Why is it important to take probiotics within a healthy lifestyle? More and more scientific studies are demonstrating the importance of probiotics for our health. Among the research published in the last few months, we find two particularly interesting studies. The first, published in the journal Foods (Zheng et al, Foods, 2021), shows that taking probiotics improves the physical and mental state even in conditions of great stress. The second, which appeared in the journal Molecules (Wang et al, Molecules, 2021), is a review that highlights how probiotics can improve sleep and strengthen the immune system. But let's understand better.
Probiotics against stress
In the first research, scientists focused their work on trying to understand whether taking probiotics can somehow help during a period of intense stress. For this purpose, 12 volunteers were recruited, all adults over the age of 20 and intent on concluding their studies with a master's or doctorate. They were therefore people subjected to a great deal of stress. The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to take, for three weeks, 2 grams of probiotics per day, in particular of the type Lactobacillus rhamnosus. The second group took a placebo for the same amount of time instead. Before and after the experiment, the study participants underwent medical examinations and questionnaires to assess their general health conditions. What emerged was that those who had taken the probiotics had a significant improvement in physical and mental health and quality of life compared to those who had taken the placebo. This effect is due to changes in the intestinal microbiota, that is, the set of bacteria that live in our intestine. Stress unbalances the microbiota, which is instead supported by probiotics, which are good bacteria that repopulate the bacterial flora. Well, in the study in question, probiotics were able to increase a particular strain of bacteria capable of protecting against obesity, diabetes, inflammation and metabolic syndrome. Not only that, the probiotic treatment reduced anxiety and depression.
Probiotics, sleep and the immune system
In the second review it clearly emerges that the intake of probiotics improves the quality of sleep and strengthens the immune system, thanks to what is called the gut brain axis. In our body nothing is a separate compartment but everything is connected so that the health of one organ also depends on the health of other organs. The intake of probiotics has been able to restore balance in the intestinal microbiota. A healthy and diverse microbiota is associated with better sleep quality. Sleep, in turn, is connected to the immune system. In fact, interrupted, short-term and restful sleep increases the release of pro-inflammatory substances, which weaken our natural defenses. Instead, during restful sleep, a spike in the amount of circulating immune system cells is observed. These cells are responsible for protecting the body in case of external threats. Short and disturbed sleep has been observed to increase the risk of getting cold and flu viruses. Even in the case of vaccination, a sleep of only 4 hours led, in the people participating in the study, the antibodies to significantly lower values than in people who guaranteed a sleep of at least 8 hours. Not only that, the intake of probiotics leads intestinal bacteria to produce greater quantities of short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids are able to protect the immune system, modulating inflammation but also reducing the risk of cellular degeneration in the colon.
Where probiotics are found
Probiotics can be taken in the form of supplements. Other sources of probiotics are mainly drinks and yogurt, but in this case the probiotic content must be clearly indicated on the label. In fact, in normal yogurt, the bacteria used for production are not considered probiotics as they are unable to overcome the stomach barrier.