Probiotics can help with a massive range of health aspects including digestion, managing diseases and infections, minimizing inflammation in the body and so, so much more! It’s no wonder they’ve become a huge craze in the health and fitness sphere.
In this article we’re going to explore how probiotics can specifically benefit men and women, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sufferers and even assist with weight loss. We’ll let you know the best time to take them and which supplements are the best on the market right now.
What are probiotics?
Your large and small intestines are home to a huge microbiota, the biggest in the human body. Inside this ecosystem there are over 1,000 species of good bacteria and usually a healthy mix of 40 trillion good and bad bacteria. Within this ‘gut flora’ are strains of beneficial live microorganisms that we refer to as probiotics who are in charge of many health benefits throughout your body.
Probiotics can be found in foods such as:
- Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
- Kimchi (Spicy cabbage, Korean dish)
- Kefir (fermented milk drink)
- Tempeh (fermented soy beans)
- Kombucha (fermented drink)
As you can see from the list above, the average person’s diet may consist of yoghurt and pickles as they are quite popular. However, many of the other natural sources of probiotics are less common and may be a bit tricky to get into your diet. That’s where probiotic supplements come in very handy, whether it’s powder, capsule or tablet form they’re a convenient way to get the correct friendly bacteria into your body.
Prebiotics are important to consume if you want your probiotics to have the best chance at working optimally. As this medical analysis explains, prebiotics are indigestible fibres and oligosaccharides, present in vegetables, human milk, or whole grain cereals, that stimulate the growth of certain microorganisms – probiotics.
This basically means that prebiotics are fuel for probiotics. You can find them in bananas, garlic, asparagus, oats, onions and so many more items that are probably already in your kitchen.
What can probiotics do for me?
Everyday factors like stress, illnesses, infections, poor diets and medications can throw the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut out of whack. When there’s too much bad bacteria, your health will rapidly decline and you will generally feel under the weather physically and emotionally.
Not everyone has the time to make sure their diet is perfect, they are exercising and getting enough sleep to ward off possible sickness – life is just too busy for that.
Introducing a probiotic into your daily health regime will ensure that your gut microbiota is always leaning in favour of good bacteria instead of the bad, ensuring great health.
As long as you keep consistent with your probiotic supplement, these are just a few of the health issues you will see improvements in:
- Overall digestion
- Immune health
- Vitamin production
- Reducing development of allergies and sensitivity triggers
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Oral health
- Urinary/vaginal health
When introducing any new supplement into your life, it’s best to ask your doctor about it first. They know your medical history and what will benefit you so pop down for a quick conversation about probiotics.
How long will it take for my probiotics to work?
You need to remain realistic when trying new things, it’s likely you haven’t found a miracle cure so it’s best to keep things in perspective.
The good news is though, probiotics can and will actually start working from day one. You may not notice huge changes in the beginning but small improvements to digestion, such as reduction in bloating and gas, may even be seen within the first couple hours of taking your new probiotic.
The bigger improvements should start showing themselves around the 2 week mark, that’s when you’ll notice a difference if your probiotic has been working for you efficiently behind the scenes.
If you’re consuming a poor diet, don’t get enough exercise, are taking medications that make your body more acidic or you’ve purchased a lower quality probiotic then you could be sabotaging your results. Improve these factors to give your body the best chance of benefiting from your new supplement.
Benefits of probiotics for men
An interesting medical test was conducted on male mice to test the effects of a particular strain of probiotic, Lactobacillus reuteri, over a period of time. To make this as relatable as possible to everyday life, the mice were fed a “typical Westernized diet” of high fats and low fibre.
The test results, published in 2014, showed that the mice who were administered the probiotic had higher and healthier levels of testosterone than the mice who weren’t. What happened was that the probiotic had actually lowered cortisol levels in their bodies.
When cortisol production is too high, men can experience erectile dysfunction, muscle breakdown and decreased testosterone production. This reduction in testosterone can then lead to depression, low sperm production and degradation of muscle mass – probiotics have been shown to help in preventing all of this!
In the same test, the mice exhibited better rates of growth in their testes than those mice that weren’t given the Lactobacillus reuteri. As mentioned above, this was due to less muscle breakdown but also due to the powerful anti-inflammatory effects from this strain of probiotic. Healthy testicles also equalled higher sperm production, which is an important factor when wanting to start a family.
