The role of probiotics for weight loss is well-known in medicine and practiced around the world. Taking probiotics as a dietary supplement in capsules and other forms is an increasingly popular way to regulate digestive problems and restore the intestinal microflora after taking antibiotics. Moreover, probiotics have numerous beneficial effects on a number of other problems, including weight management.
In this article, we will talk about probiotics in general, the role of probiotics for weight loss, and how you should take them.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when given in adequate amounts, exert a beneficial effect on the host organism, i.e. human. In order to be called a “probiotic bacterial culture”, the substance must satisfy several conditions (1). The World Health Organization (WHO) defines probiotics as microorganisms that taxonomically correspond to an internationally recognized collection of cultures. It is also expected that, after cultivation, the resulting bacterial species are resistant to technological processes, that is, stable and live during manipulation and storage until they are in the hands of the end consumer.
Probiotics are found in each person’s digestive tract since his/her birth. When a baby is in the birth canal of the mother during childbirth, it is exposed to the mother’s bacteria for the first time. This event begins a whole series of processes within the baby’s gastrointestinal tract which then begins to produce good bacteria.
The gastrointestinal system is a complex system in which the balance between the host and the intestinal microflora is thus made up of facultative and obligate anaerobes.
Approximately 95% of the intestinal bacterial population in humans are compulsory anaerobes such as Bifidobacterium, Eubacterium, Clostridium, Fusobacterium, Bacteroides, Peptostreptococcus, and Peptococcus, while 1-10% of the intestinal population is composed of facultative anaerobes such as Escherococcus coli, Staphylococcus coli, and Lactobacillus.
Aerobic microorganisms are not present in healthy individuals with the exception of Pseudomonas which is present in a very small amount. Most bacteria are present in the colon with a bacterial concentration of 10 to the power of eleven to 10 to the power of twelve CFU (colony-forming units) per milliliter.
The intestinal microflora is important for the maturation of the immune system, the development of normal intestinal morphology, the maintenance of a chronic and immunologically mediated inflammatory response, the maintenance of the function of the intestinal mucosa, and the defense against allergens. It also helps prevent the attachment of pathogenic microorganisms.
Probiotics help to balance the so-called “good” and “bad” bacteria in our digestive system, as microflora can become disrupted due to illness, stress, aging, antibiotics or other medication use, exposure to toxins, excessive alcohol consumption and even use of antibacterial soaps. Probiotic species competitively inhibit the formation of toxic substances and the growth of less desirable species by competing for space and food.
It is important to know that probiotics usually cannot replace the destroyed natural body flora but they can help the body perform the same functions the natural flora would, giving the natural flora sufficient time to recover. Probiotic species are then rapidly replaced by the naturally present intestinal flora.
Probiotics survive adverse conditions in the stomach and small intestine. A characteristic of probiotics is the successful survival in extremely unfavorable conditions in the stomach and the small intestine that they undergo during intake, and colonization where they are intended to have a beneficial effect on the health of the host.
Probiotics have traditionally been used in the treatment of gastrointestinal problems including lactose intolerance, diarrhea as a result of taking antibiotics or caused by rotavirus, inflammatory bowel disease, and constipation. The influence of probiotics on the prevention of diarrhea is the most researched effect so far. One of the newest studies is the effect of probiotics for weight loss.
Bacteria that regularly live in our stomach
Before we know what probiotics are, let’s learn a bit about the bacteria that live in our intestines. First of all, they work full-time and without interruption in the process of breaking down the food they need to process. Both the bacteria and humans benefit from the flow. Every individual has his/her own lifestyle and diet, which is generally OK, regarding the standards of our hectic life tempo. However, if we consume poor food, low in nutrients, the result is poor digestion and too many toxins. All this is reflected both in the health of our body and – our weight! If you don’t have enough “good bacteria”, you will quickly face problems in your digestive system. Also, if the amount of work is increased, the already existing bacteria will not be able to complete the tasks all by itself.
Reasons for the increased volume of work, i.e. material found in the intestines, can be:
Every human has a unique digestive system and some substances are slower to digest in the mouth and stomach, and the excess passes to the colon;
Excessive intake of fluids
This dilutes the gastric acid. Basically, if a person has not had a problem with poor digestion earlier, this can be the reason.
Food containing large quantities of preservatives and antibiotics
If you do not usually have problems with the digestive system and everything is working in the proper way, you may experience problems when foods that are digested in the gut contain antibiotics. The problem is obvious because all these valuable microorganisms are being killed on duty.
