Should Men Take Probiotics? A Dietitian Explains

Find out if men should take probiotics, or if they don’t really do anything at all, as our Dietitian breaks it down for you.

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What do you know about bacteria? Your first reaction is probably that it is bad. It grows on spoiled food and in humid climates. Well, initially you might be correct but you have “healthy” bacteria living on your skin, inside your nose, throat, mouth, genitals and in the gut. They are everywhere on and in your body, each having a specific role in maintaining the balance in the immune system and digestive tract.

These bacteria make up the entire microbiome involved in protecting the human body from disease. There are several factors that can disrupt that balance leaving room for infection, inflammation and imbalance. Your healthy bacteria starts right at birth when introduced to breast milk and through the birth canal. 

These bacteria protect the body by supporting the immune system in its response. They have potentially been shown to be a therapeutic option in the treatment of allergies, eczema, and viral infections. These healthy bacteria are also involved in the production of the neurotransmitters within the gut that are associated with mood and overall impact in emotional health. Research has suggested that probiotic use overall has a positive effect on depressive moods and sleep.

Finally, there is a common phrase that states the gut is the second brain. You standing in front of an audience getting ready to perform a song has nothing to do with your stomach, it’s your brain with all the activity! Right? Well, there is what is called the gut and brain connection that explains why you feel “butterflies” in your stomach. The neurotransmitters are able to regulate and control not only blood flow, but also affect gut motility. Your brain is communicating that anxiety to your gut through the vagus nerve, which is responsible for all sensory related information.

The same applies to chronic stress. When your brain is stressed it increases the hormone cortisol that helps to regulate the body in the stressful event. High levels of cortisol over a period of time can cause an imbalance of the good to bad bacteria enabling the neurotransmitters to misfire resulting in increased anxiety, depression and decreased focus.

Are Probiotics Good for Men?

The word "probiotics" above a man with a puzzled look

If you’re someone experiencing frequent digestive issues, chronic sickness, skin related conditions like acne, and daily chronic stress, taking a probiotic as part of your daily routine could potentially help alleviate these symptoms. Probiotics can even help with fitness gains for men since these bacteria are involved in the breakdown of food and proper fueling throughout the body.

What Kind of a Probiotic Should a Man Take?

Probiotics come in different types of species, strains and genus. For example, some common types of probiotics that you’ll commonly find include lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium bifidum. When selecting a probiotic you want to find one that states billion(s) of colony forming units (CFU). This ensures that they have a chance to get to your intestines before being completely broken down by the acids in your stomach making them ineffective. Another tip is to locate a brand that has two or more strains that are heavily researched like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Bacillus.

5 Reasons Why Men Should Take a Probiotic (The Benefits)

To date, probiotics are overall safe to take and have minimal side effects in a generally healthy population. In the heavily researched probiotic strains including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, the common symptom is mild gas. If you’re an individual who is not severely ill or immunocompromised it may benefit you for the following five reasons.

You’ll Have Better Gut Health and Digestion

Probiotics have been shown to help improve overall digestion associated with abdominal discomfort. The bifidobacterium lactis and lactobacillus casei strains have been shown to potentially improve constipation.

Helps Support Healthy Immune System Function

As mentioned, we have bacteria everywhere. It’s in our nose, mouth, genital area, skin and the gut. The gut refers to the small intestine, large intestine and the colon. Your immune system reacts when a foreign body is presented. Good bacteria act as a defense in your intestinal tract assisting the body to respond to the invader effectively and quickly. It allows the other parts of your system such as the white blood cells, lymph nodes, bone marrow and even skin to further defend it from getting sick.

Supports Male Reproductive and Sexual Function

Although more research still needs to be conducted in human studies it has been shown that probiotics are helpful in sperm movement. More quality research needs to be conducted to prove the mechanisms behind this action to see if it can be part of a treatment in infertility.

Could Help Support Cognitive Health

Probiotics have been shown to help improve mood, depression and anxiety. Your brain talks to your gut, which is often called the second brain. In rat studies, it shows that there was an increase in relaxation. Other studies indicated an improvement in serotonin and dopamine that help to regulate and improve mood. It would be nice however, to see more human studies to see this connection and how it helps in cognition.

