13 Probiotic Benefits Beyond Gut Health

Probiotics can have far more impact than on the gut in and of itself. Today, I have 13 probiotic benefits beyond gut health.

Before I dig in, I want to address two questions I’ve been getting a lot lately: do they actually work, and should I take a daily probiotic?

Do Probiotics Work?

Of course they work. The research is there. However, the caveat is that it’s far more complex than simply saying, “Take a probiotic, any probiotic, and it’s going to help with your specific condition.”

It actually does not work like that.

This is why, I still have no clue why medical practitioners who know exactly what’s wrong with a patient tell them things like, “Get a good probiotic. Find one with 1 billion CFU’s. Take it daily.”

Because it means, almost literally, nothing.

Here are three reasons why:

  1. Probiotic supplements can be beneficial for various conditions, but recall that everyone's gut microbiome is different! There is no guarantee that taking a probiotic supplement will be beneficial for you, even if it was for someone else. The potential benefits from taking a probiotic supplement very much depend on if and how it will be utilized by the microbes in your individual microbiome.

  2. Just like two people can have the same name, but live completely different lives, two probiotics can be classified under the same genus (ex. lactobacillus), but have completely different roles in the body. Lactobacillus plantarum have potential cholesterol lowering properties, whereas Lactobacillus paracasei can help alleviate allergies.

  3. The dose is also very important, and effective doses vary among different strains. For example, the dose needed to suppress vaginal yeast infections is 100 million CFU, and the dose that shows favorable effects for reducing acute diarrhea is 12 billion CFU.

In other words, here is how you should determine which probiotic to take:

Should I Take a Probiotic Daily?

The research says that taking a probiotic daily is safe, however, it might not make sense for you to take your probiotic each day (or at all). The method of supplementing (ie with food or without) and duration you’d need to take a probiotic to see results is also different depending on the symptom you’re trying to manage.

13 Probiotic Benefits Beyond Gut Health

This is very important because most people think that probiotics are only for digestive health. In fact, sometimes I’ll get messages from people I personally know who will ask something like this… “If my gut is fine, why would my doctor recommend a probiotic? Aren’t they just for the digestive system?”

And here are many of the potential reasons/issues/conditions why the doctor might be recommending a probiotic.

  1. IBS (bloating, cramping, and stool frequency)

  2. Constipation

  3. Vaginal infections

  4. Urinary tract infections (UTI’s)

  5. Upper Respiratory Infections

  6. Acute Diarrhea

  7. Lactose Intolerance

  8. Treatment of periodontal disease

  9. Tooth Decay

  10. Mental health improvement (for some conditions)

  11. Eczema in children

  12. Keep a healthy heart

  13. Weight management

Probiotic Research and Money

Again, please remember that different probiotic strains and species are recommended for different conditions. Some conditions come with more research to back probiotic use than others.

But also, here is something else to consider. There is a huge reason why even more research is not out there on probiotic strains, species, and various conditions.

That reason is, you guessed it, money.

In order to conduct research, it costs money. But who wants to throw down money if there is no direct benefit? Since a probiotic is a supplement and not a patented medication, there isn’t money in it for general research unless you are the probiotic manufacturer.

So in this case, it’s oftentimes helpful and even necessary to cross-check.

Remember, probiotics, digestive enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and all other supplements will likely not help you manage your symptoms if you aren’t addressing the number one factor of a healthy gut: your diet!