Bonus Health Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics, the "good" bacteria, may help soothe digestive ills, but now, research hints that the good bugs could improve your health in other ways too.

By Sara Altshul from Reader's Digest | February 2012

Bonus Health Benefits of ProbioticsAlex Minde/CorbisMore than 500 different species of good and bad bacteria live in the gut.
You’ve probably heard that probiotics, the “good” bacteria found in yogurt, aged cheeses, and supplements, may help soothe digestive ills, including diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. Some researchers now think the good bugs could improve your health in other ways too. These benefits could include:

A healthier heart.
Canadian researchers recently discovered that the LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, levels of people with high cholesterol who ate yogurt containing a strain of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri dropped by nearly 9 percent in six weeks.

Less anxiety.
People who took supplements containing specific strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium longum supplements for 30 days were less stressed than those who didn’t take the probiotics, according to a British Journal of Nutrition study.

Cleaner teeth and gums.
A 2011 review found that the probiotics Lactobacillus reuteri and Bifidobacterium can reduce some strains of harmful bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities.

Fewer colds and coughs.
Taking probiotic supplements cut the number of upper respiratory tract infections by 12 percent and reduced the number of people who had at least one bad cold, according to a 2011 analysis of ten studies.

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