Probiotics for Weight Loss: Do They Really Work?

Updated on September 7, 2020

When people start looking for weight loss ideas, they usually want a magic bullet—a quick fix solution that promises you will never put the weight back on ever again. And the longer you look for a solution, the more you want something fast and effective.

The frustration is understandable, especially in cases where you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle. But quick fix solutions rarely work, and if they work in the short run, they rarely work long-term.

But there is a wide spectrum between a quick fix and the slow and steady progression of running laps until you burn pounds. Probiotics fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. 

When it comes to weight loss, the short answer is that probiotics can and do help. The long answer is a little more complicated.

Your Gut Will Work Better

There are a lot of ways that probiotics help you lose weight. Some strains like Lactobacillus rhamnosus simply help maintain your weight when you shed pounds, though exactly how is still unclear in research.

But that is just one strain. And when it comes to probiotics, the specific strain you take in is very important. Some are ideal for improving the way your immune system works. Others, like the one mentioned above, help you with weight loss to a small degree.

The best probiotics to help you lose weight, however, are those that improve the way your gut functions. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are both strains that help your stomach better process the food you take in.

When your gut processes your food more efficiently, it takes in more nutrients and burns the calories more effectively. This, in turn, can help reduce your cravings and appetite so you eat less overall. And when you do eat you are less inclined toward sugary food. 

If you’re so inclined, you can even boost this effect by adding extra fiber to your diet. It’ll help you feel full for longer, as well as help balance your blood sugar to further reduce cravings. 

And though this might seem random, probiotics work the best through small changes they make in your body. Adding in something like fiber helps support those changes.

Your Mood Might Improve

For years, people have argued back and forth over whether “gut feelings” are real. While people still can’t agree on exactly how often they should trust instinctive feelings, it turns out that your gut does actually impact your feelings. 

Thanks to something called the Gut-Brain Connection, your stomach and your brain communicate with each other. When your stomach is upset, it sends signals through an almost direct channel to your brain. These signals then impact the production of serotonin and other brain chemicals—all the chemicals that influence your emotions.

This connection flows the other way as well. When you’re upset or stressed, your brain generates signals that go to your stomach. These signals can then result in any number of physical responses, from vomiting to gas to stress ulcers.

It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that your brain and your gut are so closely linked. Your body systems are not separate, but are woven tightly together with many interactions. However, it still surprises some people to find out how closely the brain and the stomach work together.

This is why probiotics that help improve the health of your gut biome can also improve your mood. If your gut biome is healthier, then it isn’t sending negative signals to your brain.

Of course, your mood might not be the first thing you think of when you’re trying to lose weight. After all, shouldn’t you just grin and bear it? As it turns out… no.

Cortisol—known as “the stress hormone”— is a major player when it comes to how you store and lose fat. It makes sense, then, that you’re going to struggle with weight loss if you’re stressed, angry, or generally in a low mood. While solving these issues isn’t easy, probiotics can make a difference.

There is even some evidence that probiotics can have a positive impact on mental and emotional conditions like depression and anxiety. Again, it’s all because of those brain chemicals. As anyone who struggles with their weight can tell you, there’s enough stress already. Taking a healthy supplement that helps reduce your cortisol levels is a great way to counter that.

Improved mood can also help with motivation, which means you might exercise more often. Or if you’re focusing on your daily diet first—as the food you eat is often more important to weight loss than exercise your probiotics might help keep you in the frame of mind to make good choices.

You can even link the two practices by taking your probiotic supplement with a specific meal every day. These are called habit chains and are a great way to achieve goals or change behaviors, as well as support those changes that probiotics help create.

The Takeaway

Can probiotics help you lose weight? Yes. But they’re not going to do it overnight. And you’re not going to see drastic weight loss from probiotics alone.

Anything that will give you those kinds of results isn’t going to last long-term. It might not be doing you any favors in the short-term, either.

Probiotics are not a magic solution. They are an investment in yourself. Taking a probiotic supplement and adding fermented foods to your diet is a step toward a healthier lifestyle. Over time, that is the only way to shed weight and keep it off.

Throughout the year, our writers feature fresh, in-depth, and relevant information for our audience of 40,000+ healthcare leaders and professionals. As a healthcare business publication, we cover and cherish our relationship with the entire health care industry including administrators, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and more. We cover a broad spectrum from hospitals to medical offices to outpatient services to eye surgery centers to university settings. We focus on rehabilitation, nursing homes, home care, hospice as well as men’s health, women’s heath, and pediatrics.