The buzz around the benefits of consuming probiotics is rooted in science and medicine. Though their popularity has increased over the past several years, it’s likely you’ve already eaten foods rich in probiotics without even realizing it. Yogurt, soft cheeses, kombucha, and soy-based products are a few examples of foods that naturally have beneficial bacteria. Nutrition bars and daily supplements may also include probiotic microorganisms as an additional boost to your health.
Probiotics aren’t simply a passing trend, and if you are asking the question of, “What are probiotics, anyway?”, we’ll fill you in on the multiple reasons why you should include these healthy live bacteria in your diet. For starters, they help with bloating, digestion, and create a better balance within the body. While most advantages of this helpful bacteria apply to all genders, here are 10 health benefits of probiotics for women.
#1: Aids in Digestion
Good bacteria helps the body digest food. As dietary habits change over the years, the body’s ability to break down certain foods may diminish. This happens particularly with women who have had children, since their digestive system may change after pregnancy. Due to fluctuating hormones, organ shifts, and added stress to the body, these types of factors can throw digestive health off-kilter and make it hard to process certain foods as easily as before.
However, digestion can be altered due to stress, infection, food allergies, and acid reflux. You may also recognize problems with digestion after eating certain foods or drinking beverages with carbonation. The benefits of consuming probiotics in a supplement form is a way to easily ingest beneficial bacteria without adding new foods to your diet. It’ll help “feed” your body what it needs as you begin to uncover changes about how your digestive tract reacts to certain foods.
#2: Regulates Gut Health
Suffering from poor gut health manifests itself in many ways. Temporary bloating, diarrhea, and constipation are common side effects of problems with the gut microbiome. Irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease may also be indicators of poor gut performance. According to Harvard Medical School trial research, the benefits of taking probiotics increased the number of weekly bowel movements and helped soften tools to ease the strain on the gut for those who participated in the study. These health benefits go hand-in-hand with aiding in digestion to keep the body regulated and able to respond well to food.
#3: Fights Bad Bacteria
Being introduced to the benefits of probiotics for the first time may sound counterintuitive since it essentially involves consuming live bacteria. However, there are two kinds of bacteria, and knowing where to find the good kind can help you fight off the bad. Probiotics are part of a larger microbiome in the body, which also consists of fungi, yeasts, viruses, and protozoa. Probiotics create balance within your body’s unique microbiome, which supports other healthy body functions and keeps you in premium health.
#4: Creates Vitamins
Certain good bacteria have the ability to produce essential vitamins for the body. According to a collaborative study through the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, microbial synthesis may produce vitamin B12, vitamin K, biotin, riboflavin, and folate. After vitamins, probiotics are the top supplement ingested on a daily basis.
#5: Helps to Prevent Infections
The presence of probiotics may help prevent or limit the frequency or intensity of certain infections, including yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold or sinusitis. A clinical trial conducted by the Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle found the probiotic Lactobacillus crispatus had reduced the risk of UTIs in women by nearly 50 percent.
#6: Promotes Vaginal Health
As with gut health, there are many factors that can disrupt vaginal health as well, such as birth control pills, antibiotics, and spermicides. An imbalance may cause discomfort, itching, discharge, and unpleasant odors. The benefits of probiotics for women allow the body to naturally restore balance, aid in preventing yeast infections and UTIs and help with conditions like bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis.
#7: Reduces the Severity of Eczema
There’s research that’s shown probiotic supplementation has improved eczema symptoms, particularly in people who have inflammatory responses to milk or dairy allergies. Good probiotic bacteria may reduce the number or intensity of flare-ups and help keep the skin condition under control. One study shows that children of women who took probiotics when pregnant had an 83 percent lower risk of developing eczema as infants.
#8: Boosts the Immune System
Probiotics work in various ways to help regulate body functions and systems to boost the immune system and keep it in working order. By fending off harmful bacteria, regulating gut health, creating vitamins, and preventing infections, the overall positive effect of taking probiotics is maintaining a strong immune system. With all of the germs, viruses, and environmental pollutants the body staves off on a daily basis, it’s nice to have good bacteria working to support strong health.
#9: Fights Belly Fat
Certain good bacteria may be an agent to fight belly fat. There’s multiple research that shows the advantages of taking probiotic supplements or eating foods rich in probiotics to help lose or maintain weight, specifically belly fat. One study conducted by the Nestlé Research Center shows the beneficial effects of probiotics for weight loss in women. Those who took a probiotic product lost 50 percent more weight over a three-month trial period compared to those who took the placebo pill. Plus, the women who lost weight continued to do so through the weight maintenance phase of the study.
There are several factors that contribute to belly fat, including changes in the body post-pregnancy, increased stress, and as a woman ages. Complementing a healthy nutritional plan with a probiotic supplement may reduce belly fat at a faster or greater rate.
#10: Restores Balance to the Body
Generally speaking, introducing probiotics as part of your regular diet can positively affect all areas of your health because of its benefit of restoring balance to the body. When any part of the body is functioning poorly, it affects other areas and keeps you from feeling your best. Eating probiotic-rich foods and/or taking a probiotic supplement helps to regulate the body and allows everything to run more smoothly from the inside out.
Other Conditions That Benefit from Probiotics
Probiotics offer a natural way to improve, reduce, or sustain certain health conditions. In addition to the main ways probiotics help the body, increasing the number of healthy bacteria you ingest may also help with:
- Lactose intolerance
- Gum disease
- Heart health
- High blood pressure
They won’t have the same effect on everyone, since all individuals have unique systems that affect how the body reacts to bacteria, good or bad. Choose products that have been tested for the symptoms or health conditions you want to address. The first place to start is knowing how probiotics work, what foods you can introduce to your diet, and other ways you can take probiotics to see how an increase in healthy bacteria benefits you.
How Do Probiotics Work?
The body is constantly fighting off bad bacteria that enter the body through the environment, infection, viruses, and other daily pollutants. When there’s not a balance of good bacteria to regulate the system, it can cause you to become or remain ill for longer periods of time. Introducing good, helpful bacteria through certain foods and supplements brings back neutrality to the body so it can function at its highest level with optimal immune health.
There are several whole foods that include good bacteria already, and many products have added “live and active cultures” as probiotics are in high demand. In addition to yogurt, soft cheese, kombucha, and soy-based products, other probiotic-rich foods to potentially add to your diet are:
- Sourdough bread
- Cottage cheese
- Fermented foods (ex. pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi)
- Miso soup
What you consume has an effect on your body and as the body changes, you may require more or less of certain foods and drinks to create the right balance. Additionally, probiotic supplements are available in capsule, pill, powder, and liquid form, which make them an easy addition to your daily nutrition plan. According to information provided by the Cleveland Clinic, it’s recommended to choose probiotics that contain Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces boulardii, or Bifidobacterium, as these probiotics are some of the most researched.
If you’re new to the world of probiotic bacteria, start by slowly introducing foods like yogurt or cottage cheese more regularly and see how it makes you feel. If you’re wondering, “How long does it take for probiotics to work?”, it’s important to note that consistency makes a difference when trying anything new as your body adjusts and responds. Continue incorporating nutrient-rich foods and drinking plenty of water, which also helps with digestion and proper gut health. If after a few weeks, you don’t notice a difference, switch to a different type of probiotic strain.
Note that when first taking probiotics, they may cause bloating and gas, which are indications the product is working. As you start to feel differences with how your body digests foods, consider what form of probiotic works best for you. Whether it’s a supplement you take in the morning, a powder form you blend in with a smoothie or eating more of the designated foods, there are plenty of options for how to benefit your health with probiotics and start feeling better on a continual basis.