Health and wellness comes from the inside—which is why taking care of your digestive health is one of the best ways to stay healthy and fit. And one of the best ways you can do that is by taking probiotic supplements. Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms (aka good bacteria) that live and multiply in your gut (also known as the gut flora or gut microbiome), and help to support your physical and mental health.
It is important to remember that every person’s gut microbiome hosts totally different bacteria, so your body’s reaction to probiotics may differ from that of someone else. Your unique gut flora can be influenced by everyday behaviors, too—e.g., variances in stress, diet, toxins, and even your sleep habits.
An important note: There are probiotic species and probiotic strains. The two most common species (which are also the two most commonly studied) include Bifidobacteria (which can support immune health and fights against bad bacteria) and Lactobacillus (which helps us absorb minerals, calm stomach distress and absorb lactose). Both can be found in supplements. Each species contains a number of strains.
Beyond Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces boulardii is another popular probiotic. However, this one isn’t technically a probiotic! It’s a yeast, but it nonetheless functions as a probiotic.
You can strengthen your microbiome supplement with a probiotic supplement that “feeds” your beneficial bacteria. You also feed them when you consume fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha.
Here are all the reasons you should add these good bacteria to your system:
- They Add “Good” Bacteria to Your Digestive System
Yep, bacteria are tiny―microscopic―but there are trillions of them. This huge microbial horde that resides in your microbiome includes both good and bad, and it’s important to balance the beneficial ones against the destructive ones in the proper ratio. Bad bacteria can proliferate for many reasons, ranging from a poor diet to overuse of antibiotics. On the other hand, good bacteria generate when nurtured by healthy food and probiotic supplements. In sufficient numbers, they are critical to your health and wellbeing.
Although it’s impossible to rid your system of bad bacteria altogether, you can balance your good and bad bacteria by taking probiotics. The best way to achieve this crucial balance is to eat a diversity of healthy foods. Our lives tend to be busy, however, and it’s often difficult to eat wisely. At such times, probiotics are especially helpful. For men, the good bacteria are exceptionally important—helping you to balance your system, protect against illness, control bad bacteria, and give you a key boost in your fitness gains.
- Probiotics Can Help With Diarrhea
Are you experiencing digestive distress or diarrhea regularly? It could be because the bacteria in your gut are out of whack. (Don’t worry—this isn’t uncommon).
Occasional diarrhea isn’t typically a cause for concern, but you should seek medical attention if you experience bouts of it often or if you have issues with constipation. Antibiotics kill off good bacteria, and their loss causes many people to experience diarrhea; however, probiotics, taken with antibiotics, can lessen this unpleasant side effect .
Scientific evidence shows that Lactobacillus (specifically Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, or LGG) may help treat instances of diarrhea.
- Probiotics May Help Support Mental Health
Under the weight of financial, familial, and social pressures, mental health is a growing concern for many American men. Fortunately, probiotics can help. Increasingly, we are understanding that the gut and the brain are reciprocally influential. In other words, the gut/brain connection is real. It isn’t surprising, then, that one study found “Probiotics influence the gut microbiota through a complex network of events which can influence mechanisms leading to development of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.”
According to the journal Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the gut, microbiome and brain are connected through three different channels. As a result, what we put into our gut can not only tilt the bacterial balance toward the bad, but it can actually cross the blood-brain barrier, potentially leading to mental diseases and disorders.
According to Athos Bousvaros, MD, “In theory…perhaps changing the intestinal bacteria by adding probiotics might help treat chronic illnesses.” Many have found that probiotics help alleviate mood disorders and establish greater mental equilibrium. Of course, it’s still wise to seek medical treatment for mental health issues.
- Probiotics Can Improve Your Metabolic Health
A review in the journal Medicine reports that probiotics such as Lactobacillus may significantly reduce total cholesterol: “…long-term probiotics intervention could significantly reduce the level of total cholesterol (TC), which was in line with some previous studies.”
These results are encouraging but not conclusive, so more studies are required. However, in the meantime, probiotic usage can be a safe and effective way to care for your health.
- They Can Help You Avoid Certain Allergies
While there’s a lot of research still to be done in this particular area, some studies have suggested that a real link exists between the use of probiotics and the reduction of certain allergy symptoms. The data from several published trials shows that probiotics had a treatment effect on allergic rhinitis. The probiotics—specifically L. casei—reduced the reactions to dust mites.
- They Can Reduce Digestive Disorder Symptoms
The National Institutes of Health states that 60 to 70 million people in the U.S. are affected by digestive diseases. Perhaps you’re one of them.
By taking probiotics, you might be able to reduce the symptoms associated with digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
According to another review in Frontiers in Microbiology, the strain Bifidobacterium was linked to benefits in cases of diarrhea, bathroom regularity, enterocolitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and possibly even colorectal cancer.
A word of warning, however: For the immunocompromised, it’s important to check with your doctor before implementing probiotics into your diet. Probiotics aren’t a cure or a treatment; they’re one tool in your digestive health toolkit. You should also focus on eating a clean diet, exercising, drinking enough water, and reducing your stress—all variables that affect the gut.
- Probiotics Boost Immunity (and Gym Gains)
Probiotics can help your body ward off illness and disease, as they enhance the immune system.
Immunity is also important when it comes to working out. One study found that probiotics helped reduce problems in immune function after exercise, which is great for men who spend time and effort in the gym.
- They Can Help You Lose Weight
It’s important for men to watch their weight, especially as they age. Hormonal changes can cause weight gain in men, especially as testosterone levels drop. The good news is that the link between probiotics and sustainable weight management is strong. In fact, research has shown that the probiotic strains such as Bifidobacterium lactis can help prevent excess weight gain and aid in healthy weight loss.
Other Ways to Care for Your Digestive System
In order to ensure that your gut flora is balanced, you’ll want to give the probiotics a fighting chance. Make sure you drink enough water, eat plenty of fiber (whole grains, fruits, and veggies), exercise regularly, and manage stress levels. You’ll also want to avoid inflammation-causing items like food additives, glucose, salt and other chemicals, according to Healthline.
Introducing Probiotics Into Your Daily Regimen
A review published in Clinical Gastroenterology & Hepatology suggests sticking to a daily probiotics supplement regimen even if you don’t see results right away: “If sustained benefit from a probiotic is desired, continued consumption is likely required.” This means it could take a minimum of 2–3 weeks (or longer) before the good bacteria you’ve planted in your gut microbiome have reproduced and started to flourish.
You’ll want to look for probiotics that contain at least two billion CFUs (or colony-forming units). Healthy adult males can eat or supplement with between 1 and 20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) daily. Don’t worry if that sounds like a lot—your body already has billions within it!
It’s important that you take your probiotics at the right time, which is with meals. You should also take prebiotics, which can be considered ‘food’ for the good bacteria (which helps them flourish). You can find prebiotics in dandelion, greens, bananas, oats, leeks, beans, soybeans, asparagus, onions, garlic, whole wheat, and spinach. Additionally, you may take a prebiotic supplement.
As always, it’s best to consult with your medical practitioner or a BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioner before starting a prebiotic or probiotic regimen to determine which type of supplement is best suited for your specific needs.