These bacteria have a well-deserved rep as health heroes for your gut. But the bugs’ reach goes a lot further, new research shows. Learn their impact below, then see the next page for the best ways to take them.
Studies show that pro biotics may reduce social anxiety and symptoms of depression. Certain types of intestinal bacteria could raise levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that’s instrumental in creating the mood- boosting neurotransmitter serotonin.
People who added a probiotic to their casein protein shake after lifting weights had improved muscle recovery, research showed. The strain Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 may help the body absorb protein.
The good bacteria from probiotics wind up on the skin’s surface, says Michael Roizen, the chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic. They overpower the bad bugs that cause acne.
Taking probiotics that contain the Lactobacillus and Biﬁdobacterium strains reduces the symptoms of seasonal allergies. These bugs may quell the inﬂammation that causes issues like sneezing and sniffling.
When combined with a healthy diet, probiotics from the Lactobacillus rha mnosus family can help women stay slim, research in the British Journal of Nutrition found. Study participants taking them had fewer types of GI bugs related to obesity.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE TAKING YOUR PROBIOTICS
CERTAIN NUTRIENTS MAKE THEM MORE EFFECTIVE
Ideally, fermented foods and drinks are the best sources of pro biotics. Most people don’t eat enough of them to get the perks, though, so supplements and foods fortiﬁed with probiotics are a great option, says Sarah Morgan, a functional nutrition expert and the founder of Buddies in My Belly, a microbiome education company. For the best results, take probiotics with ﬁbre, which feeds the bugs.
NUMBERS ARE KEY
Look for supplements that list the probiotic strain (usually numbers) beside its name (for Biﬁdobacterium biﬁdum W23, W23 is the strain). This indicates that it’s a strain-specific type, which tend to be well researched and higher quality, Sarah says. For daily use, choose probiotics with ﬁve to 15 billion colony-forming units per serving, she says. Less may be ineffective, and long-term use of very high doses hasn’t been well studied; Sarah says it could irritate the intestinal wall.
YOU NEED TO FEED THEM
“One hot area of research involves synbiotics, a combination of probiotics and prebiotics, nondigestible substances that gut microbes consume,” says Geoffrey Preidis, a scientiﬁc advisory board member for the American Gastroenterological Association Center for Gut Microbiome Research and Education. “Pre biotics help probiotics grow so that the bacteria can better perform their beneﬁcial functions.” Try SmartyPants Adult Probiotic Complete ($38, sg.iherb.com).
ANTIBIOTICS CAN MESS WITH THINGS
People often use probiotics to help ease the side effects of antibiotics, such as stomach pain and diarrhoea. But if you take the supplements and the meds at the same time, the antibiotic will wipe out the beneﬁcial bugs before they can work their magic. To prevent that, wait about three weeks after taking your ﬁrst antibiotic pill to start the supplements, Dr Roizen says.
The fermented food is a great source of beneficial bugs.