Health Check: Should Healthy People Take Probiotic Supplements?

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There have been countless studies that show probiotics are the ones that keep us healthy. But should we get probiotic supplements if we’re already healthy? A team of researchers has published a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition on the effects of probiotic products on healthy individuals.

The authors of the study are Chris Irwin – Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics (School of Allied Health Sciences, Griffith University), Corneel Vandelanotte, Professorial Research Fellow: Physical Activity and Health and his colleague, Saman Khalesi, Lecturer in Nutrition (both at the CQUniversity, Australia).

The authors have reviewed 45 original studies. They wanted to see what are the health effects on healthy adults, not only on those that had health problems.

According to WHO, probiotics are “live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” We know them as the “good” bacteria in our gut.

Yogurt, Drinks, and Supplements – Health Benefits

The researchers looked at how the good bacteria benefits healthy adults. They found the following facts:

  1. Good bacteria increases in concentration. Probiotic supplementation is welcomed, as it can bring balance in case of a digestive problem.
  2. It can reduce abdominal discomfort in case of irregular bowel movements or constipation.
  3. In women, it increases the “good” bacteria around and inside the vagina. Four of the studies the author studies showed that the vaginal lactobacilli were improved after using probiotics. It can help prevent UTI or bacterial vaginosis.
  4. It can boost the immune system and reduce the human’s symptoms of the common cold. Good bacteria improve the activity of the cells that fight respiratory infections.

However, the study also shows that probiotic supplements will work only for a week, up to three weeks. After that, the pre-supplementation state of the gut bacteria will return.

So, for a long-lasting good bacteria, the authors say we have to “feed” the healthy bacteria with prebiotics, which are: fruit and vegetables.

The study also found that there is no evidence to show that probiotic supplementation reduces heart disease risk or that it prevents developing type 2 diabetes.

The authors conclude that if we have a poor diet, if we drink too much alcohol, or too often, or if we don’t exercise regularly, we might need some probiotic supplements. However, we’ll have to keep taking them for lasting effects. But healthy people with a healthy lifestyle can just eat food that helps the good bacteria survive.

Bottom line: eat more fruit and vegetables!

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere