Skip to main navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

How probiotics help with general health

A look at probiotics and how they support common body functions and general adult health.

Gut health is in the top three searches for health. There are millions of adults who struggle daily with gut function; occasional abdominal pain, flatulence, regurgitation, constipation, and diarrhea are the most common complaints. These complaints are also in the top three reasons people make an appointment to see their family doctor. In the past 5 years, there has been a tremendous increase in scientific knowledge and understanding of what factors affect our gut function, health, and these occasional symptoms.

The nervous system of the gut, our daily habits, hydration, diet, and movement patterns are all major factors. But nothing is capturing the attention of gut health experts more, than the microbiome; the collection of bacteria, yeasts and fungi that colonize, by the trillions, our gut. The science is burgeoning, but it is thought that these populations in our gut affect everything from our mood, digestive process, immune health and more. Nothing is a silver bullet, but the world of probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics hold great promise for helping with occasional functional gut issues.

We have all heard it: “You should really take a probiotic daily.” Like the new multivitamin, probiotic is a household word. Many people take one, regardless of any occasional functional gut or health issues, and describe feeling better for it. But with inflation and food costs at an all-time global high, is it worth the cost for your patients? With enough to worry about, many adults want reassurance that they are ahead of the curve with promoting their gut functions and immune health. These all emanate from the gut, and probiotics can help play a role in optimal function. The question remains, what should we recommend? While there is always more research needed, there is convincing evidence in key areas of adult health that show benefits with probiotic use.

Here we look at probiotics and how they support common body functions and general adult health.

One of the most common and powerful strains of probiotic that has been studied extensively is Lactobacillus acidophilus. It has demonstrated benefits for reducing occasional functional gut issues, like constipation, flatulence and abdominal pain. This strain has also been shown to help with immune system support and potentially reduce the risk of developing upper respiratory tract illness in physically active adults.

Support for the Immune System

Our immune system is a complex bi-layered system that involves many organ systems in the body, including the skin and digestive systems. Daily stressors such as environmental toxins, viral and bacterial exposures, emotional stress, and sleep deprivation all impact how it functions. It is also impacted by age, genetic background, inferior quality diet, alcohol, and cigarette smoke, demonstrating lifestyle changes can support this stressed-out system.

Probiotics have in recent years been shown to have functional impact in the gut, helping to support immune system function.

Diarrhea During Travel

The fear of traveler’s diarrhea is enough to stop some people from traveling to new destinations and can bring a trip to a halt. Many adults find their digestion changes when they travel due to the change in food, stress, and environment. Preventative measures such as a probiotic supplement, is a low-risk valuable tool to reduce the risk of this unwanted stress. Saccharomyces boulardii (a non-colonizing yeast species), has been shown to offer great benefit for reducing the risk of traveller’s diarrhea.

Occasional Constipation

Many adults experience occasional constipation. Not having regular bowel movements can impact mood, energy, appetite, and absorption of nutrients from food. Being properly hydrated, physical movement and exercise and high-fibre diets can improve functional constipation. The addition of probiotic supplements provides additional relief in reducing occasional constipation. Strains such as Bifidobacterium bifidum, B. lactis, B. longum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. rhamnoses and Streptococcus thermophilus can help reduce irregular bowel movements, a welcome effect for those struggling.

Vaginal Health

The discomfort and stress of vaginal issues affects millions of women daily. Much like IBS, this can cause immense distress and a reduction in quality of life. Women who experience vaginal issues such as vaginosis know how distressing this can be. Several strains that have shown benefit for this vaginal imbalance are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG strain, Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1. Used in conjunction with antibiotics, they help treat bacterial vaginosis by helping maintain the balance of vaginal flora.

Bottom Line

Gut health issues always require multiple areas of action to reduce symptoms and head towards healing. How we experience life stressors has a direct effect on gut symptoms such as occasional abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Eating a minimally processed diet, which floods the body with nutrients and fibres that feed our flora is the foundation of a happy gut. And including probiotic-rich fermented foods such as high-quality yogurts, kefir, and other fermented foods are an easy and excellent way to benefit the gut.

The current science of probiotics and how they may be helpful to health conditions is fascinating and growing every day. We need more scientific research to confirm these benefits, and reveal specific info about types, strains, amounts and forms of probiotics that will work best. For now, taking probiotics, especially after consulting with a health professional such as a dietitian, to hone in on your specific symptoms, may be an easy, accessible tool that brings much-needed symptom relief for those who are struggling.

Nishta Saxena, MSc, RD