Proven Health Benefits of Probiotics According to Science

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Proven Health Benefits of Probiotics According to Science

Probiotics are living microorganisms that are good for your overall health. Probiotics are sometimes called “good bacteria”. Taking probiotics regularly is a great way to improve your digestive health and strengthen your immune system. The potential benefits of probiotic supplements also include helping to lose weight, treating depression, and reducing inflammation.


You can also boost your health by eating foods containing probiotics. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha (type of probiotic tea), and kimchi also have good bacteria (probiotics). Consuming these foods or taking probiotic supplements can improve your gastrointestinal tract and help you fight infections.

In this article, you will learn about the many reasons to take probiotics. I will also examine scientific research that backs up many of the claimed health benefits of probiotics.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are strains of “good” bacteria or yeasts that benefit your health. They are especially beneficial for improving the health of your digestive system.

According to the dietitian Betty Kovacs Harbolic, your gut has a balance of helpful bacteria and harmful bacteria. Probiotics help to keep a healthy balance of bacteria that help to prevent many digestive issues. (1)

Interestingly, the word “probiotic” is derived from the Greek meaning “promoting life.

The National Institutes of Health say that probiotics can support the immune system. The beneficial bacteria produce vitamins, destroy harmful bacteria, and help digest food. (2)

Probiotic supplements contain similar strains of bacteria to the ones that naturally live in your gut. For example, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacilli rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus casei are types of good gut bacteria. Researchers say that these beneficial gut bacteria are essential for keeping you healthy. (3)

What Are Probiotic Foods?

Many fermented foods contain strains of live probiotics that can help to improve your gut bacteria.

Researchers say that foods containing live probiotics include kimchi, sauerkraut (similar to kimchi), kefir (a type of fermented yogurt drink), and kombucha (a type of probiotic tea). (4)

You can find other foods in the article about the top 10 probiotic foods for great health.

Probiotic Supplements

Taking probiotic supplements is a popular way to maintain a healthy microflora in your digestive system.

Doctors from WebMD say that the best types of probiotics are the ones containing bacteria strains from Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium groups. Also, probiotics supplements containing Saccharomyces boulardii yeast strains are effective in promoting digestive health. (5)

Researchers say that the most effective probiotics should contain several billion microorganisms with various strains of bacteria or yeast. (6)

Benefits of Taking Probiotics

Probiotics have many benefits in both helping to prevent and treat many health conditions.

According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, probiotics help prevent “bad” bacteria causing health problems. Probiotics help to digest food better, improve immunity, and prevent infection. (7)

Let’s look in more detail at medical research to back up the claimed benefits of taking probiotics.

Probiotics Help Balance Healthy Bacteria and Promote Healthy Digestion

One of the principle ways that probiotics can help keep you healthy is by keeping your digestive system working properly.

Studies into the importance of a healthy gut microbiota have found that your intestinal health is connected to your immune system. Harmful bacteria and viruses in the gut can lead to disease and other health issues. Maintaining a healthy gut microflora can help prevent certain health conditions. (8)

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Research has found that probiotics have the potential to regulate the gut’s microflora. This helps to release certain enzymes that assist in digesting proteins. Probiotics can also assist in absorbing nutrients from food and reduce fermentation in the intestines. (9)

Scientists have also discovered that the positive effect of probiotics on digestion can also help to alleviate pain and manage emotional disorders. (10)

Learn about other ways to improve your digestion naturally by using natural remedies.

Probiotic Supplements can Help Prevent and Treat Diarrhea and Constipation

There is much research showing that probiotics can help prevent and treat diarrhea and constipation.

Probiotics for diarrhea caused by antibiotics

Taking antibiotics destroys “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut and can cause severe diarrhea. Probiotics supplements can help to alleviate the symptoms of antibiotic-related diarrhea.

A systematic review of how to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea found that probiotics supplementation can prevent watery stools.

