Throughout history, civilizations of people have benefited from the use of Probiotics (also known as friendly bacteria and good intestinal flora). They came from fermented foods which was a common way of preserving foods before refrigeration. Some are also naturally manufactured in your body and many are found today in different foods and supplements. Probiotics support life and promote good health.
Probiotics, which translates to ‘pro life’, are living microorganisms in the digestive system that help maintain a healthy system. We’ve all heard of probiotics and know they are good for us, but all the reasons why may surprise you:
First, they help to support normal function of the body. They aid in proper digestion and assimilation of food and help with the synthesis of vitamins and nutrients. They strengthen the mucus lining of the intestines and help it act as a barrier against infection. Friendly bacteria can also promote healthy cholesterol levels, prevent skin conditions such as eczema, and help lessen the severity of allergies. They also support immune health by increasing the number of immune cells and supporting normal cell reproduction.
Second, they work towards prohibiting bad organisms from flourishing. The intestinal tract is home to around 100 trillion microorganisms, but not all of them are friendly. They come from the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Many of these microorganisms are mere nuisances and are hardly noticed. Some can make you feel sick for a few days while others can make you seriously ill. The body can deal with many of these microbes if it is well equipped. Friendly bacteria create lactic acid which balances the ph of the intestines and make it inhospitable to parasites. They also crowd out harmful bacteria, depriving them of nourishment, and thus preventing their growth. Probiotics also destroy the toxins released by ‘bad’ bacteria.
Clostridium is a pathogenic bacteria and is a complication of prolonged or repetitive antibiotic use. Giardia is a parasitic infection that leads to chronic diarrhea. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) adheres to the lining of the stomach causing peptic ulcers. Each of these pathogens can be crowded out and even destroyed by the use of healthy probiotic bacteria.
The body knows naturally how to protect itself from pathogens. When the digestive tract is healthy, it filters out and eliminates things that can damage it, such as harmful bacteria, toxins, chemicals, and other waste products. The body is then more able to take in the nutrients from food and water that it needs, and helps deliver them to the cells where they are needed.
Having a healthy gut helps the immune system protect the body. When the immune system doesn’t function properly, we can suffer from allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders, and infections. The immune system is supported and can function optimally if given the right tools like Probiotics.
Antibiotics, which translate to ‘against life’, effectively kill bacteria in the body. They are prescribed for a number of conditions and do their job well. The problem is that Antibiotics do not distinguish between harmful and beneficial bacteria and thus kill them all. This throws the body off balance and can lead up to a host of problems including diarrhea, candida albicans overgrowth and urinary tract & vaginal yeast infections. Overuse of Anti-biotics can also make some strains of harmful bacteria resistant to the medication and thus harder to kill off. It is very helpful to supplement with probiotics during and especially after Anti-biotic use. Friendly bacteria are important to keeping these harmful organisms from hurting the body.
Under normal circumstances, the ‘good’ bacteria far outnumber the bad, but any shift in the balance of ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ to ‘bad’ bacteria, may affect how well your gastrointestinal tract functions. Birth control pills, anti-biotics, alcohol, prolonged illness, a diet high in sugar, stress and even some herbs like oregano oil, echinacea and goldenseal can deplete the friendly bacterial in the body. For most people this means the good intestinal flora needs to be replenished often, maybe even every day.
There are many probiotic supplements on the market today. A full spectrum combination of several strains can be helpful when the system is depleted or compromised. Single strains can help more for maintenance. Besides supplement form, cultured vegetables, natural sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt (that contains live and active cultures), kefir and kombucha all contain beneficial bacteria.
There are many different types of probiotics. Take a look at some of them and their beneficial uses:
•Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most researched and proven probiotic. It helps prevent harmful bacteria overgrowth in the small intestine. Acidophilus is used to treat diarrhea and leaky gut syndrome and improves the overall health of the GI Tract. It can help overcome lactose intolerance by digesting milk sugars. It can also increase our absorption of calcium and B Vitamins. It enhances immunity and may help decrease allergies. It is very common in yogurt and other fermented foods.
•Lactobacillus gg has extremely good intestinal wall adhesion and is considered a good probiotic for clearing the way for your body’s native friendly bacterial strains. This probiotic is also great for stimulating the immune system and reducing general inflammation. It is found in yogurt and supplement form.
•Lactobacillus bulgaricus is one of the first probiotic strains ever studied. It has a beneficial impact on digestion by decreasing leaky gut symptoms, diarrhea and nausea. It can help improve IBS symptoms, increase immunity and fight viruses.
•Lactobacillus casei inhibits pathogenic bacterial infections. It reduces the occurrence, risk and symptoms of IBS. It also helps with inflammation and reduces allergy symptoms, as well as breaks down nutrients for bioavailability.
•Lactobacillus plantarum strengthens the immune system and helps restore healthy liver enzymes. It reduces the frequency and severity of respiratory diseases during the cold and flu season. It also reduces intestinal permeability making the body more resilient to harmful bacteria, reduces inflammation and aids in healing.
•Lactobacillus reuteri inhibits gingivitis, helps establish healthy ph of the vagina and suppresses H. pylori. It stimulates the immune system and reduces eczema and colic in infancy.
•Bifidobacterium bifidum is the most common probiotic bacteria in your body. It is found in the colon, the lower small intestine and in breast milk. B. Bifidum directly competes with Candida albicans and other yeast overgrowths in our bodies. Candida infections are commonly associated with low concentrations of B. bifidum. Other pathogenic bacteria such as Clostridia, Salmonella and Shigella can be effectively eradicated using B. bifidum.
•Bifidobacterium infantis is one of the first probiotics a mother will pass to her baby. Their primary job is to improve digestion and to fight infection and sickness. B. Infantis accomplishes this by producing large amounts of acid to make our digestive tracts (and the vaginal canal) inhospitable to foreign bacteria and parasites. This improves immune system efficiency and reduces inflammatory allergic responses.
•Bifidobacterium lactis is a very powerful transient probiotic bacteria. It inhabits the intestines and the colon in great numbers. Generally, its job is to break down body waste & help with the absorption of various vitamins and minerals. This makes digestion more efficient and reduces digestive disturbances. It is present in raw milk and is used as a starter culture for cheese, cottage cheese and buttermilk.
•Bifidobacterium longum is very abundant in the large intestine. It plays a role in preventing the colonization of invading pathogenic bacteria by lowering the intestinal pH. It has also been found to reduce the frequency of gastrointestinal disorders (diarrhea, nausea, etc.) during antibiotic use.
•Enterococcus faecium is a natural resident of the intestinal tract. It has shown some resistance to a variety of antibiotics. It is effective in shortening the duration of diarrhea and helps lower LDL cholesterol.
•Streptococcus thermophilus may have a positive effect on intestinal ulcers by prohibiting H. pylori bacteria. It decreases colitis, leaky gut and IBS symptoms. This probiotic strain produces lactase, which helps people digest milk more efficiently. It also increases HDL (good cholesterol).
In conclusion, Probiotics are very beneficial for the health of the entire system. They help keep the body in balance, providing the necessary tools for optimum health as well as keeping harmful organisms from taking over. Everyone may benefit from increasing their consumption of Probiotics.
For more information on how to have a healthy digestive system, read this blog on the GI Tract, Mood, and Gut Health.<< read less