Ideally, the world should exist in perfect balance, with all the wondrous diversity existing to complement and support each other. We wouldn’t have an excess of positives or negatives. However, with our bodies, this is not the case. Our gut plays host to thousands of microbes, all of which are essential for optimum health. To be healthy, we need all these microbes to exist in perfect harmony and balance.
Changes in diet or even the environment sometimes make this impossible. That’s where probiotics come in.
What Are Probiotics
Probiotics are living microorganisms commonly found in fermented foods such as kimchi and yogurt that help create and sustain a more diverse and balanced microbe environment. They are different from antibiotics because probiotics introduce good bacteria in the gut to balance out ‘bad’ bacteria while antibiotics kill off bacteria. As our body relies on this bacteria to function correctly, killing it off can result in further complications.
Taking probiotics results in better immune function, reduced inflammation, clearer skin, and reduced depression. Women’s probiotics have been shown to improve vaginal health, treat urinary tract infections, and increase fertility. Studies are ongoing to determine how safe and effective they are across different groups of people. However, recent results point to several documented benefits.
How They Work
When discussing probiotics, we usually say they add ‘good bacteria’ to your gut. However, this is a slight oversimplification. Most probiotics work by creating antimicrobial compounds that feed ‘good’ bacteria, increasing their numbers in the stomach while eliminating the ‘bad’ ones. Probiotics have been shown to secrete protective substances, which boost the immune system, preventing pathogens from taking hold and causing major diseases.
Whether consumed through fermented foods or supplements, probiotics don’t work forever. The human gut tends to be resistant to colonization, even from probiotics. That means they only work for a limited length of time before they are flushed out of your system. That makes it necessary to take them on a routine basis. That said, you may be wondering about the benefits you can expect from probiotics.
Treatment of Digestive Disorders
Because probiotics majorly act on the gut, some of their most significant benefits revolve around enhanced digestive function. Studies have shown that probiotics can help reduce bloating, gas, and indigestion. They also serve a preventative function against these problems even before they appear.
An imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut has been linked to multiple digestive disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome. Scientists have stated that probiotics can be used to treat specific conditions by restoring the balance of bacteria and microflora. Some of the diseases that can be treated by probiotics include diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, and ulcers.
Good for Heart Health
Research has linked the use of probiotics with a healthier heart by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Probiotics introduce strains of lactic acid, which helps produce bacteria that reduce cholesterol levels by breaking down bile in the stomach. Bile helps in digestion but is mostly composed of cholesterol.
Breaking it down prevents it from being reabsorbed into the gut and entering the bloodstream as cholesterol. A set of studies has proven that taking probiotics for 2 to 8 weeks reduced total cholesterol by 4%. Another set of nine studies showed that probiotic supplements also reduced blood pressure. However, this happened if the supplements were taken past the course of 8 weeks.
Boosts the Immune System
Taking probiotics has been linked to stronger immunity. Probiotics improve the diversity and efficiency of immune cells. Strains linked to higher immunity primarily include strains that have lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. The link between probiotics and immunity is large because 70% of our immune cells live in the gut’s lymphatic tissue.
A diet rich in probiotics can help keep these crucial cells in optimal condition. Research has shown that probiotics offer powerful anti-inflammatory effects that help prevent a wide range of diseases linked to lower immunity. Probiotics are effective when supplemented with prebiotics. These provide nutrients that probiotic bacteria use to grow and develop.
Guards Against Colds and Flus
Due to their immune-boosting function, prebiotics can help prevent common colds and flu. They are particularly effective when supplemented with micronutrients such as vitamin E and iron. These nutrients boost the production of antibodies in the body and other infection-fighting compounds.
An investigation of its properties found that multivitamins’ probiotic supplements significantly reduced common cold and flu duration by almost two days. That was a much better outcome than was seen in participants who only took multivitamins. The success of probiotics in fighting common colds has been linked to T-lymphocytes’ improved activity, which regulates immune responses.
Reduced Severity of Allergies
Some probiotic strains have been linked to reduced severity of eczema in young children and newborns. One study found that symptoms of eczema improved for infants who were given probiotic-supplemented milk. Yet the benefits are not only limited to infants. Another study established that women who took probiotics during pregnancy had children with an 83% lower risk of developing eczema – there are even more benefits of taking probiotics.
Probiotics were also shown to reduce inflammatory responses in people with milk or dairy allergies. Those suffering from allergies and eczema may greatly benefit from taking probiotics. However, more studies still need to be undertaken to determine the exact dosage of probiotics that deliver these benefits.
Improves Mental Health
Probiotics have been linked to an important ‘gut-brain’ connection. This is an important line of communication between the brain and the alimentary canal. The connection links cognitive brain centers to peripheral intestinal function. Irritation in the gut sends signals to the central nervous system that influences your mood, making you more prone to stress.
Multiple studies have established a link between mental disorders and poor gut bacteria. Poor digestion and an imbalance of gut bacteria can contribute to poor mental health. Probiotics alleviate symptoms of anxiety and mental distress by reducing inflammation in the gut. That, in turn, lowers the production of stress hormones.
Getting the Best from Probiotics
Scientific research and multiple studies have established the proven benefits of probiotics. From strengthening the immune system, alleviating stress, and improving skin health, the advantages are numerous. If you’ve not incorporated probiotics into your routine, now is the time
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.