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Can Probiotics Help Fatigue, Recovery & Wound Healing?

Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:

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Probiotic supplementation may help the body recover from various types of physical stress; athletes, surgical patients, and people recovering from ulcers and other wounds could benefit most. Read on to discover more.

Probiotics & Healing

The human body is very, very good at recovering from physical stress: from exercise to wounds to surgery, it heals and does its best to come out stronger on the other side. However, when the body struggles, could gut flora and probiotics pick up the slack? Some research suggests a role for probiotic supplements in exercise , wound healing, and even postoperative recovery.

However, the immune system may be suppressed during times of stress. Remember to talk to your doctor about whether and which probiotic supplements could be right for you.

Insufficient Evidence For

The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of probiotics for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking probiotic supplements, and never use it in place of something your doctor recommends or prescribes.

1) Muscle Recovery and Athletic Performance

B. coagulans enhanced protein absorption in fit men. The authors concluded that it may thereby indirectly improve recovery and training adaptations [1].

B. coagulans in combination with protein reduced muscle damage and soreness, improved recovery, and maintained physical performance in athletes after strenuous exercise [1].

An increase in vertical jump power was noted following 8 weeks of full-body workouts 4-times per week daily while ingesting B. coagulans, compared with the group that trained without taking probiotics [1].

Four weeks of supplementation with a multi-strain probiotic increased running time to fatigue in the heat in male runners [2].

L. plantarum significantly decreased body weight and increased relative muscle weight, grip strength and endurance swimming time in mice [3].

In multiple studies of male athletes, probiotic supplementation reduced muscle soreness, improved recovery, and improved physical performance over several weeks of supplementation.

2) Fatigue

L. acidophilus reversed immune dysfunction in fatigued athletes [4].

L. acidophilus decreased chronic fatigue following exercise and attenuated stress in rats [5].

L. gasseri prevented the reduction in natural killer (NK) cell activity due to strenuous exercise and elevated mood from a depressed state in university-student athletes [6].

L. gasseri and ALA alleviated minor resting fatigue in university-student athletes after strenuous exercise [6].

Lactobacillus probiotics reduced fatigue and improved mood in young athletes.

3) Wound Healing

L. plantarum reduced the bacterial load of infected chronic venous ulcer wound, reduces neutrophils, apoptotic and necrotic cells, and induced wound healing in both diabetics and non-diabetics [7].

Topical treatment with a water-insoluble glucan from S. cerevisiae may enhance venous ulcer healing in humans. In a patient who had an ulcer that would not heal for over 15 years, this treatment caused a 67.8% decrease in the area of the ulcer [8].

Supplementing the rat microbiome with L. reuteri in drinking water cut wound-healing time in half compared to control animals [9].

In patients with diabetes and healthy adults, probiotic supplementation improved wound healing. In animals, it also accelerated the healing process.

4) After Surgery

A symbiotic containing L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, L. casei, B. bifidum, and fructooligosaccharides reduced postoperative mortality, lowered the incidence of postoperative infections, shortened the duration of antibiotic therapy, and decreased noninfectious complications. These developments resulted in shorter overall hospital stays in patients undergoing surgery for periampullary neoplasms [10].

Orally administered B. breve improved the intestinal environment and suppressed bacterial translocation in pediatric surgical cases [11, 12].

Animal & Cell Research (Lacking Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of probiotics for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

5) Heat Stress

Exposure to extreme heat can cause illnesses and injuries. B. subtilis was effective in the prevention of complications related to heat stress in rats. When rats were subjected to heat stress (45°C), adverse effects such as morphological changes in the intestine, bacterial translocation, elevated levels of LPS and IL-10, and increased vesiculation of erythrocytes were observed only in animals not protected with B. subtilis [13].

Takeaway

Probiotic supplementation improved physical performance, exercise recovery, postoperative recovery, and wound healing in human trials. Lactobacillus probiotics, in particular, also reduced fatigue. These results suggest that probiotics may help the body resist and recover from various types of physical stress.

Further Reading

We’ve compiled deep dives into each potential benefit of probiotics. Check them out here:

About the Author

Biljana Novkovic

Biljana Novkovic

PhD
Biljana received her PhD from Hokkaido University.
Before joining SelfHacked, she was a research scientist with extensive field and laboratory experience. She spent 4 years reviewing the scientific literature on supplements, lab tests and other areas of health sciences. She is passionate about releasing the most accurate science and health information available on topics, and she's meticulous when writing and reviewing articles to make sure the science is sound. She believes that SelfHacked has the best science that is also layperson-friendly on the web.

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