The results of 17 randomized controlled trials revealed that probiotics capsules that include Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii bacteria were the most beneficial for digestive health. The review concluded that probiotics are safe and beneficial to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea. (11)

Another review of 51 studies into using probiotics for preventing diarrhea when taking antibiotics found that L. rhamnosus GG is the most effective probiotic strain. (12)

Probiotics for other forms of diarrhea

Probiotics are also beneficial if gastroenteritis or other stomach bugs have caused symptoms of diarrhea.

A review of 14 articles on the use of probiotics for treating diarrhea found that probiotics are very useful. The conclusion of the review reported that probiotics help to reduce the severity and duration of diarrhea caused by the rotavirus. It seemed that L. rhamnosus was effective probiotics for gastroenteritis-related diarrhea. (13)

Other studies have found that probiotics containing L. casei strains of bacteria can alleviate diarrhea caused by C. difficile infections. (12)

Many scientific studies also show that taking prebiotics and probiotics can also treat diarrhea caused by gastrointestinal infections. (14)

If you suffer from diarrhea, you can learn about other natural ways of getting rid of diarrhea.

Probiotics can help alleviate constipation

Another benefit of probiotics for adults and children is to help relieve constipation and hardened stools.

Many randomized and placebo-controlled trials have found that probiotics help to improve constipation symptoms. Various studies have shown that supplementing your diet with the probiotic strains Bifidobacterium longum is effective for treating constipation. (15)

Consuming foods containing probiotics can also relieve constipation. One study found that taking probiotic yogurt can help to improve bowel function in pregnant women. Yogurt containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains helped to increase the number of bowel movements. (16)

Women taking probiotics during pregnancy also reported that they had to strain less and stools were softer and easier to pass. (16)

Find out about more natural laxatives to help ease the discomfort of constipation.

Probiotics Treat and Prevent Digestive Disorders Such as IBS, IBD and Diverticulitis

You can get the benefits of probiotics if you suffer from chronic digestive disorders. Certain strains of probiotics have shown to have a good effect in helping to manage certain digestive conditions.

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A review of clinical trials has shown that probiotic strains such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli can help to relieve gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. (17)

Probiotics help manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome causes cramping abdominal pain, bloating, mucus in your stool, and bouts of diarrhea or constipation. Probiotics supplements can help to increase good bacteria in your gut that can alleviate digestive upset associated with IBS.

A review of the results from over 1,700 patients who took probiotics for IBS found them to be effective in relieving digestive problems. Taking probiotics for IBS reduced cramping, flatulence, and bloating. (18)

Some studies suggest that probiotics containing a number of different strains of bacteria or yeast can be effective. For example, probiotic supplements containing billions of microorganisms from Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus groups can be effective for treating IBS. (19)

Other studies have shown that single-strain probiotics like S. boulardii can help to relieve IBS-related abdominal pain. (19)

Learn about other ways to alleviate the symptoms of IBS naturally.

Probiotics assist in relieving inflammatory bowel disorders (IBD)

You can also take probiotics to treat the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disorders (IBD).

A meta-analysis and systematic review from 2018 found that probiotics containing a combination of S. boulardii, Lactobacillus, and VSL#3 were effective in treating symptoms of Crohn’s disease. It is one of the two major types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). (20)

Prebiotics and probiotics containing Lactobacillus strain were useful for relieving symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis (another form of IBD). (20)

One study showed that probiotics can also boost the efficiency of standard treatments for ulcerative colitis. Probiotic drinks containing L. delbrueckii and L. fermentum bacteria helped to prevent recurring bouts of ulcerative colitis. (21)

Probiotics for diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is an inflammation or infection of small pouches in your colon called diverticula. The gastro protective effect of probiotics can help to prevent colonic inflammation causing discomfort and pain.

A randomized clinical trial found that probiotics containing L. casei strains of bacteria helped prevent recurring inflammation in the colon. The researchers found that using probiotics together with anti-inflammatory medication for diverticulitis resulted in remission of diverticulitis symptoms. (22)

There are many other home remedies for diverticulitis.

Probiotics Can Strengthen Your Immune System and Prevent Infections

Supplementing your diet with probiotics can help to strengthen your immune system.

