We often think of bacteria as something that causes sickness or disease; however, our bodies are full of both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are often referred to as “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy. While probiotics naturally reside in the healthy human gastrointestinal tract, there are many supplements and foods that contain them as well. Probiotics play a major role in helping to keep your gut healthy and can be used as natural pharmaceutical agents in preventing various diseases.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial organisms that have been a part of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diet for thousands of years. Probiotics function through several interrelated mechanisms to promote health at the molecular level. They overcome potentially dangerous organisms in the intestines, which reduces the risk of infection or toxin-mediated diseases. Probiotics also suppress excessive inflammation and help regulate immune responses. They also help promote the function of the intestinal inner lining, which enhances its ability to defend against dangerous organisms and chemicals. Inflammation in the intestines creates a pathway for the immune system to carry out an attack against invading viruses and bacteria. However, when inflammation is present but not needed, illnesses such as allergies, flu, and chronic infections can occur. Antibiotics can wipe out both good and bad bacteria in the gut, disturbing the normal intestinal balance and resulting in diarrhea in as many as 30% of people receiving treatment. Probiotics can replenish your friendly bacteria on a daily basis before your digestive system is upset by a longstanding microbial imbalance. Probiotics will help treat conditions such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Infectious diarrhea, and antibiotic-related diarrhea.
In general, probiotics help balance your good and bad bacteria in order to keep your body working properly.
Probiotics and the Immune System
The gastrointestinal tract plays a major role in modulating the immune system. The intestinal immune system produces more antibodies than the rest of the body put together, which makes sense when you consider the fact that 70-80% of the immune system resides in the gut. Probiotics can help restore and balance your gut microbiome, which strengthens its ability to interact with your immune system. A probiotic known as bifidobacteria has been shown to protect humans against inflammation, infection, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Overall, probiotics help increase your immunity to disease and help defend against many dangerous organisms that reside in your body.
Which Probiotics Do You Choose?
If certain gut bacteria promote good health, it makes sense to eat a diet rich in the nutrients that make those microbes happy. That’s the concept behind probiotics, which include several kinds of soluble plant fiber that are abundant in foods like onions, garlic, and leeks. Probiotics appear to promote the growth of good bugs that fight gut invaders like salmonella. Probiotic supplements are plentiful on store shelves, should you take them? We recommend reaching out to your local Doctor to find out which probiotics you should consider. Be aware that makers of dietary supplements containing probiotics generally don’t have to prove that their products are safe or effective. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have to approve food or supplement labels, and many don’t specify which strain is being used, though you might be more likely to find that info on supplement packages than on foods. You should be sure you are using a reputable, good source of probiotics, otherwise, you may be not getting the health benefits you are looking for. Additionally, I like to use a combination of PreBiotic (gives the food for the probiotic to set up its “home” in your gut), Probiotic and Digestive Enzyme to really increase the functioning of this very important system in our body.
The Takeaway: The Importance of Probiotics
If you are interested in learning more about probiotics, schedule an appointment at SHIN Wellness as they can answer any questions you may have about the role quality of probiotics play in the body.