Probiotics are useful bacteria that are normally found in and on the human body. These bacteria confer many benefits and an imbalance in their levels can cause problems especially in the digestive system. Probiotics may be obtained from the diet by feeding on foods that contain them. Good examples are fermented foods such as yogurt. Probiotic supplements are also available and many people have benefited from using them.
8 Health Benefits of Probiotics
A lot of research has been done on the use of probiotics and it has been established that these bacteria are good for you. The latest research shows that taking probiotics from foods or supplementation can go a long way in making a person healthier. There are very many benefits you stand to gain by swallowing a spoonful of good bacteria a day. Let us look at the benefits of probiotics: A summary of the latest science.
1. Create the Needed Microbiome Balance in the Body
The human body has millions of harmful and harmless bacteria which make up what is known as the microbiome. For harmony to be maintained, the useful bacteria have to be more than the harmful ones. By taking probiotics, you give your body the chance to reclaim itself from infestation by harmful bacteria.
A good balance where the body has more probiotics ensures good overall health and a feeling of well-being.
2. Treat GI Infections
Most of the probiotics found in the body are in the digestive system. Many diseases that affect this part of the body are due to an imbalance in the bacteria population. Many people with digestive tract diseases like IBD, Crohn’s Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis have reported benefiting from the use of probiotics. The commonly used probiotics for GI issues are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Taking these will reduce pain associated with these conditions and accelerate the healing process.
3. Reduce and Stop Diarrhea and Constipation
One of the commonest side effects of antibiotic treatment is diarrhea. It could be because these drugs kill all bacteria including the good ones. Scientific research has shown that 60% of antibiotic-associated diarrhea can be reduced by using probiotics.
Infectious diarrhea can also be treated using probiotics, especially in children. In adults, probiotics reduce the severity and duration of diarrhea. Common probiotics that are used to help with diarrhea include Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus casei.
People who suffer from constipation also benefit from taking probiotics. These supplements have been proven to make stools softer and hence easier to pass. They also increase the number of bowel movements.
4. Improve Vaginal Health
The vagina is an organ with lots of lactobacilli that keep it acidic preventing the overgrowth of harmful organisms. Due to various factors, however, this balance may be altered and infections occur. Birth control pills, dirty/wet underwear and antibiotics can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria causing Vaginosis or an overgrowth of yeast causing Candidiasis. Traditional treatment methods used yogurt to treat such conditions by applying directly to the vagina. Oral intake of yogurt has also been touted to help treat vaginal issues but there is limited evidence on how effective this is.
5. Lower Risk of Heart Disease by Breaking Down Cholesterol
Heart disease occurs when the blood vessels supplying the heart get clogged with cholesterol and are too narrow to supply enough blood. To reduce the risk of this, it is advisable to reduce one’s cholesterol levels. Probiotics help with this.
Probiotics that produce lactic acid break down bile, an important digestion fluid that is almost entirely made of cholesterol. When this cholesterol is broken down in the gut, it is not reabsorbed back into the blood and hence blood cholesterol levels decrease.
6. Boost Immunity
By taking probiotics, you are introducing new substances to the body. These trigger the production of antibodies. Later, these antibodies are useful in fighting related harmful bacteria. Increasing the number of good bacteria in your body is also useful to your immunity. Your body can fight off harmful bacteria easily.
Research has shown that probiotics reduce the risk of urinary tract infection by 50% and the severity of respiratory infections is reduced by 17%. This has been attributed to a boost in the immune system.
7. Good Mood and Mental Health
Though the link between probiotics and mental health is unclear, it has been shown that uptake of probiotics improves anxiety, depression, mood, and memory. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are probiotics that have been associated with better mood and mental health.
8. Reduce Inflammation and Allergies
Intake of probiotics is effective in reducing C reactive protein levels in the blood. This is a protein in blood that serves as a marker of inflammation affecting different parts of the body. By reducing inflammation probiotics help the body in self-healing.
In people who suffer from allergies probiotics reduce the severity of the conditions. The risk of children suffering from Eczema in the first two years of their lives has been proven to be reduced in mothers who take probiotics when they are pregnant.
Where to Find Probiotics
The main and best source of probiotics in food products. Fermented food like kefir, yogurt, kimchi, pickled vegetables, cottage cheese, and miso are perfect sources. You can also purchase commercially available probiotic supplements over the counter. They are available in capsules, powders, and tablets. Be sure to look at the ingredients and only take the recommended doses.
Probiotics are good for you and you should take some. You stand to gain in various aspects of your health ranging from better mental health to improved immunity and reduced severity of infections you suffer from. If you decide that food products are the way to go, take the recommended foods often. If supplementation is what you prefer, consider talking to your health care provider before you start. Probiotics are safe for use by people of all ages but it is best to only take advice from your primary care provider.