You’ve probably heard the virtues of probiotics extolled in health magazines and on cartons of Greek yogurt. Probiotics are live bacteria that naturally occur in certain foods—from fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut or kimchi, to live-cultured yogurt. They’re also added to some high-end dark chocolates and available as supplements
1. Lowering the Blood Pressure
If poor marks on your last physical have sent you on a personal quest to lower your cholesterol, look no farther than your fridge.
A small study presented at a recent AHA scientific meeting found that a strain of probiotics found in dairy and meats called Lactobacillus reuteri lowered LDL levels in participants by nearly 12 percent more than the group taking a placebo. Overall cholesterol was lowered by 9 percent.
2. Teeth / Dental Hygiene
Studies have shown that the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri kills the bacteria that causes tooth decay and lessens the harmful effects of gingivitis. A full mouth of teeth and a reduction in bleeding gums are two good reasons to add probiotics to your daily menu.
3. Relief from Diarrhea
Whether you experience the occasional bout of traveler’s diarrhea, or are among the Journal of the American Medical Association’s (JAMA) estimated one third of people who will experience it as a common side effect of antibiotics, diarrhea is unpleasant and embarrassing.
4. Allergies and Eczema
If you have eczema, you know how annoying and frustrating perpetually dry, itchy skin can be. What if we could prevent future generations from getting it? A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that babies who are at risk for developing eczema may benefit from their mothers’ consumption of probiotics.
Allergy-prone mothers with eczema were given probiotics two months before giving birth and during the first two months of breastfeeding. The babies, who were assessed at 6, 12, and 24 months, showed a significant reduction in their risk of developing the no-fun skin inflammation.
5. Reproductive Health
The vagina is a delicately balanced environment of good and bad bacteria. Unfortunately, sometimes just taking antibiotics or birth control pills, becoming pregnant, or having diabetes is enough to throw your system out of whack. If you’re prone to pesky yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or urinary tract infections (UTIs), you might consider protecting your lady parts with probiotics.
According to the Harvard Medical School, probiotics may help balance the bacteria present in your vagina and prevent the overgrowth of harmful microorganisms. While their effectiveness is still being debated, researchers agree that there’s no harm in adding more probiotics to your diet.
6. Colds and Flu
Some people seem to get sick every time the weather changes, but that doesn’t have to be you this year. Researchers who conducted a review of studies from the Cochrane Library concluded that, overall, probiotics seem to reduce upper respiratory infections when compared to a placebo.
7. Colicky Baby?
A 2007 study published in Pediatrics found that after 28 days, breastfed babies whose mothers consumed a daily dose of probiotics cried 194 minutes less than the test group that didn’t. A 2010 study published in the same journal found similar results. Gaining just a minute of peace and quiet would give you good reason to pop a probiotic supplement. Now you’ve got 194 good reasons.
8. Gut Health
If constipation, bloating, and gas are mainstay symptoms of your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s, a cup of yogurt a day may keep you regular all day. Johns Hopkins Health Alerts reports that those who ate two 4-ounce servings of live-culture yogurt during a study experienced less bloating and more bowel movements after a few weeks.
Another study published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics revealed that people who ate live-culture yogurt twice a day experienced a shorter amount of time between eating and bowel movements. That’s less time you’d have to spend doubled over, clutching your stomach in pain.