Health Benefits of Probiotics
Good bacteria are great for our intestinal health. They can help in food digestion, fight off disease-causing cells and produce vitamins. Most good bacteria are found in foods and supplements and human digestive health. Among these include probiotics, which are live microorganisms that may prevent and treat some illnesses.
What are Probiotics?
The human body has good and bad bacteria. Balancing these two is key for optimal health. However, when we get an infection, more bad bacteria knocks out our system. Good bacteria help in getting rid of the extra bad bacteria to achieve balance. A great way to add good bacteria to our body is through probiotics. Probiotics are made of good live bacteria and/or yeast that are found in the body. Factors such as age, genetics, and diet may affect the composition of the bacteria.
An imbalance of bacteria called dysbiosis can lead to intestinal issues. These digestive issues include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, Chron’s disease as well as obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
How do probiotics work?
Probiotics are part of our body’s microbiome. The gut microbiome is a diverse community of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, and viruses. These microorganisms peacefully coexist in the body as they play many vital roles in promoting health. Probiotics maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the body. They keep the body in neutral mode. Good bacteria such as probiotics restore the balance in the body as they fight off harmful bacteria within the body. Probiotics support the immune system and control inflammation. Good bacteria also help in food digestion, vitamin production and medication absorption. Two specific types of bacteria are common probiotics – lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. There are plenty of bacteria types that can be considered probiotics, however, these two are easily available in stores.
Besides warding off bad bacteria and supporting immune function, probiotics also provide these benefits:
Help Prevent and Treat Diarrhea
Certain strains of probiotics are known to prevent and reduce the severity of diarrhea from many causes. Diarrhea is a common side effect of antibiotics as antibiotics can affect negatively the balance of good and harmful gut bacteria. Probiotics also showed positive results in treating gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the gut’s lining. Gastroenteritis can cause diarrhea. More so, probiotics can help with other forms of diarrhea not related to antibiotics. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of probiotics according to the type and dose of probiotics taken.
1. Keeps heart healthy
Probiotics lower LDL or bad cholesterol and manage the blood pressure in the body.
Specific lactic acid-producing bacteria may reduce cholesterol by breaking down bile in the gut. Probiotics prevent the bile from being reabsorbed in the gut where it can turn to cholesterol when it enters the blood.
2. Reduce Digestive Disorders Symptoms
1 in every 5 Australians suffers from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). A 2018 study revealed that probiotics may have beneficial effects on IBS symptoms and abdominal pain. In a separate study, certain types of probiotics have improved symptoms of mild ulcerative colitis. Necrotising enterocolitis is a severe condition that occurs in premature infants. It causes the death of intestinal tissue as it injures or damages the intestinal tract. Probiotics have been shown to minimise the risk of this severe bowel condition.
3. Help in Weight loss
Some probiotics excrete dietary fat instead of absorbing it in the intestine. Certain probiotics may also burn more calories, store less fat and make you feel fuller for a longer period. Bear in mind that not all probiotics are the same. Some probiotics can lead to weight gain so be careful in choosing the right probiotics if weight loss is your goal.
4. Minimises the severity of eczema
A study conducted showed improvement of eczema symptoms for infants who are fed with probiotic-supplemented milk. In a separate study, women who took probiotics during their pregnancy have helped lower their children’s risk of developing eczema in the first two years of life. Nevertheless, further research is still needed as pieces of evidence are still weak. People who have milk or dairy allergies can benefit from certain probiotics. Some strains may reduce the inflammatory responses from dairy and milk allergies.
5. Good for mental health
The link between gut bacteria and the central nervous system is called the gut-brain axis. Some scientists believe that gut bacteria could impact the nervous system and affect how people think and feel. The findings suggest that probiotics can support the treatment of mental issues and some neurological conditions.
Natural Sources of Probiotics
You can increase the number of good bacteria in your body by eating food and taking supplements. Fermented foods such as pickles, kimchi and yogurt are great sources of probiotics. Consider adding these probiotic sources to your diet:
3. Greek Yogurt
10. Green Olives
Don’t just focus on probiotics alone; you will miss out on other nutrients when you don’t consume other food groups.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria in the body that fights off infection, support the immune system, and prevents certain diseases. You can increase the number of good bacteria in your body by eating certain foods and taking supplements. However, make sure that you still keep the balance in your diet to reap the benefits of other food groups.