The Benefit of Probiotics for Your Gut Health
Growing up, we learn that bacteria are harmful. To always wash our hands, scrub all the kitchen surfaces, and to cover our mouths when sneezing or coughing. Yes, this is bad bacteria; however, not all bacteria is bad! Our bodies need "good" bacteria to function properly and keep our organs running in tip-top shape.
So what is the difference between good and bad bacteria? How do we make sure that we have the good bacteria that are needed and are limiting the harmful bacteria that we have always been told to get rid of? The answer to many of these questions, and even the solution, is probiotics!
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that our body needs to keep it properly functioning. Your body is made up of both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are considered "good" bacteria due to their properties that help keep your gut healthy, your digestive system regulated, and to fight off harmful bacteria. When you have a build-up of bad bacteria, your body will feel sluggish and even ill. Probiotics help to restore balance, making you feel better.
The good bacteria helps to protect you from harmful bacteria and fungi, sends positive signals to your immune system to regulate inflammation, and can form vitamin K and short-chain fatty acids. These short-chain fatty acids are the primary nutrients for cells lining the colon. They promote a healthy gut barrier that helps keep harmful substances, viruses, and bad bacteria out.
Probiotics are one type of bacteria that makes up the human body. These good bacteria, along with other kinds of organisms, are part of the family of the microbiome in the human body. The microbiome is a diverse community of organisms that work together to keep you healthy. These many organisms are called microbes.
There are trillions of microbes that reside in the human body and are a combination of bacteria, fungi (including yeasts), viruses, and protozoa. Everyone's microbiome is unique (even twins), and not everyone needs the the same amount of probiotics.
What is the Difference Between Probiotics & Prebiotics?
You will often hear the word "prebiotics" used when talking about probiotics. So what are prebiotics and what do they have to do with probiotics?
Prebiotics are food for good bacteria, also known as probiotics, while probiotics are the beneficial bacteria themselves. Prebiotics come from carbs (mostly fiber) that the human body cannot digest. The beneficial bacteria, probiotics, eat this fiber.
The gut bacteria, also known as the microbiome or nickname "gut flora,” performs many essential functions for the human body. Consuming a balanced amount of both pre- and probiotics can help ensure that you have the right balance of bacteria, which in return, improves your health.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
There are numerous health benefits relating to probiotics. The good bacteria not only keeps you healthy by supporting your immune system but also helps control inflammation. Good bacteria have also been known to help your body digest food, keep harmful bacteria in-check, create vitamins that your body needs, support the cells that line your gut, preventing harmful bacteria from entering your blood and keeping your gut healthy, and to breakdown and absorb medications easier.
Some other health benefits that form due to a healthy immune system and gut include:
- Help to Prevent and Treat Diarrhea
- Improved Mental Health
- Reduced Allergy & Eczema Symptoms
- Lose of Weight & Belly Fat
How to Include Probiotics into Your Daily Routine
You can find probiotics in certain foods and supplements such as:
- Cottage cheese
- Fermented pickles
- Fermented sauerkraut
- Miso soup
Or try supplements in the form of capsules or pills, powders, or even drinks and other liquids.
Probiotics not only help keep the body functioning properly and our organs running in tip-top shape but as you read, there are many other benefits to incorporating probiotics into your daily routine.
Commonly Asked Questions
What foods are high in probiotics?
The best probiotic-rich foods include kefir, traditional yogurt, tempeh, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut, dark chocolate and green olives, among others.
What are probiotics good for?
Probiotics restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut (including your stomach and intestines) when its been disrupted by an illness, treatment, or natural imbalance.
What vegetables have probiotics?
Vegetables in the allium plant family are excellent sources of prebiotic nourishment for probiotic organisms. These vegetables include raw garlic, raw onion, and raw leeks. Raw garlic and cooked or raw onions and leeks add flavor to food, as well as providing support for probiotics bacteria.
Are there people who should not use probiotics?
Some people should not use probiotics. People that have pancreatic dysfunction, people that have just had cardiac surgery, people who have compromised immune systems, and people who have blood in their stool should not use probiotics without first speaking with their health care provider to make sure that they will be safe.