Do Probiotics Make You Hungry?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are known to have various health benefits. They are commonly used to support gut health and have been found to improve digestion, boost immunity, and even aid in weight management.
However, the specific effect of probiotics on appetite and hunger is a complex topic and is not fully understood and some studies I analysed suggested that certain probiotics may decrease appetite and promote feelings of fullness, while others have found no significant effect on appetite.
In this article, I am going to explore the various mechanisms through which the gut microbiome can control hunger, the role of hormones in regulating appetite, and how probiotics may influence hunger. I will also be sharing my own personal experience on whether or not probiotics made me hungry.
How The Gut Microbiome Can Control Hunger
The gut microbiome, made up of microorganisms in the digestive tract, may control hunger by several mechanisms. One way is by modulating the composition of gut microbial communities, and altering interactions between the microbiota and host. This can affect the host's nutrient metabolism and energy homeostasis, leading to changes in appetite and another is through the gut & brain axis via the vagus nerve.
Additionally, hormones such as Leptin and Nesfatin-1 play a crucial role in regulating appetite control and glucose metabolism. Studies have shown that mutations in the ob gene that causes Leptin deficiency can lead to obesity. Nesfatin-1 is an anorexigenic hormone, meaning it suppresses hunger, and is produced by enteroendocrine cells in the gut. Probiotics, live microorganisms that benefit the host, have been shown to modulate the gut microbiota and affect host nutrient metabolism and energy homeostasis.
They can influence appetite by modulating the gut-brain axis, which is the communication pathway between the gut and the brain. Some probiotics may also change the gut hormone levels that regulate appetite. In summary, the gut microbiome can influence hunger through several mechanisms, such as modulating the gut microbial communities, altering interactions between the microbiota and host, and affecting host nutrient metabolism and energy homeostasis, as well as by modulating hormone levels and the gut-brain axis.
Yes, Probiotics Can Make You Hungry
I came across this 2020 clinical trial that involved 81 patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) that aimed to investigate the effect of probiotic and prebiotic supplementation on appetite, body mass index (BMI), weight, and energy intake. The participants were randomly assigned to receive probiotic (Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum), prebiotic (galactooligosaccharide) or placebo for 8 weeks and he results showed probiotics can make you hungry.
The Iranian researchers found that there was no significant effect on BMI, or weight among the groups, however, energy intake and the hormone leptin were significantly increased in the Lactobacillus helveticus & Bifidobacterium longum probiotic group compared to the prebiotic group. It did however conclude that probiotic supplementation for 8 weeks resulted in an improvement of appetite among MDD patients.
There was a significant increase over time for the desire to eat within the probiotic group, but no significant intervention-time interactions were found when assessing subjective appetite rating using visual analogue scales (VAS) to assess satiety, hunger, fullness and desire to eat. In my opinion, this showed that probiotic supplementation may have an effect on increasing the desire to eat, but it not a significant overall effect on appetite.
But They Can Also Decrease Hunger
Another study I found investigated the effect of a probiotic called VSL3 on obesity and diabetes in several mouse models and found that administration of VSL3 prevented and treated obesity and diabetes by suppressing body weight gain and insulin resistance through modulation of the gut flora composition. The VSL3 probiotic contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium breve and more at a massive 112.5 billion CFU count.
The probitoic was able too promote the release of the hormone GLP-1, resulting in reduced food intake and improved glucose tolerance. This showed that VSL3 works by increasing the levels of a short chain fatty acid (SCFA) called butyrate, which stimulates the release of GLP-1 from intestinal L-cells. The study concludes that probiotics such as VSL#3 can modulate the gut microbiota-SCFA-hormone axis and have potential therapeutic utility in counteracting obesity and diabetes showing how different probiotic strains effect hunger.
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus Taken For 8 Days Could Decrease Hunger
This study investigated the effect of the probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus on hunger and glucose levels in zebrafish larvae. It foind that after 8 days of exposure to the probiotic, L. Rhamnosus was able to modulate the microbial composition of the gastrointestinal tract of the zebrafish larvae. This was associated with a decrease in the expression of genes associated with hunger and an increase in the expression of genes associated with reduced glucose levels.
The study also found that L. Rhamnosus probiotics increased the levels of short-chain fatty acids in the intestine of the treated larvae, and that these changes in the gut microbiome lead to a reduction in food intake and glucose levels in the zebrafish larvae. These results suggest that probiotic strains like this one had potential to modulate the gut microbiome, assist with glucose tolerance and food intake disorders through gut microbiome manipulation.
I Have Never Felt More Hungry After Probiotics
As someone who has tested and reviewed over 27 different probiotic supplements, I can attest that my experience with probiotics has not led to increased hunger. Here is the caveat though, I have been doing intermittent fasting for several years and so even if some probiotic strains did make me hungry I believe I would have had enough will power to fight off any food cravings.
Interestingly in this Quora thread from 2019 Christopher James shared his experience on whether or not probiotics could make you more hungrier than usual. He said that after drinking high doses of Kefir Milk which has various Lactobacillus probiotics, had had cravings for sugary foods. For me personally, I am quite disciplined with intermittent fasting so whilst probiotics could have in fact made me hungrier, it also comes down to your own personal will power.
Some studies I read suggested that probiotics may increase appetite and hunger and others found that they could decrease appetite and promote feelings of fullness.
Certain Lactobacillus bacteria may increase the production of hormones that suppress hunger, while S. Boulardii may decrease hunger sensation showing how complex the answer to this question is.
Based on my personal experience and research, probiotics can have a mixed effect on appetite and hunger but lifestyle factors plus personal will power are unstudied but important factors.