Probiotics are the secret to not just better health and a tougher immune system, but also for healing digestive issues, mental health problems, and neurological conditions. The reason probiotics are so important is that the majority of our immune system lies in our digestive system, which is full of bacteria. While the common interpretation of bacteria is something that causes diseases, our bodies – at any given time – are full of both good and bad bacteria. Probiotic bacteria are considered good because they keep the gut healthy.
It’s extremely important to have a healthy environment in the gut as it is the source where many illnesses originate. Around 40 diseases have been linked to bacterial imbalances including depression, arthritis, and cancer. Ailments like thyroid imbalances, chronic fatigue, joint pain, psoriasis, autism and many other problems faced by people these days are all also linked to unhealthy conditions in the gut.
While being naturally found in the body, probiotics are also available in the form of supplements for those who have unbalanced levels of bacteria in their stomach. Probiotic supplements can only help balance the level of good and bad bacteria in the human body, they also help the body replace the good bacteria that are killed as a side effect of some antibiotics.
There are two main groups of probiotics under which all the different good bacteria are classified.
Lactobacillus – An extremely common probiotic, lactobacillus is found in yogurt and many other fermented foods. Different strains of these bacteria can help people overcome diarrhea and it may also help lactose intolerant people digest lactose.
Bifidobacterium – These bacteria can also be found in some dairy products. It can help individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions.
Essentially, what probiotics do is that they help move the food through the gut and they have been shown to help alleviate inflammatory bowel disease and infectious and antibiotic-related diarrhea.
Some studies have also revealed instances where probiotics have helped people with:
- Keeping urinary and vaginal health
- Preventing cold and allergies
- Helping with skin conditions like eczema
- Maintaining oral health
In the United States, the FDA regulates probiotics as they regulate food items and not as medicine, hence their makers do not have to prove whether their products are safe or effective. Therefore, it’s recommended to consult a professional dietician or a doctor before using them. In general, probiotics are considered safe for most people, except those with serious immunity conditions or other critical diseases.
Although probiotics do not have any harmful side effects, they can initially cause upset stomach, diarrhea, gas, and bloating to some individuals until their bodies get used to it. In very few people they can also cause allergic reactions, in the case of which it’s crucial that one immediately sees a doctor.
There are also other natural ways of taking probiotics other than through supplements. Probiotics can be found naturally in:
- Miso Soup
- Gouda cheese
- Naturally fermented sour pickles
Probiotic food and supplements can also be combined with prebiotic foods. Prebiotic foods do not contain live bacteria like the former, but instead feed the good bacteria that already exist in the gut to make them stronger, giving them the power to fight diseases and build up immunity. Bananas, oatmeal, honey, maple syrup, and legumes are all prebiotic foods. They can be consumed on their own or can be used as an added supplement for the probiotics to give them a boost.