Your gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms.1 In fact, experts believe there are as many bacteria cells in the body as there are human cells.2 That might make your inner germophobe cringe, but your gut microbiome actually plays an important role in keeping you healthy. How can you keep this ecosystem thriving? Probiotics can help.
“Probiotics are actually strains of bacteria that we want to encourage growing in the gut microbiome,” Dr. O’Connor says. “When we take probiotics, we’re taking actual strains of specifically cultivated bacteria that are thought to support optimal microbiome health.”
Probiotics can be found in fermented foods and beverages like yogurt, tempeh, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut. Supplementing with a daily probiotic can help you ensure you’re getting a wide variety of beneficial strains.
Wondering if you should make probiotics a part of your wellness routine? Here are a few key benefits of probiotics.
First and foremost, probiotics help to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut.
Probiotics introduce good bacteria to your microbiome and can help to restore the balance when something disrupts it.3
“We want those colonies to be robust enough to bounce back from things like antibiotics, or a gut bug, or a few days of not eating the most nutrient-dense foods,” Dr. O’Connor says.
A daily probiotic may support healthy digestion, improve nutrient absorption,4 and enhance intestinal barrier function.5
Research suggests supplementing with multi-strain probiotics may also potentially lessen some of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).6
And if you’re pregnant, the digestive benefits of probiotics may also extend to your baby-to-be.
The infant microbiome “is predominantly going to be set by the health of the maternal microbiome,” Dr. O’Connor explains. This may offer some protection against certain common digestive issues in infants and supports a healthy immune system.
“A large chunk of our immune system actually lives in the lining of our gut and gets information from the types of bacteria and other organisms that live within our gut,” Dr. O’Connor says.
By introducing more “good guys” to your gut, probiotics may have protective effects against certain conditions related to immune response—including viral infections like the common cold.7
There’s some science behind the phrase “trust your gut.”
The gut is sometimes referred to as “the second brain” because of its link to immune, endocrine, and neuronal function.8
“There’s a pretty interesting gut-brain connection,”9 Dr. O’Connor says. “There are some hypotheses that the health of the microbiome can influence mental health.”
Researchers have found that probiotics seem to have a positive effect on mood and could potentially be used to help lessen depressive symptoms.10 And in a 2021 study, participants with moderate depression reported significant improvements in their symptoms after supplementing with probiotics for eight weeks.11
If you’ve been tossing and turning, a daily probiotic may help you get a good night’s sleep.
Research suggests a balanced microbiome may play a role in the quality of your zzz’s. An analysis of 14 studies found that probiotic supplementation may significantly improve sleep quality.12
The more variety, the better. In a 2019 study, researchers found that microbiome diversity was associated with better sleep efficiency (the amount of time spent actually sleeping while in bed) and total sleep time.13
Probiotics offer additional benefits during pregnancy.
Probiotics may play a protective role against certain common pregnancy complications.14 And a recent study found that probiotics may relieve some of the unpleasant GI symptoms associated with early pregnancy, like nausea, vomiting, and constipation.15
Plus, a healthy gut will benefit your baby-to-be. “In pregnancy, the maternal microbiome takes on an even greater role,” Dr. O’Connor says. “Not only is it going to be influential on maternal health, but we’re really setting up the infant microbiome.”
That’s why our 3rd Trimester Prenatal Pack includes a probiotic with 5 billion CFU. This supplement includes strains specifically chosen for gut health, immune function, and vaginal support as you lay the foundation for your baby’s microbiome.
Many factors affect cardiovascular health, including nutrition, activity level, and genetics. But your microbiome may also play a key role.
Research suggests probiotics may help to improve certain markers of cardiovascular health, including cholesterol levels16 and blood pressure.17
Of course, more research is needed to understand exactly how probiotics may benefit heart health. But according to the American Heart Association (AHA), probiotics may have potential as a complementary therapy.18
Okay, so it’s not the most pleasant topic. But research suggests probiotics can improve stool frequency, consistency, and gut transit time (the amount of time the whole process takes).19
Probiotics can also be helpful when things go awry. Studies have found that probiotics may potentially reduce the occurrence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea20 and shorten the duration of infectious diarrhea.21
Because probiotics support the immune system, they may help to relieve symptoms of certain autoimmune and inflammatory disorders.22
Recent studies have looked at the potential for probiotics to help with the management of conditions like psoriasis,23 inflammatory bowel disease,24 and chronic fatigue syndrome.25
Another potential benefit of probiotics during pregnancy: Early exposure to “good” bacteria may lower your baby’s odds of developing allergies.
The World Allergy Organization suggests that probiotic supplements may be beneficial for pregnant and breastfeeding women who are at a high risk for having a child with allergies.26
If you have a family history of allergies, Dr. O’Connor adds, “It might be even more important to focus on microbiome health for both mom and baby.”
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.