Probiotics are a type of good bacteria that provide numerous health benefits. Let’s take a look at how and why they are good for you.
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In this article:
- Not All Bacteria Are Bad
- Why Does the Gut Need Bacteria?
- What Are Probiotics and How Can They Improve Gut Flora?
- What Specific Benefits Can You Gain From Taking Probiotics?
- How Can You Start Taking Probiotics?
The 4 Health Benefits of Probiotics
Not All Bacteria Are Bad
What are probiotics? These are the type of good bacteria that provide numerous health benefits. They can be taken as supplements, and you can also get them from eating certain foods that have been prepared by bacterial fermentation (like some kinds of sauerkraut).
Nearly every part of the human body is inhabited by some forms of microorganism. These microorganisms can be viruses, yeasts, or bacteria. Most of them are bacteria.
Bacteria live in the gut, in your nose and ears, on your skin, and basically everywhere else in and on the body. This may be alarming to some, but a lot of bacteria are actually good for you.
Certainly, some bacteria can cause illness, but other bacteria are essential for your survival and overall health.
The majority of bacteria in your body is in your gut. In fact, some experts say that most people have at least 1000 or more different types of microorganisms in their gut at any one time, and most are bacteria.
The majority of the bacteria are harmless, and when you have a good equilibrium of gut bacteria, it is advantageous for your health, providing numerous benefits.
Not everyone has a natural equilibrium of this good bacteria. And this is where probiotics come in.
Why Does the Gut Need Bacteria?
You may hear of gut bacteria referred to as microbiota or gut flora. Same experts also called this gut flora the “forgotten organ”, because the flora in the gut act very similarly to how an organ operates.
Flora in the gut does a lot for your digestion and overall health. It creates essential vitamins like B and K vitamins, it stimulates your immune system, helps prevent unwanted toxins and other substances from entering your body, and even feeds and strengthens your gut wall.
Most of all, it has a large impact on your metabolic functions.
Many diseases can be linked directly to unbalanced gut flora. For example, depression, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, colorectal cancer, and type II diabetes are all connected to a gut flora that is unbalanced.
Specifically, those with digestion issues can benefit from improving their gut flora. Digestion problems that can be aided by better gut flora range from more minor issues like gas, constipation, bloating, and diarrhea to more serious problems like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
Even people who are having trouble losing weight because they are overweight or obese can benefit from improving the flora in the gut. Significant weight loss in these individuals can then go on to improve many other related health issues such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and more.
We’ll discuss more benefits of improving your gut flora with probiotics later on in the article.
What Are Probiotics and How Can They Improve Gut Flora?
Probiotics are essentially friendly bacteria taken in supplement form. They are living microorganisms.
When you eat probiotics or take probiotic supplements, they go into your gut and thrive there, providing numerous benefits.
There are dozens of groups of probiotics, and each group has within it various species.
Furthermore, each species has a host of different strains. This means there are a lot of strains of probiotics available.
Certain probiotic supplements will contain only one or two strains, while others will contain a broad spectrum of various types of probiotic strains. These are fittingly called broad-spectrum probiotics.
The two most common groups of probiotics are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.
What Specific Benefits Can You Gain From Taking Probiotics?
1. Reduced Digestion Issues
As stated above, probiotics can do wonderfully at reducing the risk of contracting a digestion related health issue.
For those who already have digestion issues, probiotic strains like Saccharomyces boulardii (a yeast) and Lactobacillus casei may be beneficial. They can help diarrhea especially.
Many people who have antibiotic-associated diarrhea (diarrhea that comes on after taking one or several rounds of antibiotics) often take probiotics to reduce symptoms.
2. Better Heart Health
Probiotics have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and improve blood pressure, both of which will contribute to a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
3. Improved Immune System
Immune disorders seem to be on the rise among Americans, and probiotics appear to help reduce symptoms in those with immune disorders or prevent the disorders from altogether.
4. Weight Loss
Being overweight or obese is a serious health problem among many men, women, and children. Overweight and obesity contribute to a long list of secondary health issues such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, depression, arthritis, other joint problems, stroke, and many others.
Taking probiotics helps fight unhealthy weight gain by reducing gut inflammation caused by the intake of processed foods and by triggering the release of the satiety hormone which then, triggers the burning of calories.
How Can You Start Taking Probiotics?
Probiotics are available in most pharmacies, health food stores, and large grocery stores. Do your research to find a probiotic supplement that meets your needs as probiotic brands, strengths, and strain makeups can vary widely.
Keep in mind that some probiotics need to be stored in the refrigerator.
If you would like to get your probiotics from your food, there are various foods that can be either fortified with probiotics or have them naturally. These include:
- Sauerkraut and pickles
Researchers and medical professionals are still learning more about the benefits of probiotics and what they can do for your overall health. But the majority of research has revealed that bacteria are an essential part of how your body functions and more friendly or good bacteria can only help you.
Learn more about probiotics in this video from Doctor Mike:
As always, speak to your doctor before taking any new supplements or medication.
How do you make sure you get enough probiotics in your daily diet? Let’s talk about gut health in the comments below.