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Are Probiotics Good for You? Are They Really That Great?

Are Probiotics Good for You? Are They Really That Great?
Are Probiotics Good for You? Are They Really That Great?

It’s not uncommon to hear people talking about probiotics recently – especially if they’re trying to boost their health.

How exactly do probiotics work? Do you know why probiotics are good for you?

Make no mistake about it, they really are. There is no doubt that probiotics are crucial to physical (and mental) health, but most people don’t realize this.

It is because we often overlook the gut as an important part of our body.

The Significance of Gut Health

Bacteria make up a large part of the human body. There are many types of bacteria living among us as well, most of which do not pose a significant risk to the human body. However, other bacteria and humans have a mutualistic relationship, meaning both benefit. The digestive tract shows this pattern particularly often.

A person’s gut contains an abundance of bacteria, as well as a variety that is greater than anywhere else in the body.

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In addition, the gut itself plays a key role in health. According to some estimates, approximately 70% of the immune system resides in the gut, so it plays an important role in fighting diseases and allergies.

Gut microbiota and gut flora refer to our gut’s bacterial residents collectively. It is often referred to as the ‘forgotten organ’ due to its functional similarity to an organ.

Our gut bacteria are increasingly shown to play an important role in our health and wellbeing in modern research. As well as disrupting the balance of bacteria with certain food behaviors and decisions, we could potentially increase our risk of getting sick.

While it’s clear that gut flora distribution matters, what are the implications at large?

Each species has a different role to play. Fermentation of dietary fiber is one of their functions, while synthesis of vitamins and other compounds is another.

In addition to encouraging a healthy gut bacteria balance, a range of health benefits have been shown later on.

Are Probiotics Good for You? Are They Really That Great?

Compromised gut flora: causes and consequences

It is also possible for a person’s gut flora to be severely compromised, which can have dramatic consequences on health. It is thought that this could result in an increased risk of disease and a lower immune system function.

Medicine

The use of antibiotics (even if they are often overprescribed) is common for treating many conditions. As a result, the medication damages both healthy and unhealthy bacteria.

Antibiotic treatment often compromises gut bacteria, which will not recover on its own for people who have taken antibiotics.

NSAIDs and other medications may also have an impact on gut bacteria.

Many medications don’t study this effect thoroughly, so we don’t know which will impact the gut bacteria. Taking steps to improve your gut flora may be worth considering if you’re taking any medication for a prolonged period of time.

Choices of food

We may also be affected by certain health conditions if we eat certain foods that harm our gut bacteria. A high-sugar diet and a reliance on processed foods, for instance, can damage bacteria in the gut.

In addition, some research suggests that fatty and sugary diets can alter gut bacteria. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to adapt to changes in a person’s environment. This type of change can result in reduced cognitive flexibility.

Sweeteners with artificial ingredients

Several studies have found that artificial sweeteners may harm gut bacteria, and that overeating may also cause damage if it leads to unhealthy habits.

There are numerous worrying patterns here and all of them point towards lower levels of healthy bacteria than should be present in the body. The majority of natural sweeteners, however, don’t seem to work the same way.

 

The following causes may also contribute

In addition to an unhealthy gut, there are other factors that contribute to it. Although not all of these areas have been thoroughly studied, the following ones provide examples. 

  • During pregnancy or on birth control, hormone levels can rise (e.g., during pregnancy).
  • An extended period of stress is particularly stressful
  • As a result of damp conditions, mold may grow or fungi may grow
  • Excessive exposure to metals toxic
  • Digestion disorders or chronic constipation that slows digestion
  • Constantly eating the same foods
  • Lacking sufficient prebiotics in your diet (short chain fatty acids are among these foods)
  • Alcohol abuse
  • An insufficient amount of physical activity
  • Sleep deprivation

Are Probiotics Good for You? Are They Really That Great?

Possible solutions

Having a healthy gut bacteria balance may help anyone’s health. These findings are especially applicable to individuals with lower-than-normal levels of gut bacteria.

By focusing on a diet that is heavy in whole foods and cooking the majority (if not all) of your meals, you can avoid these problematic issues.

Fruits and vegetables provide prebiotics, which are basically the food that your gut bacteria consume, which play a major role in boosting your gut microbiome.

Probiotics may also be necessary in many cases, and we’ll discuss them a little later.

Exercise more, get more sleep, and reduce your stress levels also help. To put it another way, start with what is crucial to physical health anyway. 

Directions for research

The research on gut microbiome health is still in its infancy, and a lot of the studies are still in the early stages.

There are many different species of bacteria in the gut microbiome, every one of which may have its own implications for health. In addition, gut bacteria distribution varies widely from individual to individual, sometimes dramatically.

Due to this, we are still discovering new information about gut bacteria, as well as how to promote optimal health outcomes. It has been demonstrated, however, that the microbiome plays a significant role in overall health.

Are Probiotics Good for You? Are They Really That Great?

Probiotics: what are they? – Are Probiotics Good for You

Probiotics are strongly related to gut microbiota. FAO and WHO define the term as follows:

When administered adequately, live microorganisms provide the host with health benefits.

Probiotics help to increase the number of beneficial bacteria found in the gut, which in turn boosts the body’s overall health.

Those who have been taking antibiotics or have had their gut flora compromised tend to suffer from such consequences. There are generally two types of probiotics.

Food that contains probiotics

Dietary sources of healthy bacteria make up the first category. Because bacteria are an important component of the fermentation process, fermented foods are healthy for you. Different fermented foods can provide powerful benefits to the gut by promoting a healthy balance of bacteria. They all taste amazing, too.

