Are Probiotics Bad for Your Heart?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans. Cardiologists and other health experts do what they can to provide recommendations that help steer people in the right direction when making choices that affect their long-term health.

We know, for example, that smoking and drinking too much can both lead to heart problems. But what about taking certain supplements, such as probiotics?

Do probiotics actually have health benefits — or are they more harmful than they are helpful? Here’s everything we know — and the best ways to consume probiotics safely and effectively.

What are probiotics good for?

Supplement

Supplement | iStock.com/agencyby

Probiotics are the “good” bacteria in your gut that influence your health. Your digestive tract is full of both helpful and potentially harmful bacteria. Many people believe that increasing the number of good bacteria in your body can improve certain aspects of your health.

It’s been shown that introducing probiotics into the body either through supplements or foods such as yogurt can relieve issues and side effects of issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and symptoms of Chron’s disease, IBS, IBD, and ulcerative colitis.

Doctors typically recommend their patients take probiotics with antibiotics to clear up an infection without negative digestive side effects.

Scientists are also looking into the effects of probiotics on blood sugar and in people with type 2 diabetes. In the future, targeting and changing a person’s gut bacteria may serve as a method of treatment to help regulate this health marker.

You may have heard some experts warn that probiotics are dangerous — especially when it comes to heart health. Is this true?

Are probiotics bad for your heart?

Some research has shown that probiotics may — in addition to previously prescribed medications — help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Reducing these common heart disease risk factors can also decrease your risk of severe heart problems.

There’s much more evidence in support of the use of probiotics for certain digestive disorders than there is against their use. No study has proven takingĀ a probiotic is bad for your heart.

At this point, your doctor stillĀ will not recommend you take probiotics specifically to prevent or treat heart disease. There’s not enough scientific evidence to justify prescribing a supplement for such a serious disease.

But this does not mean probiotics are going to hurt your heart. There’s no evidence to support that worry, either. However, you should always check with your doctor before taking a probiotic supplement — especially if you’re taking medications or have a compromised immune system.

It’s not a bad idea, however, to add a probiotic-containing food to your diet several times per week with or without a supplement.

Probiotic foods you should be eating

Yogurt

Yogurt | npeggy/iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Though many people consume probiotics through supplements — and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you’re buying the right ones — certain foods and drinks can also benefit your gut microbiome. These include:

  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Drinks such as kefir or kombucha.

If your doctor recommends you should take a probiotic supplement, make sure you read your labels carefully before buying. Make sure you know what you’re taking a probiotic for (IBS? diarrhea due to antibiotics?) since different strains have been shown to relieve different ailments.

Also, certain probiotic supplements may contain specific allergens you want to avoid. The label should tell you if it’s free of soy or gluten, for example.

Should you take probiotics? That depends on what you’d like to use them for. But so far, doctors are pretty sure they’re not hurting your heart.