Men have a small, very important gland in their reproductive system that mainly produces fluids to feed and protect their sperm. This is called the prostate gland and cancer affecting this part of the body is one of the most frequent cancers (generally sudden and deadly) with 1 in 7 men over the age of 75 experiencing it.
The good news is that probiotics are great at reducing inflammation and cell proliferation, which is a huge factor in prostate cancer. Taking a probiotic supplement will improve the immunologic system, reduce unnecessary inflammation and diminish the chances of cancerous cells growing.
Probiotics will also lessen your chance of developing prostatitis – inflammation of the prostate, a very uncomfortable bacterial infection.
You can read our full review on the best probiotics for men here.
Benefits of probiotics for women
If you’ve ever had a case of recurring bacterial vaginosis (BV) or vaginal thrush, you’ll know how excruciatingly uncomfortable, embarrassing and frustrating they can be.
Infections like these are caused by your vaginal flora being out of balance. The usual remedy for this is antibiotics, but unfortunately antibiotics will wipe out both the good and the bad bacteria. So, if there’s any nasty bacteria left over when repopulation begins, you may be looking down the barrel of another infection.
This in-depth medical article specifies strains like Lactobacillus crispatus, iners, acidophilus, delbruekii and gasseri make up that desired vaginal flora. So if you want to kick your infections to the curb and keep your lady flora fresh make sure to get a probiotic supplement regime that will encourage the growth of those strains.
Hot flushes, poor digestion, night sweats, insomnia, lowered libido, hair loss…the list goes on! Probiotics can help to stimulate the correct hormone balance and vitamin production to manage the natural but frustrating symptoms of menopause that all women experience at some point in their lives.
You want to create the healthiest environment possible when you’re trying for a baby. Probiotics can give you a huge helping hand by reducing inflammation in the body, preventing vaginal infections, stimulating hormone and vitamin production and maintaining your immune system.
As fertility is individual to each woman, it’s best to consult a doctor to see if probiotics will help when trying to conceive.
You can read our review on the best probiotic supplements for women here.
Can probiotics help with IBS?
It’s estimated that 1 in 5 Australians will experience Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) at some point in their lives. That number is raised for women with them being affected 2-3 times more often than men as seen in this medical article.
Unfortunately, the exact cause of this uncomfortable, serious condition remains unknown and there is no known cure at this time. Triggers can range from something as simple as stress or a bad diet all the way to certain medications or infections, such as gastroenteritis.
Here are the main symptoms of IBS:
- Cramping and abdominal pain/nausea
- Either constipation or diarrhea (can experience both)
- Mucus in stools
- Bowels not feeling empty after going to the toilet/constant need to evacuate bowels
But there’s good news, here’s a few of the ways probiotics can help alleviate IBS symptoms:
- Building a barrier of mucus in the intestines to reduce sensitivity and irritation
- Boosting immune function and utilizing anti-inflammatory properties in the gut to minimize IBS symptoms
- Decreasing growth of E. coli and Clostridium which are harmful bacteria that are found in high concentrations of people who suffer from IBS
- Reducing bloating, cramping, gas and nausea by balancing gut flora
Once again, IBS is unique to every individual so make sure to consult your doctor before you start taking them regularly.
You can read our review on the best probiotics for IBS here.
Can probiotics assist with weight loss?
A medical article was published in 2016 stating that worldwide obesity has more than doubled from 1980 to 2014. In 2014 it was recorded that 39% of adults across the globe were overweight and 13% of that statistic actually fell into the obese category.
This is an alarming figure, and since then it’s been steadily rising with the increasing availability of fast foods, sedentary lifestyles and fad diets giving us a false sense of security. Despite this, all is not lost! This same article describes your gut flora as a gateway between your environment and your body. Basically this means that balancing the healthy bacteria in your gut can decrease your chances of gaining weight, combined with a healthy lifestyle of course.
