Probiotics have become one of the most popular supplements in recent years, with millions of people taking them for gut health and other benefits. This supplement has become increasingly popular in the last two decades thanks to the continuously expanding scientific evidence that supports the beneficial effects of probiotics on human health.
In addition to being available as supplementary tablets, probiotics are now being added to a number of food products and beverages due to their popularity.
But how long do probiotics stay in your system after you consume them? Do they permanently colonize your gut with good bacteria, or just pass through your system?
Let's take a closer look at how probiotics work, how long they last, and their many potential health benefits.
What Are Probiotics and How Do They Work?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, typically bacteria or yeasts that promote gut health when consumed in adequate amounts. Usually referred to as “good bacteria”, probiotics are said to restore the balance of healthy bacteria in the digestive system.
Some common probiotic strains come from the Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium groups. Another probiotic yeast that has been studied extensively in recent years is Saccharomyces boulardii. Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha. They are also manufactured into capsules, powders, and gummies.
When you ingest probiotics, they travel through your gastrointestinal tract and aim to temporarily colonize your gut and promote a healthy balance of bacteria. According to a 2020 report by StatPearls, probiotics help replenish your microbiota, defend against harmful organisms, strengthen your gut barrier, and promote a healthy immune system.
Some examples of foods that naturally contain probiotics include:
Yogurt: When you are in the milk aisle, spend some time looking at the boxes that say "live cultures." Inside these simple containers are a lot of good bacteria. But remember, not all yogurts are the same—look for the ones that are “good-bacteria-infused”.
Kefir and Buttermilk: Kept on shelves with many other bottles, you can find kefir and old-style buttermilk. These fermented products are sometimes overlooked, yet they have the power to help your gut with good bacteria. In addition to being available in different flavors, these drinks can improve your gut health.
Fermented Vegetables: Go past the usual place where fruits and vegetables are sold and find a world full of taste and texture. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled turnips are not only flavorsome condiments but also help to promote gut health.
Tempeh: Picture a transformation of soybeans— tempeh is like a simple cake made from fermented soybeans. This plain-looking cake holds a lot of prebiotic fiber inside, calling out to those who care about their health.
- Miso and Kombucha: Popular in Japanese culture, miso is a thick fermented paste of soybeans known for its strong flavor. Kombucha, on the other hand, is fermented tea and acts as a good source of probiotic bacteria. In addition to adding flavor to soups and marinades, these food products pack a punch when it comes to providing probiotics.
How Long Do Probiotics Stay in Your System?
So, how long do these helpful microbes stick around? According to experts, probiotics generally do not permanently colonize your intestines. Their effects are transient, meaning they provide benefits while you are actively taking them but don’t permanently implant themselves.
Most probiotics will survive passage through your upper gastrointestinal tract to reach your intestines, but they don’t actually live in your gut forever. Their effective life varies depending on the specific microorganism. How long do probiotics stay in your system? - Some may survive for weeks, while others hang on for just a few days before they are flushed out of your system.
According to a 2021 review by Food Science and Human Wellness, probiotics are detected in human feces during supplementation, but their numbers quickly decline once probiotic intake stops. Effects may linger for a short while, but most studies show they are eliminated within 1-3 weeks after discontinuation.
The effectiveness of probiotic supplementation depends on the type of probiotics, how much is consumed, the health of the person who is taking the probiotics, the medicines they use, and their food intake. Hence, many experts believe that it is better to take probiotics once you have started the dosage.
What Are the Benefits of Probiotics?
Many studies suggest that “good bacteria'' can help prevent a range of gastrointestinal diseases. Consuming specific doses and quantities of probiotics may help reduce symptoms of many medical conditions.
Here’s how probiotics can be beneficial for you:
1. Gut Health
Probiotics are like good helpers for your stomach. Experts believe that these supplements can manage and deal with various digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea. Some special kinds of helpful bacteria can soothe belly pain and help to reduce constipation and bloating. They also help with the digestion and absorption of nutrients and promote a healthy gut.
2. Heart Health
Probiotics can also promote cardiovascular health by helping to keep blood pressure levels under control. They could decrease bad cholesterol, increase levels of good cholesterol, and lessen stress on your heart. As per a study by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, people who consumed yogurt containing these helpful bacteria had a lesser risk of developing heart disease.
3. Immune System
Probiotics are good for your stomach and can also strengthen your immune system. Probiotics support a healthy gut microbiome, crucial for about 80% of your immune system, enhancing the body's defense against harmful pathogens and reducing inflammation. Consuming probiotics in specific doses might help prevent you from getting sick, especially during Winter when your body's defense system is weak.
4. Weight Management
Research indicates probiotics could help with weight loss through multiple mechanisms. They promote the growth of beneficial bacteria that are linked with having a healthy body weight. Probiotics also increase levels of appetite-reducing hormones like GLP-1. Some studies show probiotics prevent your body from absorbing dietary fat and sugars.
A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that people who took probiotics lost about 3 pounds more on average than those taking a placebo. Specific strains like Lactobacillus gasseri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus have shown effectiveness in reducing belly fat and promoting weight loss.
5. Mental Health
Your brain and gut bacteria constantly communicate through the gut-brain axis. This means your microbiome can impact your mental wellbeing as well. Multiple studies show that taking a probiotic may alleviate anxiety, depression, obsessive thoughts, poor memory, stress, and other mental health issues.
For example, a clinical trial on healthy adults found that taking Bifidobacterium longum for 6 weeks lowered anxiety levels and cortical limbic reactivity in the brain. Probiotics also lessen brain inflammation, which research links to poor mental health. The ways probiotics interact with your gut-brain axis show promise for supporting mental wellness.
Probiotic supplements may reduce the risk of certain allergies, especially in children. A 2020 clinical trial by Pediatric Allergy and Immunology found that mothers taking Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG during late pregnancy and while breastfeeding reduced allergy risk in their kids by age 2 years.
The many different strains of probiotics provide a wide range of advantages for your body and mind by interacting with your gut microbiome and immune system. Take probiotic supplements regularly to maintain a healthy digestive system, along with better heart function, weight management, and more.
Probiotics offer a range of health perks by balancing your gut microbiome. Their benefits are sustained through consistent use, as probiotics remain active in the gut for a varying duration, from days to weeks, helping to maintain gut balance. Consistency is key to maintaining adequate probiotic levels so that your microbiome can reap the rewards.
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