Health benefits of probiotics

Abrar Hussain

International Center for Chemical and biological science

ICCBS, HEJ, University of Karachi, Pakistan.


According to WHO and FAO (2001), probiotics are “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”.  This definition was also accepted with little modification by ISAPP in 2013. As the term is introduced into the scientific world the researcher starts to dig out every aspect of these bacteria for instance, the scientist proposed selection criteria and identified the proposed mechanism of action, health benefits, and their legislation. Here, we will focus only on the health benefits of probiotics.

Spectrum range of probiotics benefits

The start of health benefits are dated back to 1987, when there was a paper focusing on the general properties of Lactobacillus GG and hence start a new era in the scientific world [1]. Probiotics have various health benefits on the host ranging from rare effect, which is mostly restricted to strain specificity, to widespread benefits as shown by the available probiotics. The spectrum of health benefits of probiotics is shown here.

Similarly, probiotics which are considered future medicine (probiotic therapy) have the potential to be used as medicine for the treatment of various diseases. According to one review, more than 2000 clinical studies were conducted for their health benefits [2]. Their versatility, viability, and resistance to harsh gut conditions, make them very suitable health-promoting agents. Mechanistically the health benefits of probiotics are mostly related to their various formulation, gut colonization ability, tolerance property, and the production of antimicrobial substances. It is important to note that probiotic health benefits are not restricted to being scientifically proven in humans [2]. It is also stated that the health benefits of probiotics are strains specific so we cannot make a generalized statement.

The health benefits of probiotics are explained as follows:

  1. Benefits of Probiotics for Gut Health

The gut contains approximately 500 to 1000 different bacterial species which make a total population of 1014. This huge gut microbiota can influence the physiology of the gut and through the enteric nervous system can also affect the mood and other physiological functions of the host [3]. Probiotics can help gut health in the following ways.

A: balancing gut microflora

Balance in the gut microbiota is required for the normal physiological function of the host and any ups and downs can lead to various complications. Probiotics can help to keep this microbial balance and help to enhance gut-related functions.

B: Decrease the indications of digestive disorders

Diverse digestive disorders like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, etc. are mostly associated with gut microorganisms [2]. The probiotic bacteria can help to reduce the symptoms and frequency of such disorders.

  • Probiotics for mental health [3]

It is scientifically proven that the gut and the brain have steady communication with each other. This “gut-brain axis” affects many mental-related health conditions and plays a role in the pathophysiology of anxiety [4]. The probiotics can be helping the mind and brain as;

A. help to treat mental issues

Recent research showed that the external physiology of the human is also influenced by their gut microbiota. These bacteria can produce different neurotransmitters which help the individual in sleep, mood-controlling bladder, and even heart function. As stress can disturb this microbiota, which leads to affect the function of neurotransmitters. Thus, probiotic supplements can help to restore the gut microbiome during and after periods of stress conditions which ultimately improves the host’s mood, sleep, and cognitive functions.

B. Effect of probiotics on aging (longevity) [3]

Different biological processes like regulation of metabolism, oxidative stress, and homeostasis can help to relate the gut microbiome with the aging of the host. Probiotics supplements can make these processes better in help in the longevity of the host.

  • Benefits for the Immune System [3]

The most important function of probiotics is considered as they help to boost the immune system of the host. Probiotics help the immune system in the following way.

A. improve the host immunity

Probiotics can improve the host immunity by the induction of toll-like receptors (TLR-2), increased IgA production, and lower gut flora which can produce inflammatory cytokines. It is stated that a high number of immune cells are found in the gut which is affected during illness. Taking probiotics supplements can restore these gut flora and thus make them normal. Similarly, by fighting gut pathogens the probiotic can also decrease the severity of disease.

B. help the host to protect from antibiotic resistance

The presence of good bacteria in the gut can fight with the enteric pathogens but the usage of antibiotics can reduce these bacteria and thus lower their anti-pathogenic properties. As probiotics are free from antibiotic resistance (selection criteria) make they enable to the restoration of the gut populations.

C. probiotics and allergies

It is evident that probiotics may develop immunity in infants and make them safe from allergies. Similarly, enhancement in the mucosal surface, which is involved in allergic response modulation is also achieved by the use of probiotics. Similarly, the probiotic potential is also extended to treat food allergies [2] [5].  

  • Health Benefits for Individuals

Probiotics can show variable beneficial effects on males and females.

A. Benefits for female

Probiotic supplementation is considered safe and helpful during pregnancy. It also helps to promote the health of the infant and mother. The commercial probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 helps in female vaginal health [3].

B. Benefits for male  

Interestingly it is found that more strains show beneficial effects on males than females. It is shown that in males probiotics can help to increase testosterone amount and the quality of sperm in those who have the issues of infertility.

C. Benefits for younger

In children loose stool can be treated with probiotics supplementation, as it reduces the duration of diarrhea symptoms in children.

D. Benefits for elders

Generally, the gut microbiome is disturbed by physical activity, diet, medicine, etc. and all these are greatly associated with age [3]. In elder people, probiotics supplements can not only restore such misbalance of the gut but also enhance their memory and focus.

