Reaping the Benefits
So what’s all the hype about probiotics? Are they really good for me? What will I gain if I go to the trouble of including probiotics in my diet? According to Dr. Oz, probiotics can help those who are lactose intolerant, help build the body, reduce cholesterol, and help alleviate gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, excess gas, and constipation. But you do not have to take his word for it, a growing stack of evidence points to many benefits of taking probiotics, including better immunity, lower heart disease risk, and better endurance for athletes. For more specific benefits, check out the topics below.
If you think that yeast infections are just a plague for women, think again. Although male yeast infections are much less common than yeast infections, they do happen. According to Dr. Steckelberg at the Mayo Clinic, yeast infections can be spread to men through sexual intercourse. In addition, antibiotic use weakens the immune system and makes men more susceptible to many illnesses, including yeast infections. The use of Lactobillus acidolphilus, one of the more common forms of probiotics, is suggested by the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) to help rebuild the body after antibiotics. According to the UMMC, some research suggests that taking L. acidolphilus may help to prevent yeast infections.
Urinary Tract Health
Another common misconception is the idea that only women get urinary tract infections. Again, doctors at the Mayo Clinic share that male urinary tract infections (UTIs) are less common than UTIs in women, but still a definite issue. If you have ever experienced that burning sensation when you urinate, then you understand the pain of a UTI. Although men of any age can get a UTI, men over 50 are particularly susceptible, due to common prostate issues. Most male UTIs are the result of some sort of obstruction in the urinary tract, something that can be caused by an enlarged prostate. Although more study is required, a growing body of research suggests that probiotic supplements may play a key role in the prevention of UTIs, especially recurring UTIs. A review of research was published in 2004 in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences addressing the effects of probiotics on preventing UTIs. Several Lactobacillus strains were investigated, and promising information was found regarding their ability to prevent UTIs. L. rhamnosus was found to be the most effective.
According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the number one killer of men in the United States. As a result, doctors, researchers, and even individuals are scrambling to find solutions for preventing heart disease. Director of the John Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, Dr. Roger Blumenthal, says that even young men are susceptible to heart disease, depending on family history, activity levels, dietary habits, and a host of other factors. And while there is not a single supplement, exercise, or dietary change that can completely erase heart disease risk, the humble probiotic offers promising assistance. A report in the Oct-Dec, 2010 Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research points out at least three ways that probiotics lower cholesterol levels in the blood. According to the researchers (Saini, Saini, and Sharma), probiotics in the body produce an acid which signals the body to produce less cholesterol in the liver.
Other research confirms the cholesterol lowering effect of probiotics, including a review of research published in Experimental Diabetes Research in 2012. This review pointed out the effects of specific strains of probiotics, including L. reuteri (lowers triglycerides), L. acidolphilus (removes cholesterol), and L. plantarum (cholesterol assimilation). A number of other strains were also listed. Because cholesterol and triglycerides are major factors in heart disease, this information provides great motivation for men to include probiotics in their daily regimen.
Help for Your Bowels
The gastrointestinal tract is an area in which probiotics really shine. This is due to the fact that the intestinal tract is normally lined with millions of “good bacteria” that help the body fight disease and inflammation. Unfortunately, these good bacteria often get killed out by taking antibiotics, or just through poor dietary choice. When the good bacteria are killed off, disease causing organisms flourish. This, according to a report published in Gastroenterology and Hepatology, may be a leading cause for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In fact, the journal reported that in a large study of patients with IBS, 78% showed evidence of bacterial overgrowth. Citing a number of different studies, the journal went on to suggest the use of probiotics to aid IBS sufferers, citing their ability to alter the immune activity in a positive way, inhibit disease-causing bacteria, and improve the mucous lining of the intestines.
Build Your Bones?
As the baby boom generation ages, we have record numbers of men over 50 facing the effects of aging. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to bone loss. This information makes a fascinating study on the effects of probiotics on bone loss even more interesting. In a study at Michigan University conducted on mice, male mice fed probiotics showed significant increase in bone density after four weeks. Interestingly, the same was not true for women. The bone building effects of probiotics is a man thing, but one men definitely need to pay attention to.
The Bottom Line
Although this was just a brief sampling of the beneficial effects probiotics can have for men, it should provide plenty of motivation to start supplementing your diet with probiotics. Likely, you do not normally include a lot of fermented foods in your diet that would provide your body with the raw probiotics it needs to maintain optimal health. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of different strains of probiotics in our world that all have a different function in the body. The mistake many people make is grabbing a specific probiotic, such as L. acidolphilus, and thinking they are optimizing their health. Raw probiotics contain the widest variety of strains, ensuring men get the strains that need to maintain optimal health. Should you, as a man, take probiotics? The answer is a resounding yes, if you are concerned about cardiovascular health, UTIs, bowel health, bone loss, and over-all stronger immunity. And who wouldn’t be concerned about that?