Benefits of probiotics
Probiotics are very effective against constipation. Namely, the good bacteria, by altering the composition of the gut microflora, can be helpful in eliminating constipation. Probiotics are beneficial with the intake of adequate amounts of dietary fiber, intake of liquids, predominantly water, and regular physical activity. These findings refer to the lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Pediococcuspentosaceus). The individuals consuming these bacteria regularly, followed by physical activity and enough water consumption usually empty their bowels more often and as there is an increase in stool volume.
However, we must point out that different microbiota should be used in obese and normal-weight subjects. This is where the research on probiotics for weight loss gains importance. Namely, we can divide the gut microbiota into two main groups: Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. The balance between the two groups has an impact on body mass. Obese people have a different ratio of these bacteria compared to normal-weight individuals. Moreover, obese people have more Firmicutes bacteria. Taking probiotics for weight loss is highly recommended in these people.
Scientists agree that a full daily dose of probiotics or good bacteria can accelerate weight loss. Except for the effects on insulin resistance, good bacteria also regulate urinary tract health and prevent infections. They also represent very good prevention against allergies because they can even put one’s reactions to the allergens into balance.
Probiotics are good for the immune system as well, but the most important thing to know is that probiotics are nowadays almost obligatory when taking antibiotics. Moreover, they are important for:
- Synthesis of Vitamin B12, Butyrate and Vitamin K2
- Eliminating bad bacteria, yeasts, and fungi
- Creating enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria
- Stimulation of immunoglobulin A (IgA) secretion and regulatory T cells.
Often, antibiotics cause diarrhea because they indiscriminately kill all bacteria, both good and bad. It is for this reason that it is necessary to restore the intestinal microflora. In conclusion, there are numerous benefits to taking daily doses of probiotics every day.
When talking about the positive effects of probiotics, it is very important to emphasize that they are not toxic, and serious side effects are extremely rare. One of the main features of probiotics is that they do not produce any toxic effects, adding to the fact that lactobacilli have been in human use for centuries without any detrimental effect on human health. Compared to many pharmacologically active substances, probiotics are very well tolerated and extremely safe to use, while the serious side effects are very rare.
How can you consume probiotics?
Probiotics are nutrients that contain beneficial cultures of microorganisms. By consuming the foods that contain these micro-organisms, we are making a favor to the existing good bacteria because we provide them with reinforcement.
Foods that should be mentioned as effective probiotics include:
- sour cabbage
- dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa
There are many more valuable probiotics, but these are the most effective ones.
These foods are available commercially but the best recommendation, in this case, is to make them locally. The reason for this is the aforementioned concentration of preservatives, antibiotics, and additives that the manufacturing industry puts into their products. Again, these products also contain probiotics but in a much smaller amount than the domestic products.
How can probiotics help lose weight?
Probiotics for weight loss are becoming an increasingly interesting topic both among medical professionals and individuals trying to lose weight.
All of you trying to lose stomach fat know that this is the most difficult task when it comes to losing weight. That’s why we first want to talk about the effect of probiotics on the belly fat.
Namely, belly fat is one of the worst types of fat because it is biologically active and releases substances called adipokines, which cause even more fat deposition and muscle loss.
Stomach deposits are difficult to remove for the above reason – they create adipokine substances that affect the additional deposition of fat, and another problem is that they affect your metabolism, i.e. slow it down.
Men usually have a higher percentage of body fat in the abdomen than women – just think of it as the so-called “beer belly” – which puts the male population at greater risk of diabetes, various cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic syndromes. Although beer consumption can lead to an increase in fat in the abdomen, it is definitely not the biggest cause of obesity. Instead, high levels of cortisol, poor insulin sensitivity, and gastrointestinal problems are much greater causes of fat accumulation in the abdomen. If you take control of these three factors, you will begin to lose stomach deposits and be much healthier.
Most people do not realize that belly deposits are not deposits just below the skin that you can catch with your fingers. Instead, abdominal or belly fat deposits are a common term for visceral intra-abdominal fats, i.e. fats that are located deep inside the body behind the abdominal muscles and surround your organs.
Therefore, one of the strategies for losing stomach fat is to control your insulin health (sensitivity) and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) by taking probiotics (1).
