Why You Need Probiotics and How to Get Them
What Are Probiotics
Probiotics are living organisms, like bacteria and yeast, that provide numerous health benefits for your gut. They are found naturally in some fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles, or are available as dietary supplements.
The most common probiotics include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Bacillus. Most probiotic microorganisms get their name from their Genus, Species, and Strain. An example would be Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.
Probiotics act primarily in our gastrointestinal tract, where it affects our intestinal microflora. When we consume enough probiotics, we protect our digestive tract from harmful microorganisms and improve digestion. However, probiotics also produce health benefits all over our bodies. Probiotics help reduce digestive symptoms, protect our heart’s vitality, and might have anti-depressive effects.
Human Gastrointestinal Microbiota
The intestinal microbiota is the collection of numerous microbic communities that reside on the digestive linings of an individual, called a host. Each human individual houses approximately 100 billion bacteria from at least 400 different species. This huge biodiversity of species within the intestinal ecosystem facilitates life and the development of both the host and the microbiota. The human intestine is the natural habitat of these bacteria, that have evolved and adapted to live within humans since ages ago, which is why some of them can prosper spontaneously outside of this habitat.
It has three primary functions: nourishment and metabolism, protection from pathogen microorganisms, and trophic traits on cell functionality and assisting the immune system. Thus, when our gut microbiota is disturbed, our body becomes vulnerable to many afflictions, such as being more prone to infections, malabsorption of nutrients, and a weakened defense system. This is where probiotics come in action. Studies have shown that probiotics help restore the balance the gut microflora by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria and fortifies the intestinal barrier.
You can incorporate probiotics into your diet through two pathways: fermented food products and probiotic supplements. However, probiotic supplements are prescribed by physicians to specifically treat certain health conditions, such as eczema, diarrhea, allergies, and oral health. Therefore, it is not advised for everyday use so you must add as many fermented foods as you can.
Fermentation is an old technique used to preserve food. Probiotics are formed through lacto-fermentation. In this process, they incorporate lactobacillus into food items and these bacteria nourish from the sugar and starch available in them, producing lactic acid. It helps preserve the food and adds more nutrients, like B vitamins, enzymes, omega-3 fatty acids, and healthy bacteria.
Yogurt is the most popular food source due to its flavor and texture. Additionally, you can consume as part of your breakfast or as a to-go snack.
Other food sources had no previous probiotic content but were added commercially. These food items include cereals, powdered milk, milkshakes, juices, and protein bars.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Scientists have been studying probiotics to fully determine how they affect our health. At first, it was assumed that its main health properties revolve around the digestive system, but they also provide numerous advantages in other scenarios.
One of the essential functions of probiotics is the prevention and treatment of digestive ailments. Many probiotics strains, such as L. rhamnosus, S. boulardii, Lactococcus lactis, and Streptococcus thermophilus, are efficient in treating acute digestive processes. They help digest the food and compete with pathogen bacteria for nutrients, alter the local pH to create an unfavorable ambiance for harmful organisms, disrupt their growth and reinforces the intestinal barrier. In acute gastroenteritis caused by viruses, they help reduce the symptoms and prevent recurrent episodes. A review made in 2013 evaluated probiotics for the treatment of acute diarrhea in children. It revealed that probiotics were able to diminish stool frequency by 13.1% two days after administering it and did not produce any risk of hospitalization of any of the children.
Currently, major depressive disorder is the main cause of disability worldwide, and scientists are expanding horizons related to alternative treatments. Research has discovered a possible link between our digestive system and its effects on the brain. It is thought that our enteric nervous system (nerves in our digestive system) produces certain chemical and neural substances, such as serotonin, GABA, and glutamate, that influence our mood, concentration, and attention. Studies are currently underway if probiotics can have an anti-depressive effect. Since probiotics help maintain a healthy gut microbiota, they could influence adequate glutamine and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) production, which are known to reduce anxiety and prevent depressive symptoms. However, further investigations are needed.
Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition that affects many children and adults who are skin-sensitive. When exposed to allergens (dust, pollen, etc,), it can cause a rash to appear all over your body and turn your skin coarse and dry. Probiotics are useful in the prevention of atopic disease by diminishing symptoms and even lowering the probability of developing diseases, like asthma and allergic rhinitis. Ninewells Hospital conducted an investigation, where they used probiotics to manage allergy on infants upon birth. They showed a promising capability to prevent the induction of allergic symptoms through the apparent reinforcement of the mucosal barrier and reducing undigested proteins.
Hypercholesterolemia and Cardiovascular Protection
Hypercholesterolemia is the medical term to define high concentrations of cholesterol in the blood. It increases your probability of suffering from cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, stroke, or peripheral arterial disease. This is due to the fact that cholesterol can accumulate in the arterial linings in the form of plaque, transported by LDL (low-density lipoproteins). They reduce the blood flow (oxygen and nutrients) towards all your organs and the flow can be disrupted completely. Studies have revealed that probiotics, particularly lactobacillus and acidophilus, diminish in some quantity total cholesterol levels and LDL.
In India, scientists discovered that probiotics can be utilized as complementary options in hypocholesterolemia. Probiotics were associated with the capability of breaking down cholesterol and disintegrating plaque. Certain strains, like Bacillus coagulans showed data that it could eliminate cholesterol directly from the intestine.
In other words, probiotics are an exceptional discovery in promoting overall health and protecting our body from many diseases and infections.