There are plenty of fads that have come about around weight loss, better health, and on down the line. You may have heard of probiotics. They certainly have spread through multiple yogurt commercials, and of course, there are those health nerds who talk about their presence in things like kimchi as well. Personally, I’m a fan of kimchi. So I have nothing against that. This said, there has also been talk about certain good bacteria being specifically in breast milk, and subsequently kids who aren’t breastfed being at a higher risk of certain digestive issues.
Probiotics have definitely been known to balance out some small digestive issues, but the market has pushed much more. There have been some who say that by balancing out your digestive tract, it can help you to lose weight. Others suggest that it can actually reduce high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. As you may have noticed with a lot of natural health supplements though, there is a tendency to reach for the stars, and sometimes to overreach.
This aside, researcher Jing Sun PhD said,
The small collection of studies we looked at suggest regular consumption of probiotics can be part of a healthy lifestyle to help reduce high blood pressure, as well as maintain healthy blood pressure levels. This includes probiotics in yogurt, fermented and sour milk and cheese, and probiotic supplements.
So there may be some truth to some of the greater health claims after all. Probiotics do help to balance out the natural flora of your digestive tract, but they can easily be destroyed. Without these good bacteria, they have proven that you can experience symptoms like diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome just to start. So you need to keep them in stock, which includes when you take antibiotics for example, which have a tendency to eliminate all bacteria, good or bad.
The most recent study was published in the journal Hypertension. Researchers specifically reviewed 90 studies involving 543 adults with normal or elevated blood pressure. In the study, eating probiotics lowered the systolic blood pressure numbers by an average of 3.56mm HG. It also remarkably lowered diastolic blood pressure by an average of 2.38mm Hg. So as you may have noticed, that seems pretty substantial to me.
To give you an idea of what kind of effect this is, it would mean that someone with a blood pressure reading of 140 over 90 could move down to 136 over 88. This would be the difference between hypertension and pre-hypertension according to the American Heart Association. It’s definitely not doing all of the work for you, but it is making a difference that can really get you moving in the right direction. If it can do it without the side effects of many prescriptions, that’s not so bad.
Other studies have suggested that modest improvements in blood pressure could lead to a reduced risk of obvious things like heart disease and stroke, and it could also promote other meaningful benefits like better kidney function and a reduced risk of dementia. That’s not so bad, and it means that probiotics (and anything else that can help you to effectively reduce blood pressure) are something to keep in mind.
According to the studies, this has to be a regular and long-term thing. Consuming probiotics for fewer than 8 weeks did not affect blood pressure significantly. When people had high blood pressure, they were also most likely to see a difference. Those with lower blood pressure anyway did not see the same effects.
So while I don’t think that probiotics are a miracle food or anything to replace your doctor recommended medications with, I also don’t think it would hurt to include more probiotics in your diet.