pregnant.
Synbiotics, insulin, and lipids
Synbiotics combine prebiotics and probiotics. In this study, 70 women with gestational diabetes took a placebo or a combination of L. acidophilus, L. casei, and bifidobacterium, at 2 billion colony-forming units each, plus 800 mg of inulin per day.
After six weeks, insulin levels had decreased significantly for those taking synbiotics while increasing for placebo. Also, the synbiotics group became more sensitive and less resistant to insulin while the placebo group did not. Triglyceride levels and very-low-density cholesterol (VLDL) levels also declined for synbiotics while increasing for placebo.
Discussing the findings, doctors said synbiotics may improve blood sugar handling by rebalancing gut bacteria and reducing production and absorption of intestinal toxins. Reference: British Journal of Nutrition; 2016, Vol. 116, No. 8, 1394-1401
Probiotics, insulin, and inflammation
In this study, 72 women with gestational diabetes took a placebo or a combination of eight probiotics including S. thermophiles, B. breve, B. longum, B. infantis, L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, L. paracasei, and L. bulgaricus.
After eight weeks, while the placebo group had not improved, women taking the probiotics saw insulin levels decline, and insulin resistance decrease. Researchers also measured inflammation and found significant decreases in a sign of systemic inflammation: high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, and in two other inflammation markers, IL-6 and TNS alpha.
Doctors said the findings suggest probiotics can reduce inflammation and benefit glycemic control in women with gestational diabetes. Reference: Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism; Vol. 2016, ID 5190846
Good bacteria are an important part of what make you, you. Did you know that your probiotic profile is as unique as your fingerprint, a combination of your genes, lifestyle choices and diet? When it comes to supplementing for probiotics, look for brands you can trust, with clinically-studied strains that can survive the “hostile” environment of your stomach and that will thrive in your gut.
Betsy’s Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before trying a supplement, especially if you take prescription or over-the-counter medication or have a medical condition. For example, probiotics should be taken away from any antibiotic therapy because antibiotics kill good and bad bacteria.
Article copyright 2018 by Natural Insights for Well Being. All rights reserved. Used with permission.