What we eat says a lot about our health. Even if the negative effects of an unhealthy diet are not immediately visible, it represents a danger to our health. Therefore, we need to take care of what we eat and adopt a healthy lifestyle. The best way we can do this is to choose as many healthy foods as possible, rich in vitamins, minerals and all that our body needs, including probiotics, which remains the star ingredients from many nutritional supplements.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that play an essential role in your body and maintain a healthy digestive system, as well as a strong overall health. We need “good” bacteria to balance with the “bad” bacteria and yeast in our digestive system. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), probiotics are live microorganisms that are “similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut”.
The number of friendly bacteria found in our gut is impressive, because there are as many gut bacteria molecules as there are cells in the entire body. We have about 2,000 different types of bacteria only in our skin and digestive system alone.
The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) had reexamined the concept of probiotics in 2013 and established that probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. They also make a difference between products that contain probiotics and those consisting of live or active cultures.
Our body has both good and bad bacteria. In order to maintain a proper overall health, it is essential to keep a correct balance between these bacteria. Unfortunately, different factors, such as genetics, age and diet could influence the composition of the bacteria in our body, which can create an imbalance, called dysbiosis. An imbalance between good and harmful bacteria can cause different health problems, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.
What is the role of prebiotics?
If probiotics are friendly bacteria that support digestive health, prebiotics come and help them to be more effective. By their synergistic effect, can offer multiple benefits, including alleviating gastrointestinal complications, such as constipation, irritable bowel disease and enteritis. Being a nondigestible carbohydrate, it acts as food for probiotic and bacteria present in our gut. Therefore, it stimulates the growth of the friendly bacteria that offer us important therapeutic benefits.
Because most of the identified prebiotics are oligosaccharides, they survive the upper digestive system and remain undigested. Once they arrive in the lower colon, they get fermented and produce short-chain fatty acids which are an excellent food for the probiotics.
Sources of prebiotics
We can use synthesized prebiotics we get them from natural sources, such as asparagus, bamboo shoots, barley, chicory, banana, artichoke, leeks, honey, garlic, milk, onion, soybean, sugar beet, tomato, wheat and yacon. All these foods are natural sources of prebiotics, but contain also other important ingredients that have therapeutic effects.
If you want to use a natural source of probiotics, try raw cheese, which contains thermophillus, bifidus, bulgaricus and acidophilus. Eat only raw and unpasteurized cheese if you want to get all these probiotics. You can also try apple cider vinegar, which can provide probiotics and is well-known for its amazing effects. Whether you drink a teaspoon a day or you add it to your salad, it will do the trick.
Do you enjoy eating traditional Japanese Food? Then you are familiar with Miso – a spice used in many of their traditional foods, made of fermented soybean, brown rice or barley with koji. Not only that foods containing it are a culinary delight, but it is also an excellent source of probiotics.
When we want to provide your body with useful probiotics, we can go for dietary supplements that contain probiotic strains that our digestive system needs or we can include in our diet natural sources of friendly bacteria. Generally, fermented foods are excellent sources of probiotics, such as fermented pickles and naturally fermented sauerkraut. Yogurt, whether it is organic dairy or non-dairy should not be avoided, as well as kefir, coconut water kefir or organic dairy kefir, which is not only extremely healthy, but delicious, too.
If you prefer supplements, keep in mind that they vary from the quantity of CFU, which is colony forming units, the strains of bacteria and form. Before deciding which product to choose, take your time to make a rigorous research and check if the producer has Good Manufacturing Practices. All this information help you make the best choice and choose the best product.
The benefits of probiotics
Probiotics have so many benefits to offer that we can notice them in the digestive system, as well as in the whole organism. Adding more probiotic foods into our diet boosts the immune system, improves digestion, increases energy due to the production of vitamin B12 and improves breathing because it destroys candida. The benefits of probiotics go so far that helps reduce bodyweight, as some scientists believe. The probiotics Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis could lead to weight loss.
Improving digestive functions is one of the most important health benefit of probiotics. Specialists recommend eating foods rich in friendly bacteria and taking probiotic supplements in order to offer protection from inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Probiotics are also effective against antibiotic-associated diarrhea, acute diarrhea and traveler’s diarrhea.
Specialists recommend their use to increase the effectiveness of antibiotics and reduce antibiotic resistance. Nevertheless, we can use probiotics supplements to support skin’s health and reduce inflammation. Moreover, they reduce systematic inflammation, which is the cause of many health problems.
People with depression and anxiety can also benefit from probiotics, especially from the strains Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum. If you want to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels, as well as blood pressure, there are several probiotics that can be used, to offer the desired therapeutic benefits.
There are different major studies and two meta-analyses that showed the effects of probiotics in preventing and improving diabetes. Because they improve insulin diabetes and decrease the autoimmune response in diabetes, are helpful in preventing the complications of diabetes, such as lowering blood sugar and high pressure levels.