As an example, probiotic yogurt has been shown in many studies to be beneficial to digestion. It is also common for researchers to conduct probiotic research on yogurt. You can also choose from many healthy varieties of yogurt.

You must, however, pick a yogurt that actually has healthy bacteria, as that’s not always the case. A second consideration is what kind of bacteria are present within a product, since different products differ in what they contain and may contain more than one.

Besides kombucha, which is typically fermented tea (but you can also make it with coffee), a popular option is anaerobic tea. This kit can also be used to make kombucha, which is another very popular drink.

Making kombucha can also be done according to a variety of guides. Kombucha, for example, is discussed in Wellness Mama. Kefir is another type of fermented drink that can be found on Whole Natural Life. 

As well as these options, there are several others. Pickled vegetables and sauerkraut contain probiotics. 

Are Probiotics Good for You? Are They Really That Great?

Supplements containing probiotics

A probiotic supplement can also be classified as a probiotic. Supplements that contain probiotics are often formulated with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, just like yogurt.

There are many types of supplements of this type, such as powders or pills. A good starting point for supplementing with probiotics can be found in this product from Biofit.

Are Probiotics Good for You?
Are Probiotics Good for You?

Food contains more nutrients than supplements in general. There are however some important advantages to taking probiotic supplements. 

  • When you get probiotics, you know it’s good for you. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods, but not all of them will contain bacteria (especially since some commercial products are pasteurized). However, there is no way to know the amount when they do. Supplements, which provide some probiotics, ensure that the probiotic population remains balanced.
  • Specific strains are provided. When you take supplements, you know exactly which strains you’re getting. As each strain has its own health benefits, this is important. The strain of a supplement will depend on what you hope to achieve. Fermented foods can’t be used for this. 
  • Comparing doses is possible. You can also tell how much probiotics are present in probiotic supplements. The CFU measure is used to measure colony expansion. It’s easy to figure out which products are the best when you have this information. 
  • The shelf life of these products is longer. A probiotic supplement lasts longer than fermented foods most of the time. As well as being more practical, they’re often less expensive. 

You can take probiotic supplements to improve your gut health, if nothing else. If you want to keep your gut bacteria healthy, you can turn to probiotic and prebiotic foods. 

Are Probiotics Good for You? Are They Really That Great?

What Are the Benefits of Probiotics?

Gut bacteria is the key to understanding probiotics and health. The purpose of probiotics is to promote the growth of positive bacteria in the gut, resulting in potential health benefits.

As with gut health in general, research is ongoing in this area as well. Nevertheless, probiotics have been shown to improve health. Here are some examples:

  • Diabetes may benefit from probiotics as improved glycemic control and improvement in HbA1c levels have been reported.
  • Another benefit of probiotics is that they can reduce migraine headaches.
  • Taking probiotics at the same time as antibiotics may also help to prevent and treat the diarrhea that antibiotics commonly cause.
  • As well, probiotics can help treat inflammatory bowel diseases and may help fight cancers.

Research hasn’t always agreed, however. Studies have found inconsistent results in relation to anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and HbA1c effects, which underscores the need for more research.

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In addition, there are numerous other potential interactions that have not yet been thoroughly studied.

These patterns strongly suggest that probiotics can promote health, even though we don’t yet know all the mechanisms involved. Furthermore, many probiotics are already beneficial, especially the ones found in food.

Are Probiotics Good for You? Are They Really That Great?

Mental health and probiotics

Mental illness and probiotics are increasingly linked. The gut has been shown to be more prone to permeability in conditions that involve anxiety or depression.

In addition, research has shown that microbiota composition differs between people who suffer from major depressive disorder and those who do not, although cause and effect have yet to be established.

An animal study even concluded that transplanting ‘depression microbiota’ was associated with depression-like symptoms, but not the reverse. Gut bacteria may have a direct effect on depression symptoms, as this pattern strongly suggests.

Mental illness is particularly relevant to what people eat, as there is a link between diet and brain function.

Interestingly, probiotics are also shown to significantly affect brain-gut interactions. There may be a connection between digestive disorders and migraines, which could be the reason why probiotics could also help with migraines.

All of this suggests that probiotics may be able to help reduce some symptoms of depression. There is some evidence that supplements support this theory, but more research needs to be done.

Mental health and probiotics – Are Probiotics Good for You

How to Choose the Right Probiotic?

Researchers are still studying which probiotics are the best.

It is interesting to point out that, in many meta-analyses of the field, bacteria of any type, whether in food or supplements, were included regardless of their types.

Moreover, there is a possibility that the effects of specific probiotics will differ depending on the individual and the condition of the gut microbiome.

Thus, a simple solution may be to take probiotics that contain different strains of bacteria. A diverse gut microbiome has a variety of different functions, and the different bacteria play different roles in the gut. As a result, taking probiotics that contain different types of bacteria has the potential to offer the best overall results.

It is possible to do this by increasing your intake of fermented food and using a probiotic in your diet.

A close attention to your body’s response may also be important. Indeed, our gut flora differs from one another. A product or bacteria strain may offer benefits to some people, but not to others.

Additionally, if someone’s gut microbiome has been damaged, they may benefit more than others.

In the end, some bacteria have been studied more than others, so it may be worthwhile to find specific strains. The website Dr. David Williams recommends five different bacterial strains, including Lactobacillus acidophilus, that he believes are powerful.

It may be beneficial to choose bacteria in this way, especially if the research relates to a health concern you have. It is important to note, however, that most strains have not been analyzed fully.

Thus, the best way is to use a variety of bacteria rather than sticking with one type.

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