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Probiotics supplements have grown in popularity in recent years for a reason — they play a critical role in supporting the balance of bacteria in your digestive system and keeping your gut healthy.
Probiotics are a great way to replenish gut bacteria. Probiotics are strains of living microorganisms like bacteria and yeasts often found in fermented foods or supplements that help colonize your gut with beneficial bacteria.
Most people think of bacteria as harmful but they’re definitely not all bad. In fact, the right bacteria are critical for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. This good bacteria helps form barriers that can help protect your digestive system from harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Probiotics are one of the most popular supplement categories in the United States for men and can benefit anyone, regardless of gender.
You may have already learned about the benefits probiotics offer for digestive health, but probiotics offer benefits that extend beyond your gut, too. In particular, men may be interested in adding a probiotic supplement to their daily routine to aid their gut health and immune system.
Additionally, as you age, it is likely that you may notice changes in your digestive system that probiotics can help support, like decreased or irregular bowel movement or changes in your stool. You may also be more generally focused on your immune health as you age, and probiotics have been shown to help support healthy immune function.
There isn’t one particular sign or symptom that indicates men should consider supplementing with a probiotic. However, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help decide if taking a probiotic supplement is right for you, like:
Still not sure? You can take our quiz linked here to see if probiotics are a good choice for your health routine. And of course, always speak with your doctor if you have questions about whether a specific supplement is right for you.
Probiotics have been extensively researched in the scientific and medical communities for their ability to support men’s digestive health and immune function.
Gut health may be the most well known and well researched benefit associated with probiotics. Your digestive system is your entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract from your stomach to your large intestine. “Gut health” refers to the overall state of this whole GI system.
Ideally, your body keeps a very specific balance of bacteria — both good and bad — in your gut. However, things like stress, poor dietary choices, and environmental issues can all have a negative impact on regulation of healthy bacteria. Probiotics can help you keep that balance in check to keep your gut healthy
Probiotics can help improve and normalize bowel movement patterns.
In one study, over 1000 healthy adults were given the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis (AKA BB-12) and monitored for markers of bowel health over a period of 4 weeks. These included bowel movement frequency, relief of abdominal discomfort, and overall GI well-being.
Bowel movement frequency was significantly higher in the probiotic treatment group compared with placebo at all weeks. Abdominal pain and bloating decreased during the study in both treatment groups. The consistency of produced bowels became softer in all the treatment groups, showing an overall treatment effect by the end of week four.
Reducing Loose Stools from Antibiotic Use: Antibiotics are known for negatively impacting your GI system. Specifically, diarrhea is one of the most common side effects associated with antibiotic use.
Luckily, probiotics can help reduce loose stools as a result of antibiotic use by helping to colonize your gut with beneficial bacteria
One study of 396 subjects evaluated the severity of Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea (AAD) in folks who were slated for a 7-day round of antibiotics. Participants were randomized into either the probiotic group containing Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-5 and Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12 (4 Billion CFU) or a placebo group.
Researchers found that those who completed a 14-day therapy of probiotic formulation had significantly fewer days of Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea (AAD) than those in the placebo group. This same study found that 31.6% of the probiotic group experienced severe diarrhea compared to 96% in the placebo group.
Probiotics reside in your gut and are typically celebrated for their digestive health properties, but probiotic strains have also been studied for their effect on the immune system.
Since most of your immune cells (70-80%) live in your digestive system, a probiotic’s gut healthy benefits also result in immune system support. While the exact mechanism for providing immune support is not known, a 2008 study published in FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology found that taking Lactobacillus acidophilus (NCFM) and Bifidobacterium lactis (BI-04) — two probiotic strains that help regulate gut bacteria — supports antibodies that help keep our immune systems strong.
Probiotics have also been shown to increase the number of immunoglobulins produced by the body. Immunoglobulins play a key role in the body's immune system. They are proteins produced by specific immune cells called plasma cells in response to bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms as well as exposures to other substances that are recognized by the body as intruders.
According to the American Gastroenterological Association, a probiotic label should contain several pieces of useful information like:
__ The probiotic species:__ Look for well studied specieslike L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus and B. lactis which have been shown to help support gut and immune health.
Quantity of bacteria: Probiotics differ in the quantity of bacteria in the supplement. Doses of probiotics are measured in colony forming units (CFUs) and can range from 1million to 30 billion. Check with your doctor to see which dosage is right for you, more isn’t always better. Generally, a daily probiotic for gut and immune health is between 5-15 billion CFUs.
Expiration date: As probiotics are live microbial organisms, always aim to purchase a product that does not expire for at least three months and if you have a probiotic supplement sitting in your medicine cabinet be sure to check the expiration date before taking it. Additionally, be mindful of storing your probiotics in excessive heat which can degrade the microorganisms faster.
In addition to supplements, you can also add probiotic-rich foods to your diet. Look for fermented foods like kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, kefir, and tempeh which provide a nutritious (and delicious) way of getting more “good” bacteria in your daily routine.
A probiotic blend combines a few of the most studied strains of bacteria to confer great health benefits in one capsule. Look for a probiotic blend with strains like L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus and B. lactis which have been researched for their gut and immune health properties.
A yeast probiotic contains a single yeast strain that may provide recently researched benefits for your gut. Look for a strain that has been clinically studied like S. boulardii.
If you need help figuring out which is right for your specific needs, you can take our quiz for a tailored recommendation.