May Support Healthy Weight and a Healthy Body Composition

Research has shown that the right probiotic strain [specifically Lactobacillus] has been an effective treatment in weight loss. In a 14 clinical trial’s accounting for 1,067 individuals, 9 of the studies showed a significant reduction in weight and/or body fat. Three of the studies had no effect and two of the studies had weight gain. In another review looking at 19 randomized controlled trials with 1,412 individuals found a reduction in waist circumference. In summary, the research indicates that probiotic supplementation may in fact be beneficial in the treatment of obesity.

What Are The Downsides of Taking Probiotics for Males?

Some of the common side effects are mild gas, bloating and constipation with relief within a few weeks. You also want to be mindful of the ingredients as some probiotics contain allergens such as dairy, soy or egg and can cause an allergic reaction.

Typical Questions a Man Asks About Probiotics

Now, you may be wondering if probiotics can help with erectile dysfunction, cause any issue with sperm or even if it helps increase testosterone. Find the answers below diving into the research to these questions!

Can Probiotics Increase Testosterone?

Woman and man holding each other

When you have a diverse microbiome filled with healthy bacteria it helps with the production of hormones. Conversely, when the body undergoes tremendous amounts of stress, cortisol is the hormone that is in excess. Cortisol can cause a decrease in testosterone levels indicating there may be a link between the gut microbiota and sex hormones. Excess cortisol in general can wreak havoc in the gut causing an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria with side effects of mood changes, eating pattern irregularities and altered bowel movements. However, more research is still needed to determine the direct link between probiotics and testosterone.

Do Probiotics Affect Sperm?

In a small study consisting of 52 men were randomized into two groups and one supplemented with probiotics. After 10-weeks, the group that supplemented with probiotics led to an increase in sperm concentration, motility and a significant reduction in oxidative stress and inflammatory biomarkers.  

Can Probiotics Help Erectile Dysfunction?

The gut microbiota is the body's defenses to foreign invaders. They are influenced by internal and external factors that can impact a person’s metabolism, hormonal response, chronic disease status and more. It’s evident that if a person’s gut is out of balance other systems may be affected.

In a small research study that included men aged between 20-40 years with regular sextual partners, 30 of the 60 with Erectile Dysfunction (ED). The other 30 did not have Erectile Dysfunction and were used to test microbiome diversity. At the conclusion of the study it was determined that those with ED had lower microbial gut diversity. To date, there is no direct evidence proving that probiotics will improve ED however, it suggests that it doesn’t hurt and can help.

What Are The Signs a Man Needs Probiotics?

Some of the common indications are if you’ve been on a prolonged antibiotic regimen. Antibiotics kill all good and bad bacteria causing a sterile environment that can ruin gut biodiversity. Taking a probiotic and prebiotic will help restore this balance. Another indicator can be if you’re some who has an increase in anxiety and moodiness. As a matter of fact, 90% of your serotonin is produced within your gut. This neurotransmitter sends signals related to mood, sleep, digestion and sextual desire.

Another sign is if you’re someone who steers clear of whole grains, vegetables and fermented foods. Each of these items help to foster the production of good bacteria that plays a role in improving digestion. In general, it doesn’t hurt to take a probiotic if you’re not immune compromised.

Should Older Men Take Probiotics?

The short answer? Absolutely! As we age, gut biodiversity decreases, cognition declines with an increased susceptibility to cardiovascular disease and other metabolic dysregulatory conditions. It is suggested that a lack of gut biodiversity is also related to neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinsons and Alzheimers.

In a review looking at 17 studies that included healthy older individuals at the age of 60 and greater wanted to determine what outcomes came from those who took a probiotic. The primary results from the review included an improved immune system with increased cell activity and reduced duration of the common cold. Digestive health was studied in 8 trials with significant improvements in bowel movement frequency and gas reduction in 4. Stress was assessed with specific bacterial strains showing improvement in perceived stress. Cognitive function was improved in 12-weeks by using a test showing improved mental flexibility.

To date, more research needs to identify the specific strains that can improve various other health conditions related to cognition, Parkinsons, and cardiovascular disease in older men. It does however point that probiotic supplementation may be beneficial to use in healthy aging.

Recommended Probiotic Supplements for Men

Now the question, what supplements are even out there and which ones should I consider. There are specific probiotic strains that support what you’re looking for. For example, for loose stool you need a different one compared to one who needs assistance with constipation and bloating.

