Probiotics have become somewhat of a buzzword, in recent years, due to it being promoted more and more by clinical doctors. Supplements have been established for quite some time as a method to replenish nutrients in the body or to boost health. Probiotics are a particular class of supplements that have garnered focus fairly recently because as they are a fundamental way to support overall well-being. Maintaining a proper gut environment is very important and has been linked to weight loss, stronger immune system function, mental health, and a lowered risk of diabetes.
There are many forms of bacteria in our digestive systems, and though we’ve long considered bacteria as a bad thing, there are some that are good for us. Probiotics is the term that describes the good bacteria in our systems. As the name suggests, probiotcs are the opposite of antibiotics. We take probiotics to stay healthy where as antibiotics are used to recover when we’re ill.
The key to reaching optimal health is maintaining the right ratio of good to bad bacteria in the gut, many researchers suggest a balance of 80/20. There are about 500 varieties of probiotics that live in the gut, but unfortunately many of them can be damaged or destroyed fairly easily. These probiotics can be damaged or destroyed by illness, bad diets, and even lifestyle. The typical recommendation is to take a probiotic daily to maintaine a healthy balance because at this time there isn’t an effective way to accurately measure the concentration of each variety of bacteria.
Probiotics occur naturally in a wide range of foods, fermented or pickled products and yogurt with live active cultures in particular. Due to the sporadic amount found naturally, supplements are often used even in addition to food in order to provide a more concentrated dosage.
Probiotics are available on the market in a wide range of various types but the two basic and most common types are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most common type of probiotic, it is often added to food products and commonly found in retail stores. Acidophilus has been studied extensively showing to affect many functions in the body, including reducing the symptoms of lactose intolerance, treating IBS, aiding in digestion, preventing (even curing) vaginitis, and preventing yeast infections. Some varieties of Lactobacillus can perform better in specific tasks than others, for example: Casei can live in environments that range widely on the pH scale allowing it to help reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG supplements have shown to be the most effective at shortening the duration of “traveler’s diarrhea”.
Bifidobacterium is a vital strain of probiotics because it provides barrier protection throughout the digestive tract. Bifidobacterium supports a healthy digestive system, certain strains may boost the immune system and therefore aid in treating specific conditions such as leaky gut syndrome.
Bifidobacterium longum can survive in high levels of gastric acid making them an important probiotic for immune support. Bifidobacterium breve can break down foods into lactic and acetic acids. Bifidobacterium infantis supports stomach health, digestion, metabolism, and overall well-being.
Bifidobacterium levels naturally decrease as you age, supplementation may be more important as you get older. Speak to your medical professional about beginning any probiotic regimen to ensure you can do so safely and also to review which type of probiotics may suit your needs best.
Probiotics can deliver a number of benefits when ingested on a regular basis. With properly balanced gut bacteria levels some of the following health benefits could occur:
It is extremely unlikely to experience side effects from the usage of probiotics, however, people with specific health issues should talk to their health professional before starting. These health issues are as follows:
In these situations, manipulating gut bacteria could potentially lead to some serious health issues. On the other hand, healthy individuals might experience temporary diarrhea during the initial week or two while your body adjusts.
In addition to probiotic supplements, you may want to consider adding probiotic-rich foods to your diet. You could effectively double your dose of good bacteria by combining supplements with naturally probiotic foods. Some foods to consider are as such:
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