Why Probiotics May Have Different Benefits For Men

Probiotics have long been regarded as a vital staple of any health regimen. These microorganisms — or "good" bacteria — that flourish in your gut can boost digestive function and improve gut health (via South Dakota State University). They also have the potential to positively impact your immunity (via Everyday Health) and Harvard Health Publishing says they may help improve your mental health. In addition, having an abundance of good bacteria in your gut microbiome (the trillions of microorganisms that live in your intestinal tract) can counterbalance the so-called "bad" bacteria brought on by factors ranging from poor diet to overuse of antibiotics (via Harvard Health Publishing).

One of the key elements of a probiotic is the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) it contains. Drug Genius explains that CFUs are the measure of live, active microorganisms that are present in each dose and will multiply and colonize in your system. Probiotics can differ in terms of how many CFUs they offer, but on average most offer anywhere from one to 10 billion CFUs per dose (via WebMD). 

You can get your probiotic boost with a daily supplement, but there are also a number of probiotic-rich foods that you can add to your diet, such as yogurt, kefir, and even sauerkraut (via Healthline). Making these foods, as well as other probiotic foods like miso and kombucha, a staple of your diet will ensure that the good bacteria in your gut will continue to thrive and you will reap the healthy dividends of probiotics.

But what are some of those benefits — and might there be a difference in benefits for men? As it turns out, the research shows that there definitely is.

What probiotics can do for men

A study conducted by the Journal of Autoimmunity revealed that there are indeed gender-specific differences when it comes to immunity and the microbiome, with microbes in the gut being influenced by your hormones. In addition, in 2021, the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility published a study that indicated a link between sex hormones and the microbiome, noting that the metabolism of hormones like androgen may be regulated by the gut microbiome.  

The specific benefits of probiotic use for men can include improved prostate health. A 2021 trial published in La Clinica Terapeutica showed that probiotics lessened the bacterial load of E. coli and E. faecalis in urine cultures, which contributed to reduced swelling in the prostate. Additionally, studies have shown that probiotics can reduce the body's levels of cortisol, a hormone that can suppress the production of testosterone (via Livescience).

There have also been some indications that probiotic use is linked to sexual health and, in some cases, erectile function (via 1MD). In men, erectile dysfunction can be caused by a wide range of factors, including elevated cholesterol and hypertension. 1MD explains that these conditions are exacerbated by inflammation, which can be positively impacted by good gut health. Additionally, there is some research that shows that probiotic use is linked to increased levels of serotonin, healthy levels of which are necessary for erectile function (via Mind Body Green).

In addition to erectile issues, probiotics may also be helpful in increasing sperm count. A 2014 study found higher levels of bad bacteria in lower-quality sperm samples, while the higher-quality sperm samples had a greater prevalence of good bacteria. These findings definitely suggest a correlation between a healthy microbiome and good sperm health.

Choose the probiotics that are right for you

On top of the testosterone boost, prostate health, and sexual benefits, probiotics can also offer a whole host of other benefits. Armed with all of this information, it becomes obvious that a strong probiotic regimen should be part of anyone's daily diet.

That said, it should be noted that everyone's gut microbiome is different. Even identical twins have been found to share only a little over 30% of the same gut microbes (via TwinsUK). As such, everyone's reaction to probiotics will be different as well. While there are no specific guidelines to follow when choosing the right probiotic, it's generally agreed that you should seek out probiotics that contain billions of CFUs per dose and contain multiple strains of bacteria to create a diverse microbiome (via Mind Body Green). And, while research has yet to identify specific probiotic strains that directly benefit men, one 2017  study  found that specific strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium showed improvement in sperm motility (via Beneficial Microbes). 

There are next to no downsides to probiotic use. That said, anyone considering a probiotic regimen should note that they can go a few days or even a few months before seeing results (via Healthline). Consult with your doctor as to the probiotics that will suit your physical needs and lifestyle the best and set yourself on a path to good gut health.