  • Health benefits in animals

The probiotic benefits are not only restricted to human usage but they can also help animals in a variety of ways; like [6]

  1. Probiotics have been proven effective to improve growth in animals like chickens, pigs, sheep, goats,s,, etc.
  2. Milk production is also found more in probiotic supplements given to animals.
  3. The high demand for meat is also achieved by the use of probiotics in animals.
  4. The production and quality of eggs are also increased while consuming probiotics.
  5. Probiotics also protect animals from pathogens and enhance their immune system.
  6. Miscellaneous Benefits of Probiotics

Besides the above-mentioned health benefits of probiotics, there are some less-studied health benefits that need to be dug out in more detail. These include;

  1. As probiotics increase the good bacteria in the gut, which in turn help in the absorption of nutrients, hence probiotics can also aid in the absorption of energy.  
  2. The gut flora, probiotics can absorb energy from the food which indirectly causes a loss in weight [3]
  3. The probiotics supplements can help to treat liver-associated disorders like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) by restoring the gut microflora [3]. 
  4. Cholesterol which is mostly associated with heart health is also reduced by probiotics, thus helping to keep our heart healthy.
  5. Probiotics’ benefits for skin health is also identified as they reduce the symptom of atopic dermatitis in toddlers [3].
  6. Probiotics can regulate the inflammatory chemicals in the gut and help to decrease inflammation. Similarly, probiotics can reduce the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and help to reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  7. The effectiveness of vaccines is also considered the benefit of probiotics as they boost the immune response.
  8. Hair loss and acne are also prevented via probiotic supplementation [4].
  9. Probiotics can also reduce glucose levels and insulin resistance and thus help in the regulation of blood pressure [7]
  10. The incorporation of probiotics in dairy products can lower acidic conditions in the mouth and aid in dental health [7] [8]. 
  11. Probiotics can also help in voice prosthesis as they help in the eradication of pathogens [7]
  12. Probiotics can elevate the symptoms of AIDS, cancer, and respiratory infections [9]
  13. Probiotics can also help to increase the production of chicken by fighting pathogenic bacteria [10]


Probiotics are live microorganisms that has proven health benefits for humans and other animals. The overall physiology of the animals have mostly related to the gut microbiome and the probiotic has the capability to remain not only active in the gut but can also have the proven ability to restore any misbalance in these microbes. The health benefits of probiotics are ranging from decreasing symptoms of diseases, to restoring the gut microbiome and to elevate some physiological conditions.

Selected reference:

[1]      S. L. Gorbach, “Probiotics in the Third Millennium,” Dig. Liver Dis., vol. 34, no. SUPPL. 2, 2002, doi: 10.1016/S1590-8658(02)80155-4.

[2]      U. Roobab, Z. Batool, M. F. Manzoor, M. A. Shabbir, M. R. Khan, and R. M. Aadil, “Sources, formulations, advanced delivery and health benefits of probiotics,” Curr. Opin. Food Sci., vol. 32, pp. 17–28, 2020, doi: 10.1016/j.cofs.2020.01.003.

[3]      D. Cheng, J. Song, M. Xie, and D. Song, “The bidirectional relationship between host physiology and microbiota and health benefits of probiotics: A review,” Trends Food Sci. Technol., vol. 91, no. September 2018, pp. 426–435, 2019, doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2019.07.044.

[4]      B. Foligné, C. Daniel, and B. Pot, “Probiotics from research to market: The possibilities, risks and challenges,” Curr. Opin. Microbiol., vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 284–292, 2013, doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2013.06.008.

[5]      R. Chattopadhyay, R. Iacob, S. Sen, R. Majumder, K. B. Tomer, and B. R. Lentz, “Functional and structural characterization of factor xa dimer in solution,” Biophys. J., vol. 96, no. 3, pp. 974–986, 2009, doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2008.10.013.

[6]      H. H. Musa, S. L. Wu, C. H. Zhu, H. I. Seri, and G. Q. Zhu, “The potential benefits of probiotics in animal production and health,” J. Anim. Vet. Adv., vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 313–321, 2009.

[7]      B. R. Goldin, “Health benefits of probiotics,” Br. J. Nutr., vol. 80, no. SUPPL. 2, 1998, doi: 10.1017/s0007114500006036.

[8]      I. Stamatova and J. H. Meurman, “Probiotics: Health benefits in the mouth,” Am. J. Dent., vol. 22, no. 6, pp. 329–338, 2009.

[9]      K. R. Pandey, S. R. Naik, and B. V. Vakil, “Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics- a review,” J. Food Sci. Technol., vol. 52, no. 12, pp. 7577–7587, 2015, doi: 10.1007/s13197-015-1921-1.

[10]    P. Shokryazdan, M. Faseleh Jahromi, J. B. Liang, and Y. W. Ho, “Probiotics: From Isolation to Application,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, vol. 36, no. 8. Routledge, pp. 666–676, Nov. 17, 2017. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2017.1337529.

[11]      https://www.omnibioticlife.com/benefits-of-probiotics/