Research into the beneficial effects of probiotics on your gut microflora has shown that they can boost your immune system. Probiotics also help to restrict the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut. (23)

Certain strains of probiotics also reduce inflammation and help to regulate the immune system. (24)

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Learn how to boost your immunity today with these 10 ways to strengthen your immune system.

Let’s look at the benefits of probiotic supplements in treating specific types of infections.

Probiotic supplements can help prevent respiratory infections

The immune-boosting potential of probiotics can help prevent infections of the upper respiratory tract.

A review of 20 randomized controlled trials found that taking probiotics may reduce the likelihood of getting respiratory infection like the
flu or a cold. People taking probiotic supplements took fewer days off work and experienced shorter duration of respiratory infections. Various combinations of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains were shown to be effective. (25)

Find out about natural ways to get rid of the flu faster.

Probiotics may assist in preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs)

You could also benefit from taking probiotic supplements regularly to prevent recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs).

One placebo-controlled trial found that probiotics containing L. crispatus strains of bacteria can prevent recurrent UTIs. (26)

However, other studies have shown non-conclusive results in using probiotics to prevent urinary tract infections. Some researchers suggest the probiotics are best used in conjunction with standard treatment for UTIs. (27)

Learn about evidence based natural ways to treat a UTI before the symptoms get too serious.

Certain Probiotic Strains Can Assist with Weight Loss and Reduce Body Fat

You can also take probiotics for weight loss. The benefits of probiotics on your digestive health help to improve gut microflora and have an anti-obesity effect.

Some clinical trials have found that probiotics may help in losing weight. One trial found that taking probiotic supplements or capsules containing L. rhamnosus bacteria helped women lose weight quicker. (28)

Other research has suggested that various strains of probiotics help reduce obesity and insulin resistance. Probiotic supplementation also helped to improve abnormal amount of lipids (such as triglycerides and cholesterol) in the blood. (29)

Medical research also found that probiotic powder or tablets containing the L. paracasei strain can help reduce body fat. (30) The effect of improved microflora in the gut may also help you feel fuller for longer. (31)

Do you want to lose weight? Try these 12 simple teakws for weight loss.

Probiotics May Treat Depression and Mental Health Conditions

Improving your gut health with probiotics can also have a positive effect in reducing symptoms of depression.

Scientific research has revealed a gut-brain connection where your gastrointestinal health affects the central nervous system. Inflammation of the gut has been linked to conditions like depression and anxiety. Humans studies on probiotics have shown that they can help to regulate the gut-brain connection and may help treat depression disorders and anxiety. (32)

A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials also found that probiotics can reduce symptoms of depressive disorders. Probiotics that can benefit mental health conditions include B. infantis, B. longum, L. rhamnosus, and L. helveticus. The review concluded that probiotics may help reduce the risk of depression. (33)

Other studies have shown that a combination of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains of bacteria can help to reduce the symptoms of certain mental health disorders. These include OCD, autism, anxiety disorder, and depression. (34)

Find out what other natural remedies for depression may help you feel better.

Probiotics Could Help Reduce Inflammation and Reduce Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Symptoms

Probiotics can benefit you if you suffer from conditions that cause painful joint inflammation.

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A double-blinded pilot study of probiotics found that L. rhamnosus GR-1 and L. reuteri RC-14 strains can reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. (35)

The anti-inflammatory effect of certain probiotics strains can also reduce joint inflammation. For example, studies have shown that L. casei probiotic supplements can help treat RA and reduce inflammation. (36)

Research has also revealed that probiotic drinks containing Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Propionibacterium strains have anti-inflammatory potential. The scientists concluded that specific probiotics strains can help manage or treat inflammatory or autoimmune diseases. (37)

Learn about what foods can help reduce inflammation if you suffer from conditions like arthritis.

Probiotics Can Minimize Food Allergies

Researchers suggest that supplementing your diet with probiotics could ward off food allergies.

