Have you ever heard of the phrases good and bad bacteria and wondered how can other living organisms inhabiting your body be a good thing? And how do you feel about the fact that you have 10 times more bacteria in your body than your regular cells and about 1000 different types of various microorganisms? Well, despite how it sounds, it is certainly not worth the panic, because a lot of those work for your benefit and probiotics belong in that exact category.
What Are Probiotics?
As previously stated, probiotics are good bacteria. They are most commonly found in the gut, but they also inhabit the mouth, the lungs, the urinary tract, and the vagina. Because of that, it has become clear that women can be more affected by bad bacteria and infections. As can be seen at BestHealth.org, they should be consuming servings of at least 20 billion CFU’s per day. A map of all of the microorganisms in your body is called the microbiome, gut flora, or microbiota and everyone has a unique one, similar to the uniqueness of a fingerprint.
Differentiating probiotics from other microbes can be done by searching for the following characteristics:
- They have to be living even when isolated from the body
- They have to be beneficial to maintaining the balance in the human microbiome
- They have to be safe for consumption
- They have to be able to survive in the colon or large intestine.
Likewise, it is necessary to make a distinction between probiotics and prebiotics. Prebiotics are, simply put, food for probiotics. As a result, a combined usage is sometimes recommended for an enhanced effect.
How Do They Work?
The crucial thing about maintaining a healthy lifestyle is balance. That is exactly what probiotics do in your intestine. Each strain has a distinctive effect, and that is why you should pick the one that is in accordance with your personal needs. However, there are three fundamental aspects that they influence:
They give your body protection by influencing your immune system. Your gut walls are being fed and strengthened by them and, by doing that, they prevent the bad bacteria from entering your blood and causing infection. One of their functions is also manufacturing vitamins like vitamin K and some types of vitamin B. Some are included in the production of hormones, which can influence the reduction of depression and anxiety.
Oftentimes doctors prescribe them after a long usage of antibiotics, which can disturb the balance in your microbiota and give you digestion problems.
Where Can They Be Found?
Mostly, they can be found in dietary supplements, beauty products, yogurt, and certain types of food and drink. For example, they are contained in fermented products, like pickles, cheese, apple cider vinegar, kimchi, kefir… The foods vary and can be combined to make a healthy and balanced diet. Although, if the product had been too processed, its probiotic tendencies can be lost. Also, the main problem with ingesting them only through food or drink is that sometimes your stomach acid disintegrates before they reach your gut. That is why, as dietary supplements, they are sold in the form of powder, capsules, or liquid. Capsules filled with probiotic powder are the most reliable because the capsule makes a protective layer which is melted by your bodily acids instead of its content, which is then able to reach its destination.
What Are The Main Benefits?
Even though there are many proven benefits to adding them to your diet, it is still an under-researched field of medicine. Currently, there is a lack of knowledge on that topic, so there are probably many more benefits than stated. However, there are plans to widen the field of research. According to The New York Times, those supplements are being used by 7 million people in America alone, and in the last few decades, it has developed into a 40 billion dollar industry.
What is known, however, is its relation to digestive health. It can relieve common problems like bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and many more. Additionally, they are proven to be useful in weight loss and detoxification. People who suffer from obesity are known to have a different microbiome structure than people who don’t. One of the biggest effects of this disease is the imbalance of gut flora.
Besides those, one of the advantages is its impact on the prevention of various illnesses. The most common are:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Colorectal cancer
- Urinary tract infections
- Type 2 diabetes
- Various heart and blood diseases (including high cholesterol and blood pressure)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Depression and anxiety
- Low skin health (acne, eczema)
Are They Safe?
It is important to emphasize that they are supplements and that they can only help with the prevention and relevance and not with the cure. Your regular medicine and health check-ups should not be put aside.
Because of the similarity that probiotic microorganisms share with those that are naturally made and that reside in our body, the possibility of the existence of major side effects is second to none. However, there have been cases of infections in patients with severe illnesses who used them without consulting experts. Also, it should not be given to infants without medical monitoring. They can sometimes interfere and block the effects of antibiotics and for that reason, simultaneous use is not recommended.
For improved results, it is recommended to analyze your body’s microbes mapping. That is the best way to know which strain and which dosage suit your needs the most. Like any other additions to your diet, it will take some time to get used to, but it is a basic and long term solution to permanent discomforts.
Everything in nature is based on balance, and living beings are no different. Keeping good care of our health should be a priority. Nowadays, due to pollution and modification, there is a lack of useful substances in a lot of products. That is the reason why supplements and additions to our diets like probiotics are important. Their main purpose is to nurture the balance that we may not be able to keep naturally. By adding them to your everyday life you can achieve and maintain a healthy and comfortable lifestyle.