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Juniper Journal

The power of probiotics: The link between weight loss and gut health

Probiotics help keep your gut in tip-top shape, and they may also help with weight loss.

The power of probiotics: The link between weight loss and gut health
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You might already be well aware of the power of probiotics when it comes to keeping your gut (and the rest of your body) in tip-top shape. 

For decades, there’s been a growing body of research demonstrating their ability to balance your gut’s microbiome, reduce inflammation, curb symptoms of certain ailments, and even boost your mood [1] [2].

But did you know there’s also emerging evidence on the link between probiotics, weight loss, and weight management? Let’s dive in.

What are probiotics?

If you’re not yet familiar with probiotics, let’s get into the basics. 

Probiotics are live microorganisms. They’re usually found in certain foods and supplements, and they’re identical or at least comparable to many of the microorganisms we have inside our bodies [3]. Collectively, these natural microorganisms are called your gut microbiome.

There are lots of types of probiotics. The most common — and most studied — probiotic groups used in supplements include lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and saccharomyces, all of which can have different effects on your gut.

While many types of bacteria aren’t great for our health (e. coli and salmonella are just 2 that spring to mind), those in probiotics are considered the good guys [4]. They can offer huge health benefits, which we’ll dive into below.

What are the health benefits of probiotics?

As we know, there’s been a lot of research to date on the health benefits of probiotics, both for our gut and for the rest of our body. While experts say there’s still much research to be done to confirm the findings around probiotics, there have been several preliminary discoveries demonstrating their advantages. 

Here are some of the top potential health benefits so far.

They support digestive health

Sometimes, the bacteria in our guts can effectively turn bad — be it as a result of poor diet, illness, taking antibiotics (which can negatively affect our gut bacteria) or even deficient sleep.

Probiotics, on the other hand, contain lots of good bacteria. When taken, they can help neutralise bad bacteria in our gut, in turn improving our ability to digest food and absorb nutrients from it [5].

They can reduce symptoms of some bowel problems

Probiotics are used fairly widely to treat several disorders that affect the bowels, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and some types of diarrhea [6].

Even though there’s evidence that probiotics are ineffective when it comes to treating Crohn’s, there is some confirmation that they’re useful in improving the symptoms of many other gastrointestinal diseases [7].

They promote a healthy immune system

As a result of a healthier gut, research has shown that probiotics can boost immunity. They do this by limiting the growth of certain pathogens, supporting the ​​epithelial barrier (a barrier in your intestinal system that aids nutrient absorption and prevents pathogens from entering your body), and helping your immune system to mature [8].

They can help with some skin conditions

Whether taken orally or applied topically, research shows probiotics can prevent and address skin conditions like eczema, acne, skin damage caused by UV radiation, and atopic dermatitis [7].

They boost your mood

More and more research is proving the strong connection between the gut and the brain, mostly through the vagus nerve (the body’s longest nerve). This is known as the gut-brain axis.

Interestingly, it’s been found that neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine — both of which help regulate your mood — are produced in the gut, as well as in the brain. That effectively means that when your gut health isn’t at its best, it can negatively affect your mood.

By supporting gut health, probiotics have demonstrated an ability to improve mood and decrease stress and anxiety [2].

Can probiotics support weight loss?

Now to the big question: can you use probiotics for weight loss?

The research on probiotics, weight loss, and weight management is still fairly mixed and the link between your gut microbiome and weight isn’t yet fully understood. But, there have been a few promising studies.

Some research has shown that obese people have a different bacterial makeup in their guts than those who aren’t obese and other research found that obese people have less diversity in their gut microbiome [9] [10]. There’s also been some evidence that having specific types of good bacteria in your gut affects how much weight you’re able to lose [11].

When it comes to probiotics specifically, several studies have established a positive correlation between taking probiotics and losing weight. 

A 2014 study concluded that women who took lactobacillus rhamnosus lost marginally more weight than those who didn’t [12]. A different study from 2013 found that eating probiotic-rich yoghurt resulted in body fat loss of 3-4% over 6 weeks and altered the way the body metabolises energy [13].