Biotics8 Probiotic for Men

Men's Probiotic Biotics8

This probiotic has a combination of probiotics, prebiotics and enzymes to support digestion. It also contains fiber and vitamin D. What enzymes do is help to break down carbohydrates, protein and fat more efficiently creating less of a digestive load on your body. This can be very helpful if you suffer from frequent gas and bloating. Prebiotics that are coming from the plant fiber acts as food for the probiotics to grow.

Ritual Synbiotic+

ritual synbiotic

You may often hear the word symbiotic when looking for the right probiotic supplement. This means they have a blend of both probiotics and prebiotics working together to flourish and nourish your gut. This supplement contains two strains that are heavily researched: Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG®) specifically has been used to treat diarrhea and relieve Irritable Bowel Disease symptoms. Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis (BB-12®) has been shown to help with immune regulation. This supplement also has 11 billion CFUs within its blend.

Primal Harvest Probiotic

Probiotic Primal Harvest

This supplement contains a blend of 31 billion CFUs [probiotics] that helps to support overall gut health and function. They track the 3-month journey of their customers who take this supplement. Month-one clients state they have less digestive concerns and smoother digestion. Month-two they report improved energy. Month-three their customers have reported improvements in skin, mood, gut health and overall well-being.

1st Phorm Probiotic

1st phorm probiotic for gut health

An overabundance of bad bacteria can lead to a variety of issues including a weakened immune system, anxiety, skin problems and chronic digestive issues. This probiotic supplement contains 8 billion CFU’s claiming it helps promote a healthy immune system, metabolism and improved digestive health.

Mindbodygreen Probiotic+

Probiotic mind body green

This probiotic states it helps to reduce bloating, aids in proper digestion and nutrient absorption and supports a healthy weight. It is vegan friendly, dairy-free, soy-free and gluten-free supplement with 32 billion CFU shelf-stable bacteria to ensure it reaches your gastrointestinal tract.  

Can Men Get Probiotics In Their Diet (Instead of taking a supplement)?

There is a difference between prebiotic and probiotic that ought to be mentioned. Probiotics are live strains to maintain the healthy bacteria within your gastrointestinal tract. Now, prebiotics is food for the good bacteria and is usually found in plant fibers. Reliable food sources of probiotics include fermented foods such as miso, kimchi, kefir, yogurts, cheeses, and kombucha. 

Conclusion

Our gut can be affected by many different things both within the way we eat or the surrounding environment. It’s important to note that what impacts the destruction of probiotics can include: chronic use of medications, stress, environmental toxin and pollutants, not being exposed to enough bacteria at birth and through childhood, and your current health status. To maintain the integrity of our immune system incorporating foods that protect the lining of our small and large intestine is essential towards maintaining homeostasis. To date, we do know they play a role in maintaining a healthy immune system by acting as a protective barrier within the mucosal lining of our gastrointestinal tract. Given that most of our immune system and communication systems are found there. When there is an imbalance going on, it can affect the body's systems to run efficiently.

Take Home Tips from the Dietitian

Overall, there are foods that you can focus on to help maintain the biodiversity of your gastrointestinal tract without the use of supplementation. Foods naturally rich in probiotics include: yogurts, fermented dairy products such as kefir, kimchi, cheeses, tofu and miso. Foods naturally rich in prebiotics include plant based foods such as whole grains, garlic and onions.

If you decide however, that taking a probiotic is your next course of action, speak with a healthcare provider who can recommend a specific strain of probiotics, concentration and brand to support your specific symptoms. Some of the common side effects may be bloating and gas more than usual but dissipates within a week or so. If you’re someone who has a compromised immune system or is severely ill, a probiotic is not recommended as it can severely impact your illness negatively.

Combined with probiotic supplementation, it’s a good idea to support your immune system by consuming a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables which is considered fuel to nourish your gut. Adding a physical activity routine will also help in disease prevention and by getting just 30-minutes a day will reduce the likelihood of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Photo of author

Christa Brown, MS, RDN, LD

Christa Brown, MS, RDN, LD is the owner of Christa Brown Nutrition & Wellness LLC and has been a registered dietitian for 10 years within the wellness and food space. You'll find her contributing quotes to online magazines such as the Food Network, Well + Good, and Everyday Health. Her passion is in writing and delivering content for brands to build up their wellness strategy.

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