Probiotics may help support women’s unique nutritional needs and overall health
This article discusses the general health benefits of probiotics, which are strain-specific, and is not meant to imply that ACTIVIA® provides the benefits mentioned in this article. ACTIVIA is a probiotic yogurt that may help reduce the frequency of minor digestive discomfort when consumed twice a day for two weeks as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. Minor digestive discomfort includes bloating, gas, abdominal discomfort, and rumbling.
Probiotics, often called “helpful bacteria” or “friendly bacteria,” play an important role in overall health. Some of the specific health benefits they offer may be particularly relevant to women’s health.
Probiotics are helpful bacteria
While it may seem like many foods are being described as probiotics these days, true probiotics must meet certain criteria. Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when consumed in sufficient numbers, can provide health benefits to the host.1Not all probiotics confer the same benefits on the host. Probiotic benefits are strain-specific, meaning that a specific strain of bacteria will offer a distinct health benefit.1
Probiotics support healthy gut function and overall health
Intestinal bacteria are normal residents of the human digestive system and are important to overall health.1,2,3 It is estimated that approximately 100 trillion microorganisms live in a normal human gut.2 Probiotics support gut and immune health by regulating the balance of gut microbiota, i.e., maintaining the balance between friendly and harmful bacteria in the gut.2,3 Certain probiotics may help with digestive discomfort, such as bloating, gas, abdominal discomfort, and rumbling.4,5 Other probiotics may help support general health (and women’s health in particular) in different ways.
Probiotics may help with digestion and absorption, which can support women’s unique nutritional needs
Women have unique nutritional needs as they experience pregnancy, breastfeeding, menstruation, and menopause throughout their life cycle. Overall, Americans consume too little calcium, potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D.6 As a woman moves through the life cycle, she will also require increased levels of certain nutrients. Gut bacteria assist in digestion and absorption of nutrients so probiotics may help boost women’s nutrition and health through their support of a balanced community of gut microflora.2 Also, as women experience major life shifts, such as new parenthood, they may experience stress and not always consume a well-balanced diet, which may lead to minor digestive issues. Some probiotics help support digestive health. ACTIVIA, with its billions of live and active probiotics, may help reduce the frequency of minor digestive discomfort when consumed twice a day for two weeks as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.4,5
Probiotics and bone health
Women may be at greater risk than men for brittle and broken bones.7 One reason is that women tend to have smaller, thinner bones than men.7 Also, estrogen, a hormone in women that protects bones, decreases sharply when women reach menopause, which can cause bone loss.7 Recent research, in both animal and human models, suggests that some probiotics may play a role in helping to support bone health, especially bone mass density.8-13 More research is needed to understand the mechanisms through which probiotics may have an effect on bone health.8-13
The Gut-Brain Connection
Women may be at greater risk for certain issues related to mood.14 Fortunately, researchers are learning that the benefits of probiotics may extend well beyond the physical. Emerging research suggests there are links “between digestion, mood, health and even the way you think.”15 Our dietary choices have the potential to have positive effects on our thoughts and mood.
Maternal gut bacteria may have effects on offspring
A woman’s microflora comprises a unique community of bacteria that may affect more than just her own health. The bacteria living in and on a woman’s body before and during pregnancy, during delivery of her child, and transferred to her child during breastfeeding, all have an influence on the child’s own microbiota.16 This means that the maternal gut bacteria may impact the child’s overall health.16
TIPS FOR CONSUMING PROBIOTICS IN FOOD
There are several ways to actively include probiotics in a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle to reap the benefits of these helpful bacteria.
