Recent research has shown that (unlike many other supplements making fantastic metabolic claims) probiotics affect metabolism function. In fact, some researchers now suspect that probiotics may actually be among your most effective options for manipulating your metabolism!
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics describe a number of unique foods and supplements that are full to the brim with living microorganisms. Now you probably wondering why in the world you would want to deliberately consume living microorganisms.
There is one great reason! Something called your “microbiota”.
Your microbiota is the unique combination of bacteria, fungi, and viruses found within your body.
For a long time, scientists thought that these microorganisms were merely hanging out on humans. But this stance has since been reconsidered.
In fact, recent research has shown that the state of your microbiota can significantly impact your body in a myriad of different ways, including regulating digestive health, influencing immune system function, changing cognitive health, and even help determine your body weight.
New evidence suggests that the health of your microbiota influences the health of your metabolism, as well. Healthy gut bacteria may be able to protect you from conditions like:
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- kidney disease
- heart attacks
How Do Probiotics Affect Metabolism?
Probiotics improve metabolic health by boosting the health of your microbiota.
See, probiotics enrich the number of healthy microorganisms within your digestive system, helping correct any imbalances that are keeping your microbiota from protecting your metabolism the way it’s supposed to.
Once restored to a healthy balance, your gut microbiota can do their jobs normally and reduce your risk of metabolic disease by:
- reducing inflammation within the gut
- reducing whole-body inflammation
- directly improving blood cholesterol levels
The combination of these three key mechanisms (which are explored in greater detail below), can have an extremely positive impact on your metabolic health and function.
Let’s look at how a healthy gut microbiota leads to these metabolic boosting effects!
How Do Probiotics Reduce Inflammation Within the Gut?
Each and every day we consume both food and, unintentionally, the microorganisms that they contain.
While both of these are completely unavoidable parts of life, they can sometimes have some seriously negative consequences for your digestive health that result in gut inflammation.
Large food molecules that are hard to break down can sometimes build up in your gut. This can happen if, for example, you consume them in large amounts or if your digestion is poor.
At high concentrations, these molecules physically damage the walls of your digestive tract. This damage triggers inflammation.
Consuming microorganisms is similarly risky for developing gut inflammation.
Most of the time, there is no effect, but if you consume harmful, infectious bacteria, they can sometimes set up camp in your gut. This triggers an inflammatory response as your immune system tries to kill them and get them out of your body.
Now, although short-term inflammatory responses are a good thing (they heal your gut or get rid of your infection), if it lasts too long, gut-inflammation can lead to dysfunction throughout your entire immune system, and this really messes with your metabolism.
See, some small percentage of the inflammatory chemicals your immune system releases into your gut wall sneak into your bloodstream.
Over time, this can activate immune cells in other parts of the body, causing them to start releasing inflammatory chemicals into your bloodstream, as well.
TNF-alpha and Your Immune System
One of these key inflammatory chemicals, known as TNF-alpha, is seriously damaging to your metabolic health.
TNF-alpha has been shown to break down fat cells in your body. Since fat cells are responsible for storing fat and sugar, losing them leaves fats and sugars in your blood.
Having too much fat and sugar in your blood makes it difficult for other cells of your body to respond to the energy storage hormone, insulin. Since insulin’s primary job is to shuttle glucose from blood into tissues, insulin resistance can drive blood sugars even higher.
This, of course, creates the beginnings of an unfortunate, vicious cycle, where insulin resistance drives up blood sugar, causing greater insulin resistance, leading, ultimately, to serious decreases in your metabolic health.
In addition to this indirect mechanism of triggering insulin resistance, TNF-alpha also directly promotes insulin resistance throughout your body. TNF-alpha can actually physically attach itself to the insulin receptors found on many of your body’s cells, blocking insulin’s ability to bind at all.
Luckily, you can nip this whole process in the bud by taking a probiotic. See, the microorganisms found within probiotics literally digest complex food molecules for you. This keeps levels of complex molecules in your gut low, so they cannot damage your gut wall.
They also protect your gut from infections by harmful bacteria, ensuring your immune system doesn’t have to mount an inflammatory response to fight the infection.
By preventing inflammation from starting in your gut, probiotics make sure that no inflammatory chemicals get into your bloodstream.
How Do Probiotics Reduce Whole Body Inflammation?
