In the health world, you'd be hard pressed to talk about gut health without bringing up probiotics in the same conversation. Also known as "good" or "helpful" bacteria, probiotics have been widely studied for their role in fighting gut inflammation and helping your body absorb specific nutrients. And while this all largely takes place in your colon, these benefits extend way beyond digestion.
Ultimately, the health of your gut can affect almost every other aspect of your health and wellness. And thanks to the probiotic bacteria we get from eating fermented foods or taking a high-quality supplement, we can help support our gut health every day. Here are five interesting ways you might feel the impact aside from improved digestion:
1. Probiotics may help strengthen your immune system.
This is big. Since immune cells are located in the gut (it's believed that your gut represents as much as 70 percent of your entire immune system), a sluggish, imbalanced gut may also mean weakened immune function. Case in point, there's evidence indicating that probiotics may help inhibit the growth of harmful, disease-causing bacteria, giving your immune system a boost when it comes to preventing viral infections like the common cold. Some studies suggest that probiotics can even help suppress allergies and allergic reactions. Keep in mind, though, that not all probiotics are the same, and that some strains are more useful for immune system defense than others.
2. Probiotics have been linked with weight loss.
When your gut balance is out of whack, you tend to experience constipation, gas, bloating, diarrhea, or other unpleasant digestive issues—and you're more likely to gain weight. Research suggests that probiotics do not just help in easing these discomforts but also may help get rid of belly fat by reducing the number of calories you absorb from food that passes through your digestive tract. A meta-analysis of 25 randomized clinical trials, including over 1,900 healthy adults, found a modest reduction in weight and improvement in blood sugar control—which is great news since weight loss, even in small amounts, can help lower the risk for bigger issues like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
The Mycrobiome® Probiotic line from Solaray® includes a Weight Formula that contains 18 different strains to support normal appetite, sustained energy, blood sugar balance, and stress relief, hitting on all the areas that contribute to healthy weight management. The enteric-coated Mycrobiome® capsules help protect these live strains from disintegrating early in your stomach, so they reach their destination in your gut to then colonize.
3. Studies suggest that probiotics may support heart health.
Speaking of high blood pressure, heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check supports good overall heart health, and some studies have suggested that certain probiotics, taken consistently over long periods of time, can help with that. A review of studies suggests that probiotics can modestly lower blood pressure, and a number of studies have suggested that probiotics may increase HDL ("good") cholesterol and reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol by preventing it from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
4. Probiotics may help clear up certain skin woes.
Even skin—your body's largest organ—can show improvement with a bit of assistance from beneficial bacteria. It all goes back to the idea of fighting inflammation: Studies suggest that some probiotic strains may help improve certain skin conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema that stem from inflammatory flare-ups. Bonus: Some probiotics may even boost your skin's hydration levels by helping your body produce hyaluronic acid, which supports your skin's elasticity and tightness, preventing visible signs of aging.
5. Probiotics may play a role in mental health.
Getting a dose of beneficial bacteria in your gut may positively benefit your mood and mental well-being. Research points to interesting developments in how boosting your gut health could help combat anxiety and other mental health conditions and mood disorders, often by helping reduce cortisol (the body's primary stress hormone). A recent meta-analysis that analyzed nearly 1,500 adults from 10 clinical trials showed that probiotics may even alleviate depressive symptoms and have a positive effect on brain function.