There is a direct link between gaining stomach fat, poor insulin sensitivity, and cortisol production, and probiotics were proven to have quite an amazing effect on all three factors. Indeed, there is ample evidence that taking probiotics will directly lead to the loss of stomach fat deposits without being on a strict diet (2). We also know that probiotics improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics as well as in healthy individuals and reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels.
When the bacterial flora of the intestinal tract changes (which is the case with weight gain), a state of dysbiosis is created, which is manifested by improper absorption of nutrients and accumulation of fatty deposits. The good intestinal bacteria reduce the absorption of energy from food and have a stimulating effect on the hormones that promote satiety (3). This is why taking probiotics is important.
In addition to yogurt and kefir, as well as other probiotics, it would be ideal to consume fiber-rich foods that are nutrients for the good bacteria at the same time. Such fiber can be found in integral foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables. This combination in a single meal is very powerful and effective when it comes to weight control.
Another positive feature of probiotics, namely yogurt is that it regulates gastric pH, allowing for better digestion and avoiding factors that increase waist circumference.
Probiotics also play a role in boosting immunity, speeding up metabolism, increasing resistance to stress, preventing infections, and relieving stomach problems, which all help lose weight.
Therefore, we can say that today, there is no dilemma that the weight loss process, its speed, and efficiency are directly related to the composition of the intestine microflora. It is well known that the stomach microflora and its functioning depend on the way we live, as well as the type of food we eat and drink. There is no healthy life without good bacteria.
Bacteria in our intestinal tract have many different roles. They synthesize vitamins, neurotransmitters, and amino acids, help our metabolism, and are important in the process of fat storage. They directly participate in the activation and proper functioning of the immune system, as well as in many other processes in the body. In addition, it has been proven that encouraging good intestine microflora also promotes easier weight loss. In order to provide a healthy environment, it is essential that we maintain a sufficient amount of good and useful bacteria in the stomach flora. This is reinforced by probiotics containing selected probiotic bacteria and the probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii, whose primary role is to potentiate the growth of good bacteria and maintain the balance of the intestinal flora, eliminating pathogens.
The best evidence of the link between probiotics and weight loss is the fact that a single probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus leads to increased, steady, and healthy weight loss.
When it comes to the link between our metabolism and probiotics, we know that they help digestion. This directly affects our metabolism, i.e. it accelerates it. They also prevent constipation which slows down the process of weight loss and causes a series of other disorders.
One type of foods you should consume when trying to lose weight are the probiotics for weight loss. Probiotics are organisms that are composed of two bacterial cultures – lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, as well as yeast. Consumed with other foods and kept alive until consumed, they improve the state of the intestinal microflora and exert positive effects on one’s metabolism. If you want to enrich your diet with probiotics and thus change your diet, the best solution is to introduce fermented products.
Most noteworthy, this will help you lose weight. Namely, probiotics are extremely helpful in regulating cortisol, as well as balancing insulin and insulin sensitivity. Moreover, you will get rid of the belly fat more easily. Probiotics help regulate your metabolism, which is one of the key factors in the process of healthy weight loss.
Finally, scientists agree that probiotics have a beneficial effect in diarrhea, constipation, allergies, cancer treatment, urinary tract infections and other conditions and diseases, such as: lactose intolerance, colon cancer prevention, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, improving immune function, prevention and treatment of diarrhea, reduction of inflammation, beneficial effect in irritable colon, as well as prevention of growth of harmful bacteria in stress. Don’t forget to take your daily dose of probiotics!
- Brusaferro A, Cozzali R, Orabona C, Biscarini A, Farinelli E, Cavalli E, Grohmann U, Principi N, Esposito S. Is It Time to Use Probiotics to Prevent or Treat Obesity? Nutrients. 2018 Nov 1;10(11):1613. doi: 10.3390/nu10111613. PMID: 30388851; PMCID: PMC6266556. Found online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6266556/
- Mazloom K, Siddiqi I, Covasa M. Probiotics: How Effective Are They in the Fight against Obesity? Nutrients. 2019 Jan 24;11(2):258. doi: 10.3390/nu11020258. PMID: 30678355; PMCID: PMC6412733. Found online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6412733/
- Cerdó T, García-Santos JA, G Bermúdez M, Campoy C. The Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics in the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 15;11(3):635. doi: 10.3390/nu11030635. PMID: 30875987; PMCID: PMC6470608. Found online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6470608/