"Probiotics" is a word you often hear talked about in commercials or you could see it on a food label. Recently, many food products claim to have probiotics. Well, Probiotics is a type of "good" bacteria. It may be difficult to accept the idea that bacteria can actually be good for your health but it’s true. Research shows that probiotics offer a range of health benefits. Despite the biased portrayal of bacteria in advertisements, not all bacteria are harmful to your body.
What is a Probiotic?
Probiotics are gram-positive or good bacteria that are beneficial for your health. We have a common perception that bacteria make us ill. However, you will be surprised to learn that our intestines house bacteria. They help with digestion, some produce vitamins and others kill harmful microorganisms that live in our body.
Like these microorganisms, probiotics help maintain the balance between good and bad bacteria. The level of good bacteria in your system can deplete if you contract an illness. The best sources of probiotics are supplements available in local markets. You can also include natural foods in your diet that contain probiotics, such as yogurt and pickles.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
According to experts, probiotics promote a healthy immune system and a healthy digestive tract.
A healthy digestive system treats harmful bacteria, chemicals, toxins, and prevents damage to health. Therefore, your digestive system should maintain a balance between good and bad bacteria to function properly.
However, eating unhealthy food, taking a lot of stress, lack of sleep, overuse of medication, and an unpleasant environment can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your system.
In this case, probiotics are beneficial for treating various digestive infections including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, gut transit, and abdominal pain. In addition, if you’re suffering from diarrhea, probiotics can treat and reduce its severity.
Strengthens the Immune System
A healthy immune system protects your body from harmful microorganisms while a weak immune mechanism can put you at greater risk for severe illness. A weak immune system can cause autoimmune disorders, allergic reactions, and bacterial and viral infections.
In such conditions, probiotics are helpful in reducing the severity of the symptoms as they produce more antibodies and immune cells in your body. Scientific evidence reveals that an adequate intake of probiotics decreases the intensity and frequency of respiratory infections. Moreover, consuming probiotics reduces the risk of UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) in women by 50%.
Some other potential benefits of probiotics are:
Helps You Lose Weight
An unhealthy gut not only affects your digestive system but it also restrains your body to lose fats. Therefore taking probiotics will make your gut healthier and prevent fat storage in the intestine. In other words, probiotics enable you to burn more calories while reducing fat storage by increasing the level of certain hormones, such as GLP.
Probiotics also reduce belly fat, which you then excrete through feces. However, it’s important to look for only probiotics that help in weight loss because certain probiotics, such as L. acidophilus, can eventually result in weight gain.
Good for Mental Health
Today, a large part of the population is dealing with depression, anxiety, and mental stress. If you are one of them, probiotics will help you to cure these disorders. Researchers suggest that probiotic supplements containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium help in curbing the risk of depression, anxiety, autism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
As per a study on 70 workers from the chemical industry, participants who consumed 100 grams of probiotic yogurt or took a probiotic capsule for 6 weeks observed significant improvement in their health. Probiotic supplements not only help treat depression but also reduce C-reactive protein levels and hormones, such as insulin.
Reduces Cholesterol Level
Is your cholesterol above border-line? If yes, you should immediately take measures to prevent the risk of heart disease. Studies suggest that some probiotics can help in decreasing cholesterol levels, specifically Lactobacillus acidophilus. Many researchers confirm that the combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and prebiotics can increase HDL cholesterol and reduce blood sugar in your body.
Treats Irritable Bowel Syndrome
A bad diet can lead to numerous infections such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The symptoms include intense pain in the abdomen, bloating, and unusual bowel movements. Research states that certain bacteria in the intestines cause IBS. Yet studies are underway to determine whether probiotics can be helpful for treating the condition.
According to a study, 60 people suffering from IBS took probiotics and Lactobacillus acidophilus for 2 months. The result indicated improvement in bloating and reduction in abdominal pain.
If you are going through IBS, eat yogurt or choose a probiotic supplement that is scientifically proven.
Reduces Allergy Symptoms
Allergies, such as itchy eyes or a runny nose are more common these days. But you can possibly prevent these ailments through probiotics. Scientific evidence proves that taking probiotics in combination with Lactobacillus acidophilus can prevent or reduce the effectiveness of some allergies.
Other than this, probiotics can help you reduce the symptoms of perennial allergic rhinitis. It also minimizes the presence of antibodies in your body that causes these allergies.
Side Effects of Probiotics
Your current health status determines whether you can take probiotics or not. If you have a good health and a strong immune system, you may experience minimal side effects of probiotics. But if you have weak immune system and are prone to diseases, you may face severe side effects. Furthermore, if you underwent surgery recently, you must consult your doctor before taking any probiotic supplements.
Probiotics can be good for your ‘health’ but they are not good for ‘everyone’. There is still on-going research on the benefits of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and there are still a lot of factors that are unknown.
Probiotic supplements and probiotic foods are generally considered safe to consume. However, you may experience minor side effects when you start taking them. In case, if you face continuous health issues stop your probiotic intake and consult your doctor without delay.