- Consume probiotic yogurt
- Try kefir with probiotic strains
- Look for dried fruits and juices with probiotics added
- Read labels for common species of probiotics:
- Lactobacillus (examples: L. plantarum, L. casei, L. reuteri, L. acidophilus)
- Bifidobacterium (examples: B. bifidum, B. lactis, B. animalis, B. longum)
- Some of the studied probiotic strains are:
- Lactobacillus casei DN-114 001
- Bifidobacterium animalis lactis DN-173 010/CNCM I-2494
- Bifidobacterium BB-12®
Certain probiotics can play an important role in helping support normal gut-, immune-, and even brain health.1,2,3,15 Consumption of probiotics may help support the nutrition and general health of women.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Health Organization. (2001). Probiotics in food: health and nutritional properties and guidelines for evaluation. [online] FAO food and nutrition paper. Available at: http://www.fao.org/3/a-a0512e.pdf [Accessed 22 Aug. 2017].
- Harvard Medical School. (Updated 2015, Published 2005). Health benefits of taking probiotics. [online] Harvard Health Publications. Available at: www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics [Accessed 22 Aug. 2017].
- Harvard Medical School. (Updated 2017, Published 2014). The Benefits of Probiotics Bacteria. [online] Harvard Health Publications. Available at https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-benefits-of-probiotics [Accessed 22 Aug. 2017].
- Guyonnet D, Schlumberger A, Mhamdi L, Jakob S, Chassany O. Fermented milk containing Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 improves gastrointestinal well-being and digestive symptoms in women reporting minor digestive symptoms: a randomised, double-blind, parallel, controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2009;102(11):1654-62.
- Marteau P, Guyonnet D, Lafaye De Micheaux P, Gelu S. A randomized, double-blind, controlled study and pooled analysis of two identical trials of fermented milk containing probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis CNCM I-2494 in healthy women reporting minor digestive symptoms. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2013;25(4):331-e252.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015. 8th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2015.
- National Osteoporosis Foundation. (n.d.). What Women Need to Know. [online] Available at: www.nof.org/preventing-fractures/general-facts/what-women-need-to-know/ [Accessed 22 Aug. 2017].
- Jafarnejad S, Djafarian K, Fazeli MR, Yekaninejad MS, Rostamian A, Keshavarz SA. Effects of a Multispecies Probiotic Supplement on Bone Health in Osteopenic Postmenopausal Women: A Randomized, Double-blind, Controlled Trial. J Am Coll Nutr. 2017; 19:1-10.
- Parvaneh K, Jamaluddin R, Karimi G, Erfani R. Effect of Probiotics Supplementation on Bone Mineral Content and Bone Mass Density. Sci World J. 2014;2014:595962.
- Parvaneh K, Ebrahimi M, Sabran MR, Karimi G, Hwei ANM, Abdul-Majeed S, et al. Probiotics (Bifidobacterium longum) Increase Bone Mass Density and Upregulate Sparc and Bmp-2 Genes in Rats with Bone Loss Resulting from Ovariectomy. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:897639.
- Scholz-Ahrens KE, Ade P, Marten B, Weber P, Timm W, Aςil Y, et al. Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Synbiotics Affect Mineral Absorption, Bone Mineral Content, and Bone Structure. J. Nutr. 2007;137(3):838S-846S.
- Emory News Center. Woodruff Health Sciences Center. (2016). Probiotics stop menopause-like bone loss in mice. [online] Available at: http://news.emory.edu/stories/2016/04/pacifici_probiotics_jci/ [Accessed 22 Aug. 2017].
- Samadfam, R. (2016). How Your Gut Affects Your Bones. [online] Scientific American Blog Network. Available at: blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/how-your-gut-affects-your-bones/ [Accessed 22 Aug. 2017].
- World Health Organization. (n.d.). Ten top issues for women's health. [online] Available at: http://www.who.int/life-course/news/commentaries/2015-intl-womens-day/en/ [Accessed 22 Aug. 2017].
- Hopkinsmedicine.org. (n.d.). The Brain-Gut Connection. [online] Available at: www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection [Accessed 22 Aug. 2017].
- Mueller NT, Bakacs E, Combellick J, Grigoryan Z, Dominguez-Bello MG. The infant microbiome development: mom matters. Trends Mol Med. 2015;21:109–117.