If you’re familiar with my book The Omni Diet, you know I’m a huge fan of probiotics, supplements that give a boost to all the beneficial bacteria and other essential microorganisms dwelling in your digestive tract. (Don’t say ”ew” – our bodies harbor both good bugs and bad ones, and for the sake of our health, we have to make sure there are more good ones.) Probiotics are best known for dealing with chronic diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders, but they also can help with some non-digestive problems such as eczema, other skin rashes, vaginal infections, immune disorders. They may even help relieve anxiety and quell panic attacks.
An interesting article on this subject comes from an Australian review of nine randomized clinical trials showing that probiotics can help lower blood pressure. The researchers found that taking probiotics lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number) by an average of 3.56 millimeters of mercury and diastolic pressure by 2.38.
True, those effects aren’t huge, but they are significant, according to the researchers who suggested that taking larger doses, probiotics with multiple species and large quantities of bacteria could pay off in bigger and better blood pressure reductions.
The review looked at studies that enrolled a total of 543 adults, some of who had high blood pressure and some who didn’t. The participants took a variety of probiotics in differing amounts of bacteria, but most were strains of Lactobacillus consumed in dairy products. (I ask you to forego dairy products on the Omni Diet, but eating a little goat’s milk yogurt is the one exception to this rule for people who know they aren’t sensitive to the milk proteins casein and whey.) Coconut milk yogurt is a great alternative to dairy. Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi can also add probiotics to your diet, but they can’t take the place of probiotic supplements, which contain far greater numbers of bacteria.
The review found that the benefits of probiotics were greatest in people whose blood pressure was equal to or greater than 130/85, which is considered elevated, according to the American Heart Association. The study leader, Jin Sung Ph.D. said in a press release that taking probiotics could help maintain healthy blood pressure levels as well as improving total cholesterol and LDL (”bad”) cholesterol levels; reducing blood glucose and insulin resistance; and by helping to regulate the hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance.
Wow! If I weren’t already convinced of the benefits of probiotics, that list of benefits would do it for me.
For the record, here are some things you should know about probiotic supplements from the study:
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