There’s a few specific strains and species of probiotic that are important to weight loss, they are:
This species of probiotic is one of the most widely used and beneficial. It lives in your small intestine and produces lactase which is an enzyme that breaks down the sugar of the milk, lactose. It also creates an acidic environment in your gut to ward off bad bacteria, but not too acidic that your probiotics can’t survive. When you consume carbs, Lactobacillus breaks them down and ferments them into lactic acid which helps your body absorb essential vitamins and minerals.
Beneficial Lactobacillus strains:
- Plantarum – Produces conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid shown to increase fat burning whilst not restricting calories, has been tested on mice
- Gasseri – Helps you lose weight from your belly, hips and waist specifically
- Salivarius – Decreases bacteria that is generally found in an overweight person’s gut and replaces them with healthy, normal weight range bacteria
- Paracasei – Decreases fat absorption and fat mass
- Rhamnosus – Encourages weight loss and targets fat mass
This species of bacteria can be found in your large intestine and also helps protect your body from bad bacteria and produce lactic acid, like Lactobacillus above. However, this kind of lactic acid gives your cells the energy they need to make a protective barrier in your gut to decrease fat absorption. Bifidobacterium is also responsible for the production of your B and K vitamins which give you energy and support digestion, hair, skin and bones.
Beneficial Bifidobacterium strains:
- Bifidum, Longum and Infantis – Combined, these three strains can reduce glucose levels and insulin resistance
- Breve – Targets belly fat and reduces cholesterol and fasting glucose to lower chance of developing diabetes
- Animalis – Decreases Body Mass Index (BMI), cholesterol and inflammation
You can read our full review on the best probiotics for weight loss here.
What’s the best time of day to be taking probiotics?
This medical study specifies that taking your probiotic with or directly before your meal is going to give your body the best chance of receiving probiotic health benefits.
The reason behind this is, your stomach acid will kill off your probiotics before they reach your intestines if they’re given half a chance. When you have food in your stomach it can protect your probiotics and allow them to pass safely through, ensuring maximum potency when they reach your gut.
Should I take my probiotic at breakfast, lunch or dinner?
Generally, it’s best to take your probiotic at the start of the day with breakfast so you can feel the benefits throughout the day. However, this depends on what you’re using your probiotics for.
For example, if you have digestion troubles in the afternoon then it may be best for you to consume your probiotic with lunch. Or, if you’re needing probiotics to help you sleep, take them with dinner. It’s totally up to you!
How often do I need to be taking my probiotics?
Daily, and you need to be consistent about it! Probiotics don’t hang around in your body long and need to be replenished regularly for you to experience the benefits. And you don’t need to worry about overdoing it – similar to a multivitamin, any extra probiotics you consume that your body doesn’t need will be flushed out with your normal daily bodily functions.
Tips and tricks for purchasing probiotics
Colony forming units (CFU)
For beginners, you may want to start around 10 billion CFU until your body is used to the new supplement. Once you feel like it’s time to graduate, slowly work your way up to as many probiotics as you can get your hands on in one supplement.
Whether you’re needing your probiotic for male or female health, weight loss or IBS, there are going to be strains that will target your health concerns better than others. Do a bit of research into which ones you need and then purchase a probiotic supplement with as many of them included as possible.
As mentioned above, your stomach acid can be a bit of a bully when it comes to your probiotic buddies. Picking a product that has technology to help the bacteria survive through your stomach acid will ensure the most CFU are delivered to your gut safe and sound.
These are important to look out for. Grab a bottle that’s furthest from its expiry for maximum potency. Some probiotic supplements will need to be refrigerated, if so, make sure it was kept cold at the store and be sure to transport it home and get it into your fridge quickly, especially in hot weather.
Read the label
Avoid any unnecessary fillers or allergens but look out for probiotic supplements with added vitamins and minerals for an extra health boost.
You need fuel to thrive and survive, so do your probiotics. Get a synbiotic product that contains a prebiotic, if you can.
Once a day
Want to stay on track easier? We recommend getting a supplement you only have to take once it day.
Top 5 specialized probiotic products
Best probiotic for MEN
Garden of Life – RAW Probiotics Men
Colon, prostate and heart health
Men need consistent support for unique aspects of their health that are extremely important for their wellbeing and future. This probiotic from Garden of Life delivers a huge 85 billion CFU, 31 different strains and a heap of vitamins that are all specifically targeted towards maintaining men’s colon, heart and prostate health – three of the most important aspect of men’s health. As an added bonus, there’s a blend of raw fruits and veggies in every serving for added benefit. You’ve got all bases covered with this product.
