WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
If you’re not familiar with probiotics or how they can benefit your health, this article may be of some interest to you. In essence, probiotics are live microorganisms that work to increase the “good” bacteria in your gut while lowering the “bad” bacteria.
Probiotics can be found in a wide range of fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi. They can also be consumed as supplements as well. Several studies have shown that the bacteria in our gut plays a significant role when it comes to our digestive health, ability to lose weight, and immune function.
BAD BACTERIA VERSUS GOOD BACTERIA
When most people hear the term bacteria, they often equate it with diseases or other problems that can adversely impact their health. And in most cases, they would be right. However, when it comes to the good bacteria associated with probiotics, the opposite is true. Probiotics work to restore the natural balance bacteria in the gut, making you less susceptible to inflammation, digestive problems, allergies, obesity, and even mental illnesses.
WHY SHOULD YOU TAKE PROBIOTICS?
Having answered the question of what are probiotics, let’s take a closer look at how they can benefit your health:
In addition to improving gut health, lactic acid-producing bacteria in certain strains of probiotics have been shown to lower LDL (low-density lipoproteins), commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol. And the heart health benefits do not stop there as the same lactic acid-producing bacteria has also been shown to lower high blood pressure as well.
According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, this specific strain of probiotics helps break down bile, a naturally occurring fluid that contains cholesterol, in the gut. Bile plays a critical role when it comes to digestion; however, if too much of it makes its way into the bloodstream, it can lead to high cholesterol.
To further illustrate this point, in 5 separate studies where participants consumed probiotic-containing foods for 2 to 8 weeks, many saw a 5 percent decrease in their LDL cholesterol. And those who did not experience a decrease in LDL saw an increase in HDL, which is the good cholesterol that protects against heart disease.
As far as blood pressure is concerned, lactic acid-producing bacteria in probiotics have been shown to only modestly lower high blood pressure. Nonetheless, adding probiotics to your diet while taking diuretics or other blood pressure-lowering medications is a great way to get high blood pressure under control.
One of the most common autoimmune disorders that affect skin health is eczema, a condition characterized by patches of inflamed, itchy, red, cracked, and rough skin. Adding probiotics to your diet not only helps to alleviate these symptoms but also lowers your chances of developing eczema in the first place.
It is important to note that most of the studies detailing the effectiveness of probiotics in treating eczema were conducted on children; however, researchers and scientists involved in these studies are optimistic that adults with the same skin condition could benefit from taking probiotics as well. In addition to skin problems caused by autoimmune disorders, probiotics have also been shown to be effective in reducing the inflammatory response in those who are allergic to the allergens found in many dairy products.
Although antibiotics are effective in resolving bacterial infections, these medications are also known to cause diarrhea. According to some studies, this happens because antibiotics disrupt the gut’s balance of good and bad bacteria. These same studies show that consuming probiotics, either from whole foods or supplements, can reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea by as much as 42 percent.
While probiotics may be a godsend to those struggling with antibiotic-associated diarrhea, these live microorganisms also benefit those with other forms of diarrhea as well. Several studies have revealed that specific strains of probiotics can reduce the risk of experiencing traveler’s diarrhea, for example, by as much as 8 percent.
Furthermore, these same strains of probiotics can reduce diarrhea duration by as much as 25 hours, providing those who are already struggling with the condition some much-needed relief. Lastly, probiotics have been shown to reduce the risk of all forms of diarrhea by 26 percent in adults. It can also reduce all forms of diarrhea in children by as much as 57 percent.
If you’re still not sold on why you should take probiotics, you’re encouraged to continue reading as there are more health benefits to be had.
Not surprisingly, probiotics can also help minimize the symptoms associated with certain digestive disorders, especially those that contain Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains. Studies show that probiotics that contain either of these strains are effective in reducing symptoms synonymous with Crohn’s disease as well as colitis, two of the most common inflammatory bowel diseases in America.
