One more reason to take probiotics: They protect against liver damage
09/10/2018 // Vicki Batts // Views

Probiotics are known for supporting a healthy gastrointestinal tract and promoting good digestion, but new research has shown that these friendly microbes can benefit more than just your gut. It turns out probiotic bacteria can also help keep your liver in tip-top shape by protecting the vital organ against all kinds of damage -- and may even help protect against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Recent research out of Emory University has highlighted some of the the system-wide benefits that can be achieved with probiotic supplementation.

The study, led by Bejan Saeedi, a doctoral candidate at Emory, stated, "Probiotics have been studied most intensely in the context of the gastrointestinal tract. This study provides evidence that the effects of probiotics extend beyond the gastrointestinal tract. What makes this study unique is that it suggests a discreet molecular mechanism by which these effects are elicited."

Probiotics protect liver health

To conduct the study, Saeedi and his team fed mice a diet supplemented with a specific strain of probiotic bacteria, known as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) for a two-week period. LGG is a common strain of bacteria used in probiotic supplements.

After the supplementation period ended , the mice were given high doses of acetaminophen -- the active ingredient in popular over-the-counter pain medication. Too much acetaminophen can lead to serious liver damage and even death. As Science Daily reports, acetaminophen increases the abundance of free radicals and oxidative stress in the liver, which is highly damaging.


What the research team found was that LGG supplementation greatly reduced the toxic effects of acetaminophen on the liver, as compared to mice who did not receive the probiotic.

"Administration of the probiotic LGG to mice improves the antioxidant response of the liver, protecting it from oxidative damage produced by drugs such as acetaminophen," Saeedi explained.

Saeedi's research is not the first to show that probiotics are good for your liver: In 2014, researchers from the University of Granada found that probiotic supplementation helped reduce fat stores in the liver, too. In a study of obese rats, Spanish researchers found that just 30 days of probiotics decreased fat accumulation in the liver. In a world increasingly plagued by nonalcholic fatty liver disease, this is big news.

The liver is one of the body's most important organs; it is responsible for detoxifying and filtering blood and also plays a substantial role in transforming food into energy.

Other health benefits of probiotics

As researchers are now learning, probiotics can offer many benefits beyond the digestive tract. In addition to supporting the health of your gastrointestinal system, friendly bacteria have been found to have wide-reaching health effects, including fighting depression, boosting immunity, supporting bone health and more.

A recent study from from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that probiotic supplementation can help preserve bone density in old age. In their research, the team found that participants who took the probiotic supplement "lost only half as much bone in the skeleton in comparison with those who received the placebo product."

Earlier this year, research uncovered another surprising benefit of probiotics: Gut-friendly microbes can help fight depression, too. "This is a fascinating discovery which supports the conclusion that probiotics, which normally do good in the intestines, also affect the brain. This makes the result interesting for the treatment of depression,” Dr. Anders Abildgaard, the study's leader, commented.

It seems there is no limit to what good bacteria can do. Learn more about probiotics and other supplements at

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