A study suggests that supplementing your diet with probiotics can reduce the symptoms of peanut allergy. The study at the University of Chicago was performed on mice. The researchers found that a mix of Clostridia bacteria (a common class of gut bacteria) can reduce the symptoms of peanut allergy. (41)

Another study found that probiotic milk may help treat atopic dermatitis and cow’s milk allergy. The study involved 10 breast-fed infants who had atopic dermatitis (eczema) and cow’s milk allergy. The infants were fed milk supplemented with the probiotic bacteria  Lactobacillus GG.  After one month there was a significant improvement in the eczema symptoms and in the intestinal inflammation. (42)

Benefits of Probiotics for Women

Taking probiotics can help adults and children. However, probiotics can be especially beneficial for women.

Probiotics benefit women who suffer from bacterial vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. This can result in vaginal itching, pain while urinating, and a foul-smelling vaginal odor.

Studies have shown that probiotics can help to treat and prevent bacterial vaginosis. The increase of “good,” healthful bacteria help to restore the delicate microflora in the vagina. Supplementing your diet with probiotics containing Lactobacilli strains can help to reduce the symptoms of BV. (38)

Probiotics are just one of the natural remedies for bacterial vaginosis.

Probiotic supplements can help women who suffer from yeast infections

Women can also benefit from taking probiotics to help treat vaginal yeast infections like candidiasis.

Clinical studies have shown that the probiotic strain L. rhamnosus GG can combat candida infections in the genital, mouth, and gastrointestinal tract. The effectiveness of this probiotic is due to the fact that it interferes with candida growth and doesn’t allow it to spread. (39)

Learn how to use probiotic-rich yogurt to treat candida infections in your genitals.

Side Effects (Disadvantages) of Probiotics

The advantages of probiotics are that they can be very effective with few side effects. Probiotics are already present in the body and probiotic supplements are generally viewed as safe to use.

However, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic report that some people may have allergic reactions to them. You may also find that you have mild digestive upset in the first few days of using them.

How to Choose the Best Probiotic Supplement

There are many different types of probiotic supplements to choose from. Some have combinations of bacteria strains and others contain yeast probiotics.

What should you look for when choosing the best probiotic supplement for your health? It is recommended to check the strain of probiotic and the number of active colony forming units (CFU) in each probiotic capsule or pill.

In many cases, you need to find out which probiotic supplement contains the appropriate strain of bacteria for the specific health problem you want to address. For example, probiotic capsules containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG has proved to be beneficial for diarrhea.

The probiotic supplement should list the bacteria genus, species, and strain. For example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG – the genus is Lactobacillus, the species is rhamnosus, and the strain is GG.

Try to choose a probiotic supplement with a large variety of strains.

It is also important to get a probiotic supplement with a large number of colony-forming units (CFU). This number used to quantify how many bacteria in probiotics are capable of dividing and forming colonies. It is recommended to use a probiotics containing a dosages of 10 billion to 100 billion colony-forming units (CFU) per day.

Some people develop side effects when using a high dosage probiotic supplement such as 100 billion CFU. If this happens to you, try use a lower dosage probiotic supplement.

When to Take Probiotics – Before, With or After Meals?

This is an important question as the labeling on probiotic supplements is often confusing. Sometimes the instructions are to take the probiotics with meals, sometimes before or after meals, and sometimes on an empty stomach.

It is quite surprising not to find enough actual data in the scientific literature about this topic. The lack of information on when to take probiotics has led to serious confusion, both for the industry and the consumer.

A study that found that “ideally, non-enteric coated bacterial probiotic products should be taken with or just prior to a meal containing some fats.” Probiotics given 30 minutes after the meal did not survive in high numbers. (40)

How to Consume Probiotics

Consume probiotic yogurt or fermented foods

Eating probiotic yogurt, probiotic milk or other fermented foods on a regular basis can help maintain balanced intestinal flora.

Yogurt is also featured in my superfoods e-book which is part of the Natural Health Revolution Program, a program that will help you to achieve your health, nutrition or weight loss goals.

Take a probiotic supplement

Probiotic supplements contain different types of bacteria, but the bacteria concentration and types in the supplements can vary.

In acute situations, such as when using antibiotics, you may want to take supplements with higher CFUs.

