Digestion may seem like a simple process of assimilating and breaking down food. When you’re feeling well, you don’t think much of it and eating is enjoyable. However, tummy aches and gas are symptoms of ingesting bacteria that is not good for your gut health.
Fortunately, the occasional tummy ache may be relieved, but did you know that your digestive system dictates more than just gut health? In fact, research is showing that obesity, immune system disorders, mental illness, and other ailments are linked to digestive health.
With the hustle and bustle of modern life, prepackaged and processed foods are a convenience for most people. Unfortunately, they infect the gut with harmful bacteria that affects overall health. The good news is that probiotics have powerful health benefits that assist beyond digesting.
What are Probiotics?
Your gastrointestinal system is a very complex ecosystem. Continuous interaction occurs between nutrients, host cells, and microorganisms. Found naturally in your body, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are helpful for keeping your gut healthy. They are considered “good or “friendly” bacteria.
However, probiotics aren’t just your gut friends. According to the National Institute for Health (NIH), they also help your body by fighting off pathogens (bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms) that cause disease. After all, approximately 90 percent of your body’s genetic material is owned by bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms that compose your microflora.
While probiotics are naturally found in your body, modern life may upset your microflora balance which in turn causes illness. Diet, stress, and pollution are some of the factors that influence your microflora.
Some fermented foods that contain active live cultures – such as sauerkraut, kimchi, sour pickles, and some yogurts – help replenish your body with probiotics. However, probiotic supplements provide millions and sometimes billions of active live cultures that protect your body.
The Powerful Health Benefits of Probiotics
In recent years, over 200 research studies have proven probiotics to have powerful health benefits for more than 175 ailments. According to a study published in Frontiers of Microbiology, these tiny microorganisms are crucial for proper immune function. They help alleviate inflammatory gut disorders, discriminate between beneficial and pathogenic bacteria, and much more. While current studies prove promising for preventing and treating chronic illnesses, probiotics have already been determined to show powerful health benefits for general wellness:
- Immune Health. Numerous studies have demonstrated probiotics’ main function to stimulate immune response. By maintaining good intestinal flora, through the use of probiotics, immune cells are increased which help fight off pathogens. Therefore, you may want to add a good probiotic supplement to your daily regimen if you’ve been feeling down and out via colds, flu, or general sickness.
- Gastrointestinal Health. By creating fuel for cells that line the gastrointestinal tract, microflora improves gut barrier function. Without this fuel, the cells die off which causes a leaky gut – a condition that leads to many health problems. Food sensitivities frequently develop with a leaky gut that cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory disease. Probiotics may help relieve symptoms.
- Urinary Health. Infections of the urinary tract are common in women, as well as for those who are treated with antibiotics. Shorter urethras place women at higher risk than men for infections, as bad bacteria can reach the bladder more easily. Those who take antibiotics are also at higher risk as medication destroys the good gut bacteria. Probiotics may restore microbiota in the urinary tract, as well as prevent urinary tract infections in those who take antibiotics.
- Women’s Health. Women may suffer from occasional pH imbalances which contribute to vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to these types of infections due to hormonal imbalances. Because there is a close correlation between the losses of the normal genital microbiota in women, probiotics are especially helpful in restoring flora.
- Cholesterol Health. New studies, such as presented in Baltimore’s Medicine journal demonstrates the efficacy for cholesterol lowering – particularly with total and LDL cholesterol concentrations.
- Metabolism Health. Thirty percent of the inactive thyroid hormone (thyroxine) is converted to the active form (T3) by microflora to help boost metabolism. If you’re experiencing symptoms of a sluggish metabolism, then you may want to add a quality probiotic to optimize your thyroid.
- Healthy Weight. Research has determined that abnormalities of gut microbes exist in those who are overweight and obese. Treatment with probiotics has a vast range of beneficial biochemical effects that correct gut irregularities. This makes it easier for a person to lose weight and get well.
- Better Energy Levels. While food sources provide your body with energy, anything that improves your digestive system theoretically improves the ability to supply your body with energy. And, for every two minutes of energy your body creates, your microflora produces six seconds of it. That’s a 10 percent boost that probiotics may help with.
- Mood Improvement. Your happy, feel good hormones called “serotonin” rely on B vitamins which are also energy nutrients. They are synthesized by your microflora. So, if you want to balance your moods for the better, probiotics can help.
Do You Need to Supplement with Probiotics?
Probiotics are crucial to your health as they boost your immunity and keep you feeling great. It’s important to realize that your gut bacteria are vulnerable to many lifestyle and environmental factors. Prepackaged, processed, and refined foods put a person’s gut at risk due to sugar, unnatural additives, and agricultural pesticides. Antibiotics also disrupt gut health. If any of these factors affect you, then supplementing with probiotics is crucial for protecting your health.