The People's Perspective on Medicine

Can Probiotics Reduce Inflammation and Improve Health?

Probiotics in foods and supplements may help protect the digestive tract from damage, reducing inflammation and improving health.

A recent health buzzword will probably get even more attention in the coming year. Expect to hear more about probiotics.

Why? Probiotic foods and supplements offer the possibility for altering a damaged or weakened microbiome. Here are a few studies that hint at the potential.

Probiotics Reduce Inflammation:

A meta-analysis involving 20 randomized controlled trials found that probiotics reduce a key marker of inflammation known as C-reactive protein (CRP). Elevated levels of CRP are associated with a greater risk for metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Consequently, being able to reduce this market has broad implications for better health.

When people take probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, whether in pills or as yogurt, this inflammatory compound drops. This reduction may reflect a healthier microbiome within the digestive tract.

Probiotics may also improve the barrier function of the intestinal lining, thereby enhancing the immune system and reducing inflammation.

Nutrients, online, Jan. 3, 2017 

Probiotics for Better Digestion:

Recent research reinforces the value of probiotic supplementation for the digestive tract. A review of studies of people with functional bowel disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome found that such supplements can be helpful. That finding should be good news for people who have struggled for years with discomfort despite being told by their physicians that the problems are all in their heads (Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, Jan. 30, 2017).

Other recent studies show that the bacteria residing in our digestive tract are critical in determining whether and how much medications damage the intestinal lining  (Digestion, Jan. 5, 2017). Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often the culprits that injure the intestinal lining, but aspirin can also trigger damage. A double-blind randomized controlled trial shows that consuming yogurt containing probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri can help protect the small intestine from aspirin-related damage such as ulcers and lesions  (Digestion, Jan. 5, 2017).


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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I use a lot of food such as sauerkraut, yogurt, sourdough bread, and there are others that I cannot recall at the moment. Having been raised on everything in moderation I have not had the problems that most people have and had to resort to pills to make or keep them well. As children we sometimes do not like eating the foods that our parents fix for us. But I am so thankful that at the age of 76 I do not have to take pills because I eat the foods that my mom fixed for me. I even ate liver as an adult mixed with a lot of food in my mouth, so that my children would learn to eat it, which they did. All because my mom said it was good for me. Food is much better than medication for one’s body.

I’ve taken a popular commercial probiotic (lactobacillus GG rhamnoses, 10 billion cells daily) for years, and it has helped me greatly with irritable bowel syndrome. I wonder, though, whether I should also be taking bifidus. But no one seems to know how much is the right amount, or whether it’s safe to combine a lot of different probiotics without knowing how much of each kind to use. That’s kind of like when people didn’t know how to combine B vitamins into a B-complex pill with the correct amount of each B vitamin. I wish more were known about how much of each kind to take and how many to take.

I want very much to take curcumin (turmeric) to prevent inflammation. However, the only form I’ve found is in capsules. As soon as I swallow the capsule, it breaks apart, and the powder sprays up my nose and throat–very uncomfortable stinging and causes me to gag and spew it out. Is there any other form available to take this orally?

I have suffered from IBS for approximately the last two years with near constant diarrhea brought on by eating many kinds of fruit – peaches, plums, grapes, apples, pears, etc. Since I have loved fruit from my childhood, this has been torture to me. It started with my noticing that I had become lactose intolerant about 5 years ago. I noticed this because I ate yogurt every evening that set up a storm in my stomach. I have occasionally tried taking probiotics to see if they would help and did not notice any effect. Clearly yogurt doesn’t do the trick either. But at Thanksgiving, my daughter bought a whole lot of kombucha and then left accidentally some behind when she returned to her home. So I drank it. Much to my surprise, it seemed to tame my tummy. I have since tried all kinds of fruit with so far no ill effects, as long as I sip kombucha throughout the day. I can even use milk products again though I try not to push my luck and still stick mostly to lactose free varieties, though the occasional slip with regular milk has not given me any difficulties. It may not work for everyone, but I have found the probiotics contained in commercially bottled kombucha to be just what the doctor ordered for me.

Is there a certain type or brand of probiotics that are better than others?

I’ve found that not all probiotics are the same. I’ve spent a lot of money discovering a probiotic that helps my digestive issues, which include IBS and gastroparesis. Probiotics have helped me, but not entirely remedied my digestive problems.

There are too many probiotic supplements on the market! How does a person know which one to take? And how much?

So, which brand of the 50 million probiotics bring sold is best? This is where I get confused and overwhelmed.

I started taking probiotics and eating a probiotic rich yogurt about October 2016. Since then, I found I have not had constipation from my pain medication, my other medications don’t seem to be bothering me, I haven’t had a yeast infection from the many antibiotics I’ve had to be on for a tooth(over the last weeks), and other problems seem to be going away. I also haven’t had the diarrhea from the antibiotics which I usually get, bad. I have irritable bowel disease with both constipation and diarrhea and I haven’t had the first problem with them since being on the probiotics and eating the yogurt. I think anyone should try probiotics, but those with diabetes, like me, should be careful which ones you choose, as well as your yogurt products.

Is there a type or brand of Probiotics that is more beneficial?

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