Benefits of Probiotics

Favorable effects caused by probiotics have been being revealed since the discovery of probiotics. The market of probiotics is rapidly growing due to the increasing demands from the public who are paying more attention to fitness and wellness. A report claims about 1.6 percent US adults have experience of using probiotics products in the past 30 years. Probiotics is even ranked third in most commonly used dietary supplement other than vitamins and minerals.

The exact mechanisms by which probiotics achieve beneficial effects still remain unclear to some extent. However, some postulated theories could elaborately explain most observations. A popular hypothesis of mode of action is that antimicrobial compounds which are synthesized by probiotics enable the modification of microbial flora in favor of host. Bacteriocins produced by Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are proteinaceous or peptidic toxins which inhibit the growth of particular bacteria. Probiotics are observed to stimulate certain immune responses, such as IgA secretion, accumulation of natural killer cells, and improved phagocytosis of macrophages, to suppress intestinal and urogenital pathogens.

A great number of research has been done, revealing various positive effects of probiotics on human wellness, including but not limited to gut health, sleep quality improvement, weight control, prenatal nutrition, oral health, women’s health, allergy relief, et al.

Gut Health

Probiotics have been supplemented in food and medicines to improve gastrointestinal conditions. Clostridium difficile is a pathogenic bacterium which infects the colon and causes diarrhea with mild to severe symptoms. Probiotics are reported to be able to reduce risky of diarrhea in adults and children who are taking antibiotics against C. difficile. In addition, a number of studies have indicated the positive effects of probiotics on relieving constipation by increasing stool frequency. Besides, probiotics have shown promises for a variety of gut-related diseases, including diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, et al.

Sleep Quality Improvement

Evidence has shown that microbiota can be altered by partial deprivation of sleep. Thus, supplementing probiotics may be helpful to rebuild the gut microbiota. In addition, Extensive studies discussed sleep-gut connection, which claims the influence of gut microbiota on sleep quality via effects on stress, hormones, and mood. Fermented milk product with Lactobacillus is widely accepted as a supplement to improve sleep quality.

Weight Control

Study on connection of weight control and probiotics started many years ago when researchers noticed a significant difference of microbiota in people who have obesity and people with average weight. Gut microbiota transplant experiments were carried out in mice and observed overweight in mice who received the gut from obesity mice. The mechanisms of probiotics in weight control have been completely revealed, but some explains are prevalent. First, Lactobacillus may interfere with the absorption of dietary fat, leading to reduction in calories intake. Second, certain probiotics may promote the secretion of GLP-1 from intestinal enteroendocrine L-cells. GLP-1 is an appetite-reducing hormone, which helps to suppress calories intake. Moreover, expression level of ANGPTL4 protein may be increased in response to some probiotics, which is likely associated with decrease of fat storage. Lactobacillus alone and some blends of probiotics have been developed to provide a safe option to people who are in pursuit of weight control.

Prenatal Nutrition

Considering the potential antimicrobial function of probiotics, women in pregnancy take probiotics as a common supplement to enhance their immunity. To those with pregnancy-associated constipation and diarrhea, probiotics are ideal to reduce the miserable symptoms.

Oral Health

Researchers found that probiotics might be helpful in preventing dental caries in young children. Additionally, infections and inflammation of the gums and bone surrounding the teeth by bacteria may lead to severe damage of dental health, while evidence indicated probiotics can be a helpful supplement to periodontal disease treatment potentially because of its anti-microbial function.

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