It is widely accepted that probiotics provide benefits for the digestive system, helping to achieve a proper balance between good and bad bacteria. But you might not know that probiotics can also help in several other ways.
These are some of the most surprising health benefits of probiotics.
Reduced Levels of “Bad” Cholesterol
The American Heart Association published a study reporting that the Lactobacillus reuteri bacteria can lower levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, in the blood. Researchers at Montreal’s McGill University found that this probiotic strain lowers the level of esters. These cholesterol molecules can become attached to fatty acids, leading to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.1
Approximately half of the 127 adults with high cholesterol who participated in the study took a probiotic containing L. reuteri; the others took a placebo. After nine weeks, the group who took the L. reuteri probiotic had LDL cholesterol levels nearly 12 percent lower than the placebo group. They also had 6 percent fewer esters overall, and 8 percent fewer fatty acids saturated with esters.
The study showed that as little as 200 milligrams of the L. reuteri probiotic could have a significant effect on LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels.
Lower Blood Pressure
Evidence is mounting that probiotics may be helpful in lowering blood pressure. A study that appeared in the medical journal Hypertension involved analysis of nine previous studies that included more than 540 participants. Eight of the studies showed that probiotic use resulted in not only a drop in systolic blood pressure, but also in diastolic blood pressure. Results also showed that participants who used multiple types of probiotics saw greater reductions.2
Reducing Autistic Behaviors
In 2011, researchers at the University of California-Davis published a study analyzing the potential connection between probiotics and the management of symptoms associated with childhood autism. The study was published in the medical journal Gastroenterology Research and Practice.3
According to the researchers, many children with autism also experience gastrointestinal problems due to the presence of a substantial amount of abnormal gut microbes. Gastrointestinal problems have been linked to an increase in tantrums, sleep difficulties, irritability and other symptoms in autistic children. The study authors wrote that administering probiotics to introduce more beneficial bacteria to the gastrointestinal system could help not only reduce inflammation, but could also potentially address behavioral issues associated with autism.
The study showed that autistic children who have gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, vomiting, diarrhea and others often display higher levels of anxiety, irritability and social withdrawal than those who do not have GI problems. Nearly 20 percent of doctors who treat children with autism, according to the study, encourage the use of probiotics, and approximately 60 percent of physicians approve of the use of probiotics when they are already a part of an autistic child’s dietary regimen.
Researchers pointed to other studies that explored the link between GI problems and autism.4 One study analyzed the GI issues of 58 children who had autism, looking at the severity of certain autistic symptoms such as speech problems, lack of social interaction skills, cognitive issues and behavioral problems. The study showed a strong link between GI problems and the severity of these and other symptoms.
The UC-Davis study found that children with autism can have as much as 10 times the amount of harmful bacteria than those without autism – specifically, the Clostridium bacteria. This is a genus of bacteria that has been linked to several GI issues, including diarrhea and colitis.
Researchers conducting the study concluded that alterations to gut bacteria could contribute to GI issues in autistic children, and that the use of probiotics shows potential in helping address autistic behaviors. However, the researchers also stated that more studies would need to be conducted in order to determine a more definitive link.
Other Benefits of Probiotics You Might Not Have Realized
— The Lactobacillus bacteria strain has also been shown to help kill harmful bacteria that can lead to tooth decay as well as gingivitis.5
— The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reported that mothers who take probiotics may be able to help lower the chances their babies will develop eczema, a condition that makes the skin dry and itchy.6
·Reduction of Respiratory Infections
– Studies indicate that probiotics show promise in helping to reduce the risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections. Researchers with Cochrane, an independent network of scientists and others involved in the healthcare field, analyzed studies that showed people who consumed probiotics suffered fewer infections of the upper respiratory tract than those who took placebos.7
— Harvard Medical School researchers conducted a study showing that probiotics may play an important role in maintaining a proper balance of bacteria in the vagina. As a result, women who use probiotics may have a better chance of warding off issues such as urinary tract infections or yeast infections.8
These are just a few examples of how probiotics may benefit the body in many ways outside of just helping the digestive system. As further research is conducted, it’s very likely that even more benefits will be uncovered in the future.
Want more helpful health tips? Keep reading:
1. “Daily Doses Of A New Probiotic Reduces ‘Bad’ And Total Cholesterol”. ScienceDaily. N.p., 2012. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.
2. Khalesi, S. et al. “Effect Of Probiotics On Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of Randomized, Controlled Trials”. N.p., 2017. Print.
3. Critchfield, J. William et al. “The Potential Role Of Probiotics In The Management Of Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders”. N.p., 2011. Print.
4. Adams, James B et al. “Gastrointestinal Flora And Gastrointestinal Status In Children With Autism – Comparisons To Typical Children And Correlation With Autism Severity”. N.p., 2011. Print.
5. Hasslöf, Pamela et al. “Growth Inhibition Of Oral Mutans Streptococci And Candida By Commercial Probiotic Lactobacilli – An In Vitro Study”. N.p., 2010. Print.
6. Abrahamsson, Thomas R. et al. “Probiotics In Prevention Of Ige-Associated Eczema: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial”. N.p., 2007. Print.
7. Hao, Qiukui, Bi Rong Dong, and Taixiang Wu. “Probiotics For Preventing Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infections”. N.p., 2015. Print.
8. Publications, Harvard. “Health Benefits Of Taking Probiotics – Harvard Health”. Harvard Health. N.p., 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.