There’s also been some evidence that consuming probiotics can prevent weight gain in the first place, even on a high-fat and high-energy diet [14].

It’s worth noting that the research is still in its fairly primitive stages. Many experts agree that more needs to be done to figure out the specifics around particular probiotic strains and how much to take for effective weight loss [15].

What probiotic strain can help you lose weight?

In the studies that have shown a positive link between taking probiotics and weight loss, so far it seems that lactobacillus is the most beneficial group of probiotics.

More specifically, the following strains have been shown to be effective [15]:

  • Lactobacillus gasseri
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus curvatus

Some strains from the bifidobacterium family have also been found to reduce belly fat [16].

Can probiotics help manage menopause symptoms?

Once again, the research on probiotics and menopause is fairly limited. However, a 2023 review identified promising evidence that probiotics can ease many of the symptoms associated with menopause, particularly if they contain lactobacillus casei, lactobacillus helveticus, lactobacillus rhamnosus, and lactobacillus reuteri [17]/

The authors of the review concluded that probiotic use has the potential to reduce the likelihood of developing breast cancer, promote intestinal absorption of calcium (therefore lowering the chance of osteoporosis, which women are at higher risk of during menopause), and have a positive effect on things like inflammation and blood glucose.

Weight gain, particularly belly fat, is also a common side effect of menopause. And as we know, there may be some benefits to taking probiotics to support weight management and weight loss, too.

Can probiotics cause side effects?

Probiotics are mostly safe. However, some people may notice a mild reaction in their gut — namely minor upset, gas, bloating, nausea, headaches, constipation, and/or diarrhea — when they first start taking probiotic supplements.

Some may also experience an allergic reaction, usually to an ingredient used in supplements such as soy, dairy or gluten.

Experts also say that those with a compromised immune system or severe allergies should be wary of probiotics because of the risk of infection or gastrointestinal problems, and are best chatting to their doctor before taking them.

How can I add more probiotics to my diet?

There are lots of good sources of probiotics, including many foods and probiotic supplements. And luckily, they’re incredibly easy to add to your diet.

Eat more fermented foods

Fermentation is a pretty amazing thing. When a food is fermented, it undergoes something of a transformation called lacto-fermentation. During this process, bacteria feed on the food’s sugars and starches, resulting in the creation of lactic acid and carbon dioxide.

This new environment stops the growth of bad microorganisms (thus helping to preserve the food) and supports the growth of good bacteria, along with certain beneficial vitamins, enzymes, and omega-3 fatty acids [18].

To that end, adding fermented foods to your diet is a great way to get more probiotics. Examples of fermented probiotic foods include yoghurt (both dairy and non-dairy), kefir (including coconut and water kefir), sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, and miso. Some cheeses, such as cheddar, mozzarella, and gouda, also contain probiotics.

We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but not all fermented foods provide health benefits to your gut. These include chocolate, beer, and wine.

Try a supplement

You can also up your probiotic intake by adding a supplement to your diet.

You can sometimes buy specific strains — although you’re best chatting to a health professional first if you’re thinking of taking a more targeted probiotic supplement. Most supplements, though, contain a mix of probiotic strains, as well as other ingredients, designed to support your gut microbiome. 

If you’re looking for a high-quality and clinically-backed probiotic supplement, Kin’s Daily Digest is an excellent option. It contains a powerful combination of probiotics, prebiotics (the stuff that feeds good bacteria in your gut), fibre, and digestive enzymes to keep your gut, and your brain, happy and healthy. 

Looking to lose weight?

Beyond adding probiotics to your diet for both your overall health and to lose weight, consider signing up for Juniper’s Weight Reset Program.

The program takes a comprehensive approach to weight loss by combining effective and clinically-proven weight loss medication, lifestyle support from dietitians and health coaches, access to a private community of others on the same weight loss journey, and health tracking so you can measure your success.

With our medical approach to weight loss, the program can help average patients lose up to 7% of their body weight in just 1 year. After 1 year, more than one-quarter (28.7%) of patients can lose at least 10% of their body weight. [19]

It’s more than just weight loss

Thousands of Australian women have found new confidence with Juniper.

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