Probiotics are live bacteria that can help your body in a variety of ways. Understanding the benefits of taking probiotics will allow you to see how they can change your life for the better.
Probiotics are commonly known for helping you digest food, but they also have many other benefits to offer your body.
These include improving the health of your digestive system and immune system, treating certain disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), decreasing cholesterol levels, reducing vaginal infections in women, managing yeast infections, lessening symptoms associated with allergies and asthma by strengthening cells lining the respiratory tract and urinary tract, and more.
Read on to find out how probiotics can improve your quality of life.
Probiotics are found naturally in some foods or created through a process called fermentation. The two most common types of probiotics available today are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Additionally, probiotics can help you digest food, strengthen your immune system, and treat certain disorders.
Why do probiotics matter?
Probiotics are a type of microorganism that live naturally in your digestive tract and help keep you healthy. They can be found in many types of food, from yogurt to sauerkraut.
While they have been researched for their potential health benefits, there is still much we don’t know about them.
In this blog post, we will discuss the basics of probiotics and why it matters to eat foods with these good bacteria.
The first step to understanding what probiotics are is knowing that our bodies host trillions of microorganisms at any given time – some harmful and some beneficial.
These good-for-you bacteria play a vital role in keeping our gut happy and healthy by helping us digest certain nutrients, protecting us against infection, and preventing the growth of bad bacteria.
So how do we know which ones to call on?
Here’s where probiotics come in. These live microorganisms, usually found in food products such as yogurt and supplements, introduce good bacteria into your digestive system.
Just like you need to feed your body with nutritious foods for it to function optimally, your gut microbiome needs to be fed with the right nutrients for it to function optimally.
Feeding your microbiome is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and consuming probiotics can help you do just that.
Now that we’ve got some background on what they are, let’s learn about how these little guys actually work.
Probiotics (AKA the good bacteria) help keep our gut microbiome healthy by inhibiting the growth of harmful microorganisms.
These vital organisms also help increase the number of beneficial microbes in our gut, which in turn reduces inflammation and strengthens our immune system. They also help with nutrient absorption and the production of certain vitamins.
Which probiotics should you look for in a health supplement?
Try choosing one that is filled with super strains like Bacillus coagulans (often found in popular brands) or Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, which have been studied extensively for their many health benefits.
Now, if you take a look at your average grocery store’s supplement aisle, you’ll see rows and rows of probiotic supplements to choose from. But not all probiotics are created equal.
Most of the ones you find there will only pass through your digestive system without giving any benefits (The supplements that actually give you results are called “bioavailable” ).
So, if you’re serious about giving your gut microbiome the food it needs to function optimally, you’ll need to find a supplement that is actually bioavailable.
Now that we’ve covered how they work and why you should consider adding them to your diet, let’s go over some of the amazing benefits they offer.
What are the benefits of taking probiotics?
- Improved digestion and nutrient absorption. When we consume probiotics, they help our gut microbiome ferment and absorb nutrients from food. The result? We digest and absorb not only more nutrients, but also a greater variety of them! Plus, this increased amount of healthful bacteria in your digestive system can help boost the metabolism of fats and proteins. The digestive system starts in the mouth, so it should come as no surprise that our gut microbiome can actually affect how we break down and absorb nutrients from food. Probiotics have been shown to improve the efficiency of your digestive process by up to 40 percent. Did you know that some probiotics have even been shown to help fight bad breath and bloating?
- Reduced sugar cravings. One of the best-studied effects of probiotics is how they can reduce sugar cravings. Having just the right balance of gut microbiome creates a feeling of fullness that lowers our desire to consume sweet foods and drinks.
- Reduced inflammation. Did you know that chronic inflammation can lead to a wide range of health issues … from weight gain and heart disease to diabetes and cancer? This is why it’s so important to give your gut microbiome the nutrients it needs to function optimally! You see, when we have a healthy microbiome that is filled with good bacteria, it fights inflammation and mitigates its effects. One of the best things about supplementing your diet with probiotics is that they help keep your gut microbiome full of “good bacteria” so you don’t have to rely on medications to manage your inflammation.
- Improved mood and reduced anxiety. Ever heard the phrase “gut feeling”? Well, that’s because your gut microbiome plays a huge role in your mental health. Studies have shown that by supplementing your diet with probiotics, you can increase levels of GABA (the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of relaxation) and decrease stress-related hormones. They can even help improve your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. Even the health of our gut microbiome might play a role in autism and ADHD!
- Improved stress management. When we have a healthy gut microbiome, we feel more relaxed and calm, and we can handle stressful situations much better. We also tend to experience less irritability and fatigue throughout the day.
- Boosted immune system. We all know that probiotics are powerful little guys, so it should come as no surprise that they also help strengthen our immune system. That’s because the bacteria in our microbiome help fight against pathogens and external toxins that we come into contact with every day. You see, when your gut microbiome is healthy, it can produce more phagocytes (that’s a type of white blood cell) and cytokines (chemical signals that help regulate the immune system).
- Improved energy. A healthy gut microbiome can have a remarkable effect on your energy levels. Without it, we tend to feel more lethargic and fatigued throughout the day. You want colonies of beneficial bacteria in your gut that are ready to work for you.
- Improved liver health. Did you know that we have three to five pounds of bacteria in our digestive system? Some studies suggest that these friendly organisms can help break down and eliminate some toxins from the body, including those produced by the liver as it processes alcohol. Supplementing your diet with probiotics can reduce inflammation and balance hormone levels, leading to better liver health.
- Better skin. You might not think that the health of your gut microbiome can affect how your skin looks, but you’d be surprised at all of the ways probiotics can help. If you’ve ever suffered from acne, dry skin, eczema, or rashes, then you know just how much of an effect they can have on your complexion. In fact, studies have shown that when we supplement our diets with probiotics, we can actually reduce the number of acne-causing bacteria in our pores.
- Improved sleep. Probiotics have been shown to improve the quality of our sleep. A good night’s rest is crucial for both our brain and body, but it’s hard to do that if you’re tossing and turning all night due to digestive discomfort or sickness.
What are the side effects of probiotics?
Keep in mind that not all supplements are created equal. In fact, many commercial brands add ingredients to their probiotic formulations that aren’t even found in nature!
Many of these products don’t stand a chance in your gut and never make it to where they’re needed most. They can even cause negative side effects.
Those experiencing unpleasant side effects from probiotic supplements report such things as gas, bloating, and loose stools.
Some have even reported more serious reactions like fever (dysentery), liver toxicity, or kidney problems.
Is it possible that consumers are reacting to the added non-native ingredients in the commercial products?
Studies show that most of the added ingredients often found in probiotic supplements are actually just fillers or excipients.
They can be common additives like magnesium stearate, titanium dioxide, and microcrystalline cellulose that you might find in a vitamin bottle.
Those with health conditions should evaluate the probiotics on offer for their condition and also consider consulting their doctor before beginning any supplementation program.
If you want to learn more about probiotics please read several of our comprehensive guides contained within the Probiotics section.
You may also find our blog post helpful for understanding what probiotics really do and why they matter.
We hope that by reading these articles, you will be better equipped with knowledge when making decisions regarding your own diet and healthcare goals!
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