2 Surprising Ways in Which Probiotics Can Benefit Humans

The human body is a fertile ground for millions of different microorganisms that maintain either a symbiotic or parasitic relationship with the host. Many aspects of human health are now known to depend on a healthy ecosystem of the host’s microbiota. And disruption to this symbiotic equilibrium can result in detrimental health conditions in the host organism, some of which may even be life-threatening.

In an effort to minimize the harmful effects of hostile bacteria, humans have heavily relied on antibiotics. Unfortunately, this solution is only temporary as harmful bacteria can eventually adapt and develop resistance to antibiotics. Furthermore, antibiotics can deeply disrupt the inner microbiome equilibrium, ironically leaving people more vulnerable to other infections.

Probiotics offer another perspective and more interesting possibilities for the treatment or management of a number of conditions. A few health benefits of probiotics have been known for a long time, but scientists are discovering new, surprising ways in which probiotics can influence and benefit the human host.

Depression: There is a recent trend in medical research to study and document the hypothetical connection between the gut and the mind – the so-called gut-brain axis. This line of research also involves gut microbiota and is rapidly gaining traction with multiple research efforts bringing light to how gut flora can affect the mood and psychological state of the host human.

In 2015, scientists from the Netherlands found that 4-week long supplementation with probiotics resulted in less ruminative thought patterns in the studied participants. This was one of the first scientific evidence for the potentially uplifting effects of probiotics.

More recently, scientists at the McMaster University found that probiotics helped relief symptoms of depression in patients flagged by irritable bowel syndrome. The surprising finding has been published in the Gastroenterology journal.

Weight loss: It is known that the demographics of gut microbiota are correlated with obesity. Exactly how this knowledge can be leveraged to tackle the problem from a probiotic perspective is another ongoing research line in the medical field. The findings of 25 random clinical trials suggest that probiotics can effectively help to shift the gut flora in a way that enhances weight management. This is the takeaway from a meta-analysis performed by Chinese researchers at the Taizhou People’s Hospital in China. The meta-analysis revealed robust evidence for a small—yet financially and medically significant on a social scale—reduction of body weight as a result of probiotic supplementation. This effect was stronger when a larger variety of probiotics was ingested or when supplementation was maintained for at least 8 weeks.