What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called "good" or "helpful" bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.
Probiotics are naturally found in your body. You can also find them in some foods and supplements.
It's only been since about the mid-1990s that people have wanted to know more about probiotics and their health benefits. Doctors often suggest them to help with digestive problems. And because of their newfound fame, you can find them in everything from yogurt to chocolate.
How Do They Work?
Researchers are trying to figure out exactly how probiotics work. Here are some of the ways they may keep you healthy:
- When you lose "good" bacteria in your body (like after you take antibiotics, for example), probiotics can help replace them.
- They can help balance your "good" and "bad" bacteria to keep your body working like it should.
Types of Probiotics
Many types of bacteria are classified as probiotics. They all have different benefits, but most come from two groups. Ask your doctor about which might best help you.
Lactobacillus. This may be the most common probiotic. It’s the one you’ll find in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help with people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
Bifidobacterium. You can also find it in some dairy products. It may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions.
What Do They Do?
Probiotics help move food through your gut. Researchers are still trying to figure out which are best for certain health problems. Some common conditions they treat are:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
- Antibiotic-related diarrhea
There is also some research to show they help with problems in other parts of your body. For example, some people say they have helped with:
- Skin conditions, like eczema
- Urinary and vaginal health
- Preventing allergies and colds
- Oral health
- These statistics are staggering, yet poor gut health actually affects much greater numbers than these statistics illustrate. That’s because your digestive health affects every physiological system in your body.
- And the many toxins we’re subjected to today decrease digestive function, affecting our ability to utilize nutrients, rid ourselves of cholesterol, triggering chronic inflammation in the body which is the cause of many chronic conditions and diseases.
- The secret to restoring your digestive health is all about balancing out the good and bad bacteria in your gut. If you are going to be healthy you MUST consider consuming probiotic rich foods and supplements daily.
Your skin and digestive system by themselves host about 2,000 different types of bacteria. Probiotic benefits have been proven effective in supporting immune function and healthy digestion, as well as beautiful skin.
Your good gut bacteria is also responsible for:
- Producing vitamin B-12, butyrate and vitamin K2
- Crowding out bad bacteria, yeast and fungi
- Creating enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria
- Stimulating secretion of IgA and regulatory T Cells
Probiotics have been in our systems right from the moment that we stepped into the world. When a newborn is in the birth canal of the mother during delivery, that’s when the baby is exposed to the bacteria of his or her mother for the first time. This event starts a chain of events inside the baby’s GI tract, and the infant’s GI tract starts to produce good bacteria.
Most people, including children, are in need of a probiotic boost due to the use of prescription medication particularly antibiotics as well as high carbohydrate diets, the consumption of chlorinated and fluoridated water, and conventional foods such as non-organic meat and dairy that contain antibiotic residues. These chemicals kill off probiotics in your system, which over time will damage your digestive tract.2
The Top 7 Probiotic Killers include:
- Prescription Antibiotics
- Tap Water
- GMO Foods
- Emotional Stress
- Chemicals and medications
In order to improve your gut flora balance, make sure to avoid the probiotic killers. We are exposed to many of these foods, toxins and stressors on a daily basis, and if you’re going to restore your digestive health, they must be addressed. If they’re not addressed, your gut micro-organisms become imbalanced and your system can become a breeding ground for bad bacteria, yeast, viruses, fungi and parasites.3
The only way to fix this issue and heal your gut is to eliminate the foods that feed bad bacteria and to start consuming probiotic-rich foods and supplements.
20 Probiotic Benefits Proven by Research
The strongest evidence to date finds that probiotic benefits include:
- boosting immune system
- prevent and treat urinary tract infections
- improve digestive function
- heal inflammatory bowel conditions like IBS4
- manage and prevent eczema in children
- fight food-borne illnesses
New studies underway may soon prove that probiotics can:
- reduce flu and colds
- reduce overuse of antibiotics
- treat kidney stones
- treat colic
- prevent cavities and gum disease
- treat colitis and Crohn’s disease
- combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- treat liver disease
- battle cancer5
- manage autism
- lower cholesterol
- fight bacteria that causes ulcers
- improve acne
- lose weight