Three capsules a day
Due to the huge dose of 85 billion CFU per serving of three capsules, for some users it may be more suitable to take only one or two capsules a day. Many users on Amazon report this feature as being amazing for when they need to modify their probiotic dosage. And the best part is, the CFU count is so high per capsule that even at a lower dose you will still be sure to see great results.
Price: (90 capsules) on Amazon
- 85 billion CFU’s
- Added vitamins
- 31 strains
- Targeted support for colon, heart and prostate health
- 3 capsules daily
Best probiotics for WOMEN
Renew Life: Women’s Vaginal Ultimate Flora Probiotic
Lactobacillus for healthy vaginal flora
The Lactobacilli family of probiotic are known to make up the delicate flora of the vagina. This product actually contains 8 lactobacillus strains and two bifidobacterium strains. Synergistically, they will be able to replenish and maintain healthy vaginal bacteria to ward off nasty bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections – the bane of every woman’s existence.
No added vitamins or minerals
Unfortunately, Renew Life has chosen not to add any extra goodies into their probiotic .This is a bit disappointing but if you can get your hands on a great multivitamin and take both that and your probiotic daily, you’ll have all aspects of your feminine health catered for.
Price: (30 capsules) on Amazon
- 50 billion CFU’s
- 10 targeted strains for feminine health
- Focuses on vaginal health
- 1 capsule daily
- Must be refrigerated to ensure potency
- No added vitamins or minerals
Best probiotic for IBS
BioSchwartz Advanced Strength Probiotic
Guaranteed potency until they expire
As we mentioned in our Tips and Tricks list above for purchasing a probiotic, many brands will lose the potency of their probiotics during their shelf life. However, BioSchwartz has been able to come up with a technology that guarantees the potency of all the CFU in your chosen bottle, no matter how close it is to its expiry – and they don’t even need to be refrigerated.
Immune and digestive health
To reduce your IBS symptoms, this probiotic focuses on both your immune health to increase your response to the disease and your digestive health to lower your chances of gas, bloating, cramps and other symptoms of IBS.
Price: (60 capsules) on Amazon
- Third party tested
- Refrigeration not required
- 40 billion CFU’s per serving
- Guaranteed potency until expiry date
- Contains prebiotic
- Twice daily dose
- Not overly transparent about strains (looks to be about 5)
Best probiotics for WEIGHT LOSS
1MD Complete Probiotics Platinum
Focus on overall health for easier weight loss
With 50 billion CFU and 11 different strains of probiotic per serving, there’s no way you won’t be feeling lighter and more energized with this potent product. This will boost your digestion to get your metabolism back on track so you can burn off those extra kilos.
The results speak for themselves
To back up the claims above, 1MD conducted a survey in 2016 and they found that 93% of their users actually reported having more energy whilst taking this probiotic whilst 96% reported better digestion. With numbers like that and a 90 day money back guarantee, you know 1MD has to be confident in their product for some reason – it’s definitely worth a shot!
Price: (30 capsules) on Amazon
- 51 billion CFU’s per serving
- 11 strains
- Vegan, non-GMO, gluten, soy and preservative free
- Contains prebiotic
- Money back if not satisfied
- Once daily dose
- May cause temporary digestive issues within first 2 weeks
Best product for VEGANS
Dr. Stern Rebalance Essential Probiotic
Need help with losing weight, building muscle, brain health and IBS symptoms? Well Dr. Stern has included the amino acid L-glutamine in this probiotic for some huge added benefits. Along with 40 billion CFU per serving, you’re sure to get the most out of your vegan diet and lifestyle.
Inulin is a starchy substance that is found in many fruits, vegetables and herbs. It’s excellent fuel for your probiotics and will help them thrive and multiply in your gut. Some users reported sensitivity to the inulin however so be careful if this is something you know you’re intolerant to.
Price: (60 capsules) on Amazon
- 40 billion CFU per serving
- 12 strains
- Contains L-glutamine
- No fillers
- Contains prebiotic
- Some people intolerant to inulin (prebiotic)
- Twice daily dose