Another important benefit of taking probiotics is their effect of improving non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which affects 80 to 100 million people in U.S only. There are many other benefits of probiotics that are not completely proven. According to preliminary research, some strains of probiotics can prevent or stop the growth of bladder and colorectal cancers.
Future studies will prove other important benefits of probiotics for the entire body. The information we know so far are conclusive enough to be used with confidence to support the health of the body.
Types of probiotics
There are many types of probiotics strains with important therapeutic benefits to our health. Used alone or combined, they promote a healthy gut, which is considered the key to a good overall health.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is a probiotic strain that reduces bad cholesterol, being more effective than other types of probiotics. It can prevent and reduce diarrhea associated with different diseases, including the traveler diarrhea and it is more effective when combined with another probiotic. For people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, Lactobacillus acidophilus can also help, by improving bloating and reducing pain.
Women that suffer from vaginal infections can use Lactobacillus to stop the growth of harmful bacteria. It is recommended for both preventing and stopping vaginal infections. Also, it has a good influence on bodyweight and improving digestion. It reduces runny nose, nasal blocking and other symptoms associated with pollen allergy, but also can reduce cold, whether it is on its own or in combination with other probiotics.
Lactobacillus reuteri is one of the most well-known probiotic strains, with plenty of benefits for our health. One of its major benefits is the anti-inflammatory property, reducing the whole-body inflammation, which is important for treating different diseases. A Canadian study shows that this probiotic increases blood levels of vitamin D3 by 25.5%. A study published in 2014 in the PLoS One journal shows there is a connection between Lactobacillus reuteri and testosterone. Therefore, it boosts levels of testosterone and improves sex drive.
Other benefits of this probiotic include: improves hair quality, stimulates follicle development, supports thyroid health, promotes weight loss and improves oral health. Due to these benefits, Lactobacillus reuteri is an important aid to a healthy body.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast probiotic that is effective in preventing and treating diarrhea caused by the use of antibiotics, as well as traveler’s diarrhea. Using it also helps to prevent the reoccurrence of C. difficile, to treat acne and reduces the side effects of treatment for Helicobacter pylori.
There are many species of bifidobacteria and are responsible for the health of the colon. The most used bidifobacteria as probiotics are Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium breve, bifidobacterium infantis and Bifidobacterium pseudolongum. Using these probiotics improves blood, lipids and glucose tolerance, reduces the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, such as pain, bloating and abdominal discomfort, promoting a healthy digestive system.
Bifidobacterium bifidum, for instance, restores intestinal bacteria after chemotherapy and could improve different health problems, such as lung infections, ulcerative colitis, specific types of diarrhea, constipation, infection of Helicobacter pylori, irritable bowel syndrome.
The name Streptococcus thermophiles makes us think to the cause of a disease and not to recovery, but it is a probiotic extremely helpful to our health. It improves lactose digestion and reduces the symptoms of lactose intolerance, stimulates the immune system, has anti-inflammatory effects, treat diarrhea associated with the use of antibiotics and stimulates the growth of other probiotics. Therefore, it is used in the production of yogurt with Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus.
People can use it for so many reasons, including for improving skin condition and prevent cancer. Further studies are needed to prove the multiple therapeutic effects of this probiotic strain.
Along with the use of probiotic supplements and the consumption of foods rich in friendly bacteria, it is important to avoid probiotic killers. These are different factors that interact with probiotic and reduce their effectiveness.
For allowing probiotics to work for our health, it is best to reduce the use of certain medications, as well as quit smoking, reduce the consumption of alcohol with the exception of red wine, avoid a sedentary lifestyle, avoid inflammatory gluten, as well as GMO foods and try to reduce emotional stress. Other probiotic killers are poor sleep habits and over-sanitation. Avoiding all these factors will boost the health of your digestive system and the balance between the good and the bad bacteria.
What are the side effects of probiotics?
Probiotics are safe to take for most people and well tolerated. Because of their action, you may experience few side effects in the first days of administration, which are related to digestion. These side effects include mild abdominal discomfort, gas, bloating. After the first days, you’ll notice the effects of probiotics on improving your digestion.
It is recommended to consult your physician before taking probiotics if you have a certain medical condition.
Even though more research is needed until will be able to find out all there is to know about probiotics, the information known so far proves that probiotics are an excellent aid for a healthy gut and a strong overall health. There is a type of probiotic that works effectively on most of the health problems the modern men face nowadays. That is why more and more specialists recommend them, not just as a protector when administering antibiotics, but to improve and prevent various medical conditions. Whether you have a skin condition, you suffer from constipation, you want to lose weight or you just want to improve digestion, there is a probiotic that could work for you and offer you good results.
If a healthy gut is key to support overall health, probiotics are the key to a healthy gut!