In addition to preventing whole-body inflammation, probiotics can directly reduce inflammation after it’s started.
This effect stems from good gut bacteria’s capacity to ferment and breakdown normally indigestible carbohydrate molecules known as “fibers”. This process creates specific byproducts known as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).
Similarly to inflammatory chemicals or nutrients, SCFAs made in your gut are absorbed into the bloodstream. Once there, they interact with immune cells in your blood (or anywhere your blood takes them) and tells these cells to stop making new inflammatory chemicals, like TNF-alpha. Less TNF-alpha, of course, helps protect your metabolism from insulin resistance.
By boosting the numbers of SCFA-producing bacteria in your gut, probiotic supplements can raise SCFA levels in your blood. This helps keep your TNF-alpha levels low and your metabolism humming away.
How Do Probiotics Improve Blood Cholesterol Levels?
Research suggests that, in addition to the reductions in metabolically-damaging inflammation, the consumption of probiotics can cause also cause a direct, rapid decline in the levels of cholesterol, particularly “bad” cholesterol (LDL), in the blood. Researchers think there are two ways probiotics are able to do this.
First, good bacteria found within the digestive system appear to be able to reduce the absorption of unwanted cholesterol molecules from your food, limiting their ability to end up in your blood.
Second, the SCFAs produced by a healthy microbiota may reduce how much bad cholesterol your liver releases into your blood. They also increase your cells’ ability to use “bad” cholesterol for energy, so they draw more of it out of your blood, driving levels down further.
Why is lowering the “bad” cholesterol in your blood good for your metabolism?
Well, LDL is considered “bad” blood cholesterol because it carries cholesterol around the body and away from the liver. This greatly increases its likelihood of becoming stuck to the walls of your arteries (a disease known as atherosclerosis),
Atherosclerosis greatly increases the stress placed on the body’s cardiovascular system, significantly increasing your risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
By reducing the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood, probiotics can help protect you from these dangerous metabolic conditions.
Best Probiotics for Metabolism
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Liking the idea of adding a probiotic to your routine to help improve your metabolic health? Here are 5 great options that you could consider!
Each of these probiotic supplements includes key bacterial strains that have been specifically shown to improve your metabolic health.
This excellent probiotic supplement by Vitamin Bounty contains 13 strains of bacteria, many of which are serious metabolic powerhouses. These include Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Bifidobacterium bifidum.
Of the massive 1,679 people who have reviewed this product on Amazon, an absurd 96% rated it 4 or 5 stars. The vast majority reported seeing improvements in health, well-being, immune system function and digestive comfort.
This popular probiotic by NatureMyst contains the key bacterial strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium longum, all of which have shown strong associations with improved metabolic health.
This product has been extremely well-received by consumers, with 93% of people giving it 4 or more stars on Amazon. The vast majority of these individuals report huge improvements in health and digestive function when they took the product regularly.
This extra strength probiotic supplement by Health Labs is built around the key metabolic-boosting bacterial strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Bifidobacterium breve.
With 89% of Amazon customers giving it 4 or 5 stars, you can consider this product top of its class. Most people who have taken Health Labs Advanced Extra Strength Probiotic reported seeing improvements in general health and well-being, often in as little as a week.
Renew Life specifically designed this product to boost metabolic health. It contains multiple potent bacterial strains known to boost the metabolism, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium breve, and Bifidobacterium bifidum.
Over 80% of the 1,200 people who have reviewed this product on Amazon gave it either 4 or 5 stars. They nearly all cited almost immediate improvement in digestive health as the product’s best effect.
Rounding out our list is the Probiotic 50B by Pure Encapsulation. It includes 5 bacterial strains proven to boost metabolic health: Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Bifidobacterium lactis.
A huge 82% of consumers who reviewed this product on Amazon gave it 4 or more stars. Many of them swore it provided them with remarkable improvements in digestive health, immune function, and overall health and well-being.
Take Home Message
It’s hard to believe that supplementing your diet with microorganisms can improve health – but that’s exactly what it does. Probiotics are a unique supplement that can improve your digestive and metabolic health, greatly reducing your risk of disease.
By reducing both digestive and systemic inflammation, improving insulin resistance, and lowering blood cholesterol levels, probiotics can seriously improve your metabolic health, making them an excellent addition to a healthy lifestyle.