Also worth mentioning, probiotics that contain a particular strain known as E. coli Nissle is reportedly just as effective as prescription-based medication in the treatment of ulcerative colitis. Probiotics that contain these specific strains may also be beneficial to infants, insomuch that they minimize the risk for developing necrotizing enterocolitis, a fatal bowel condition that occurs in premature infants, by as much as 50 percent.
STRONGER IMMUNE SYSTEM
Probiotics can improve the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful bacteria that would otherwise start to grow in the gut. And the benefits do not stop there as probiotics can also trigger an uptick in the production of antibodies, which can help fend off a variety of infections and illnesses.
What’s more, probiotics also strengthen the immune cells associated with mucosal surfaces, which act as the body’s first line of defense when it comes to protecting against infections and diseases. Some of these immune cells include T lymphocytes, IgA-producing cells and, lastly, natural killer cells.
To further put this into context, a large scale study, which consisted of more than 500 children, found that probiotics not only reduced how often children developed respiratory infections but also the severity of those infections as well, typically by 17 percent or more. Also noteworthy, probiotics that contain a specific strain known as Lactobacillus crispatus may reduce the risk of urinary tract infections in women by an astounding 50 percent, according to a study published by the National Institute of Health.
WHY SHOULD YOU TAKE PROBIOTICS FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
Studies show that certain strains of probiotics can prevent the body from absorbing dietary fat in the intestines, which keeps you from packing on more fat while you work toward losing the fat that you already have. In short, probiotics make it possible for dietary fat to be excreted through waste as opposed to staying in the body. Beyond that, the live microorganisms that makeup probiotics also keep you satiated, which means you are less likely to overeat.
BEST PROBIOTIC BRANDS
Having answered the question “what are probiotics” and detailing the many benefits that come with them, let’s take a moment to highlight some of the best probiotic supplement brands currently on the market:
GNC PROBIOTICS ULTRA 25 PROBIOTIC COMPLEX
From of the most trusted names in health and fitness, GNC Probiotics Ultra is a great probiotic supplement for general health and provides the following pros:
- 25 billion live and active cultures
- Relieves constipation, gas, and bloating
- Reduces inflammation
- Increases production of short-chain fatty acids
- Balances gut flora
- Supports better overall health
While GNC Probiotics Ultra is a great all-around probiotic supplement, there are a few downsides worth noting:
- Can be harmful if taken while already ill
- Can be harmful to those with a compromised immune system
- Not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
- May cause stomach pain
- May cause bloating
- May cause dehydration
CULTURELLE DAILY PROBIOTIC
Considered by many as the best-selling probiotic supplement in America, Culturelle Daily Probiotic can improve the health of men and women alike and offers the following pros:
- Contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus to improve digestive health
- Has been shown to boost the immune system
- Protects against gingivitis and gum infections
- Restores a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut
- Soothes urinary tract infection symptoms
- Helps reduce inflammation
Culturelle Daily Probiotic supplements have been linked to the following:
- Gas or bloating
- Breathing problems
- Severe allergic reactions
- Swelling of the tongue, face, or throat
- Chronic coughing
DR. NATURA FLORA PROTECT PROBIOTIC
Natura Flora Protect probiotic contains various strains of probiotics that can benefit your overall health, some of which include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus. And best of all, they cause little to no stomach upset. Additional pros include
- Can help relieve irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis symptoms
- Can soothe irritated skin
- Can strengthen the immune system
- Improve digestive health
- Safe for those who are lactose intolerant
Despite the many benefits associated with Dr. Natura Flora Protect probiotic, there are some drawbacks worth noting, some of which include
- More expensive than other probiotics
- Allergic reactions in those sensitive to soy
Although there are some side effects associated with probiotics, most would argue that they are strongly outweighed by the many health benefits that they provide. It is also worth noting that, depending on your health and dietary needs, some probiotics may be better than others. If you would like to learn more about probiotics or need help choosing from some of the best probiotic brands on the market, you’re encouraged to speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable associates today.