Most folks know a bit about probiotics these days. These living microorganisms, which you get through fermented foods or supplements, help to replenish the good gut bugs that live in your digestive tract.
Probiotics help balance your gut flora, supporting healthy digestion. They can reduce gas and bloating and combat diarrhea. But it turns out they can do a whole lot more than just keep your digestion on track.
Probiotics can improve your health in a number of surprising ways, from eliminating disease-linked inflammation to boosting your immune system. Studies have found them useful for combating allergies, arthritis pain and even dental issues. But following are two of the most unexpected benefits that these healthy gut bugs can deliver.
Boost mood, slash anxiety and improve depression
What do belly bugs have to do with your brain? Well, surprisingly, it turns out a whole lot. In fact, a growing number of studies have revealed a connection between gut flora and our mental health.
In study after study we’ve seen the power that probiotics can have over mood.
In one well-designed study, for example, just four weeks on a placebo slashed negative thoughts and drove away bad moods in a group of healthy volunteers.1 In another placebo-controlled study, six weeks on a daily probiotic capsule or yogurt successfully slashed anxiety, stress and depression.2
When researchers did an extensive review of fifteen different studies they discovered that two common probiotic strains, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, were more powerful than expected.
Within one to two months they were able to improve symptoms of3…
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Memory loss
Experts say probiotics may even be able to help folks who are suffering from clinical depression.4 When 40 volunteers took a probiotic supplement for eight weeks they saw significant improvements in their levels of depression.5
In other words, improving your mood naturally may turn out to be as simple as popping a daily probiotic or eating more fermented foods such as sauerkraut and pickled veggies.
Banish belly fat and lose weight with good gut bugs
Want to get rid of your potbelly? Probiotics might be able to help with that too.
A study in the British Journal of Nutrition uncovered a surprising link between unbalanced gut flora and being overweight. But in the same animal study researchers were also able to prove supplementing with the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum could help prevent you from growing the big belly in the first place.6
Probiotics don’t just help prevent weight gain, however. Experts say they could also help you shed unwanted pounds, especially the ones that are contributing to your muffin top.
Lactobacillus gasseri, for example, can help you tackle your weight problem in two different ways.
First the powerful probiotic prevents some of the fat you eat from being absorbed. It passes right through your system so it never ends up padding your waistline.7,8 But L. gasseri could also help you slim down an existing belly. In a 12 week study volunteers taking a Lactobacillus gasseri supplement effortlessly shed 8.5 percent of their belly fat.9
Kissing cousin Lactobacillus rhamnosus, on the other hand, helped a group of dieters shed an astounding 50 percent more weight over three months than folks who didn’t get the probiotic.10 Meanwhile Lactobacillus paracasei reduces body fat storage. And research shows a supplement combining eight different probiotic strains, called VSL#3, can suppress appetite and improve glucose tolerance.11,12
If you’re trying to shed a few pounds, or simply hoping to maintain a healthy weight, a daily dose of probiotics could turn out to be the key.
1. “A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood,” Brain Behav Immun. 2015 Aug;48:258-64
2. “The effects of probiotics on mental health and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in petrochemical workers,” Nutr Neurosci. 2016 Nov;19(9):387-395
3. “Effect of Probiotics on Central Nervous System Functions in Animals and Humans: A Systematic Review,” J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2016 Oct 30;22(4):589-605
4. “Effect of Probiotics on Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials,” Nutrients. 2016 Aug; 8(8): 483
5.”Clinical and metabolic response to probiotic administration in patients with major depressive disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial,” Nutrition. 2016 Mar;32(3):315-20
6. “Effects on weight gain and gut microbiota in rats given bacterial supplements and a high-energy-dense diet from fetal life through to 6 months of age,” British Journal of Nutrition (2011), 106, 887–895
7. “Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 suppresses fatty acid release through enlargement of fat emulsion size in vitro and promotes fecal fat excretion in healthy Japanese subjects,” Lipids Health Dis. 2015 Mar 20;14:20
8. “Milk fermented by Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 influences adipocyte size via inhibition of dietary fat absorption in Zucker rats,” Br J Nutr. 2009 Mar;101(5):716-24
9. “Effect of Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 in fermented milk on abdominal adiposity in adults in a randomised controlled trial,” Br J Nutr. 2013 Nov 14;110(9):1696-703
10. “Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women,” Br J Nutr. 2014 Apr 28;111(8):1507-19
11. “Decreased fat storage by Lactobacillus paracasei is associated with increased levels of angiopoietin-like 4 protein (ANGPTL4),” PLoS One. 2010 Sep 30;5(9). pii: e13087
12. “Beneficial metabolic effects of a probiotic via butyrate-induced GLP-1 hormone secretion,” J Biol Chem. 2013 Aug 30;288(35):25088-97
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