It is often recommended not to take the antibiotics and probiotic supplements together, but to wait 1 to 2 hours after taking your antibiotics.

Probiotic supplements are usually divided according to the target audience: adults, women and children. The division between men and women is very significant since women suffer from vaginal infections that require unique probiotics.

The probiotics help to prevent recurrent urinary tract infections and vaginal candidiasis. In any case, you can take probiotic supplements on a regular basis as they are not harmful and there is no situation of excess probiotics in the body.

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21 Responses to Proven Health Benefits of Probiotics According to Science

  1. Teresa says:

    The best probiotic I have come across so far is Plexus ProBio5. It is an all-natural probiotic which features five extra strength probiotics, added enzymes,
    intestinal flora,B6 and Grape Seed extract all in one effective delivery system that supports the breaking down of hostile organisms that negatively impact your health.

    • Martha Gruber Arntson says:

      I have been taking a probiotic I obtained from my Natural Medicine Doctor. From a company called “Innate” Flora 20-14. I used to have issues constantly with my intestines, it got so bad I couldn’t go the day without using at least 3-4 Immodium. Now, 10 months or so later I rarely, if ever, have any issues like that anymore. Is there a significant difference in the types or brands. Mine are refrigerated, that is the only drawback when I travel, to keep them cold. Thank you in advance for any replies!

  2. Peach says:

    Thank you for all that information. I have taken antibiotics in the past for yeast infections that keep coming back. Can I start taking probiotics instead of antibiotics or do I have to go through an antibiotic regimen prior to probiotics?

    • Jenny says:

      Hi Peach, many women who have repetitive cases of yeast infection see improvement or reduction in the occurrence of yeast infection once they start taking probiotics (after consulting with their doctor of course). However if there is a persistent yeast infection that doesn’t improve, you need to consult with your doctor about antibiotics.

    • Cynthia says:

      Peach, Antibiotics DO NOT cure a yeast infection. They cause them! You need a cream from the drug store to get rid of it, and if you are married your husband needs to rub some on him or you will keep getting it!

  3. cathrin says:

    my son a cardiac patient now he s age 14 for the past7 (seven )yrs he has been taking –penicillin ..propranolol tab and phenytoin everyday morning -evening .can anyone tell me taking probiotic good for him.thanks

    • Jenny says:

      Hi Cathrine, this is something that your doctor needs to recommend, especially that your son has a special condition.

  4. keke says:

    I have seasonal allergy , do you think probiotic can help me, I am desperate to use anything, I get very bothersome to the point I go nights without sleep, Claritin is not helping me, I get very constipated which is one of the side effects, please reply

  5. Hitu says:

    I am problem of dry eyes. How can probiotic help me?. Any specific probiotic for dry eyes?. I have used V bact,, but this causes excessive gassing.

    • Jenny says:

      Hi Hitu, I don’t know the answer but looking at major medical websites (such as Mayo Clinic, WebMD and NHS) none of them mentioned probiotics but other treatments like eye drops or ointments given by your doctor. Sometimes there is a need to find the underlying cause of the problem.

  6. brenda spirito says:

    I have been quite poorly for 6weeks. had the 100 day cough.also tummy upset .I have s
    tarted probio7.wonderful!!!

  7. Vicky Carrera says:

    I heard this Probiotic from my daughter and tried it when l had a terrible bad stomach because of what i ate. It worked. After reading this article, learned more about it banefits. Thank you.

  8. erin says:

    I.have had a problem with my lower abdomen or gut area being swollen. I eat healthy.or so I think. Walk if not once or 2x a day. Started an ab challenge and nothing is helping. Should I start a probiotic and what kind

    • Jenny says:

      I believe probiotics can help. If you take it as a supplement, you will need to consult with your doctor about dosage and type. If you consume it from food, good food sources include fermented foods (see more information here).

  9. Shirley King says:

    WHAT ABOUT VSL#3 probiotis and how many do you take a day?

    • Jenny Hills, Medical Writer and Researcher says:

      I’m not really familiar with this probiotics. It’s best to read the product leaflet about the recommended dosage.

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