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Probiotics 101: Everything You Need To Know About Friendly Bacteria

Posted by Brad Dennis, Ph.D. on

Probiotics 101: Everything You Need To Know About Friendly Bacteria

Being the single most important thing in our bodies that we greatly neglect, a healthy gut needs a balance of bacteria to keep us fit and strong. It may sound odd, but these microorganisms are what brings balance to our immune system. Not all bacteria are bad, however surprising that might be.

In fact, these friendly microorganisms are responsible for our digestion as well and are linked to uncountable health benefits and improved gut health. But conversely, a shortage of them puts our gut health in jeopardy, thus impairing both our digestive and immune system.

Luckily, probiotics are there to prevent that.

Here’s everything you need to know about how they work, where to find, how to choose, and how to take them, plus reasons to take probiotics and make them part of your healthy routine.

What Are Probiotics?

In plain words, probiotics are healthy microorganisms of the same or similar structure and effect as the bacteria that reside in the human gut.  Probiotics refers to bacteria but not the same ones as the bacteria in our guts.  They are bacteria that we add to our diets with foods or supplements.  Be careful not to confuse them for prebiotics which are dietary fibers that feed the gut bacteria.

Where Can You Find Them?

Most commonly, probiotics are taken in the form of nutritional supplements – pills, liquids or powders – but can also be found in certain types of foods.  Widely used natural sources of probiotics are yogurt, kefir, pickles, and some types of cheese (specifically, gouda, mozzarella, and cheddar), though sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, natto, miso, and tempeh are all made through bacterial fragmentation and thus include these friendly microorganisms as well.

Are All Probiotic Supplements the Same?

It’s important to note that not all probiotics are the same. Like almost every other microorganism, they come in different species and strains and consequently provide different health benefits.  For that reason, you should never choose a probiotic supplement on your own, but consult a medical specialist instead. Some supplements, however, include various kinds of probiotics and are therefore marketed as multi-probiotics or broad-spectrum probiotics.

Why Are They Important?

Unfortunately, our modern ways have robbed our bodies of many natural elements, with gut flora being one of the usual sufferers. When functioning properly, gut flora produces vitamins, performs metabolic functions and stimulates the immune system. This is ensured by good bacteria, but only if their number outweighs the number of bad microorganisms that are part of the gut flora as well.  But, once damaged by poor dietary habits, good bacteria that shares room with viruses and yeasts in the large intestine and colon needs to be supported to get back in optimal balance.  Probiotics help gut health to retrieve its impaired balance and function in harmony with the rest of the body.

What Is Their Connection To Antibiotics?

For every antibiotic that enters your body, doctors claim, there’s a probiotic to help the body adjust. Though unparalleled in curing bacterial infections, antibiotics can wreak havoc on your digestive system and gut health, especially when used for a long period of time.  That’s because these little helpers destroy plenty of healthy bacteria in the process, thus leaving the gut flora to bad guys for the taking. Probiotics, on the other hand, help the good ones survive, thus curing the negative side effects of antibiotics, of which diarrhea is the most common.

What Are Their Health Benefits?

Here are a few reasons to take probiotics:

● Probiotics and Bowel Movement
Both irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases are direct consequences of impaired digestive health, and probiotics successfully heal both. If troubled by diarrhea, constipation or bloating, you can rely on friendly bacteria supplements to help you, and they will also cure ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
● Weight Loss
Though still in the research phase, plenty of studies have already found that some species of probiotics are quite effective when it comes to weight loss. Once the specialists have more information, good microorganisms will hopefully contribute to our arduous battle against obesity.
● Other Potential Implications
As if all this isn’t enough, probiotics have proven to be beneficial to skin health, clinical depression, just as well as blood pressure and cholesterol. Once again, not all are equally potent when it comes to different health issues, so be certain to ask your doctor before you start taking the wrong one. Even though the “wrong” kind of probiotics won’t do anything harmful to your body, the chances are great that it won’t do any good either.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Another reason you should never take probiotics unsupervised is that prolonged exposure to good bacteria may lead to infections, particularly with people who have damaged immune systems, such as AIDS and HIV patients.

How to Help Probiotics Work

Probiotics are only as powerful as you allow them to be, which means that they will unlikely repair your compromised gut health all by themselves. In order to help good bacteria help you, they need their “work environment” to be as healthy as possible.  You wouldn’t need probiotics if your gut flora is healthy in the first place, and this advice means that you’ll need to start making changes in your diet in addition to taking your probiotic supplements to improve your gut health.

Supported by probiotics, friendly bacteria will gather enough strength to start fighting off all of the bad microorganisms that inhabit your gut, however, they won’t be able to finish them off if you keep eating processed and sugary foods, since these feed the bad bacteria.

If you choose natural probiotics instead of supplements, keep in mind that not all of these products are what their manufacturers claim they are. Opt for cultured dairy products instead of commercially produced, since it’s guaranteed that they’ve been traditionally fermented. Or, of course, make your own if you can.

Only under medical supervision and in an environment controlled by your sound dietary choices, probiotics and prebiotics can work together to restore proper balance to your gut and thus returning harmony to your body Choose and take them carefully, and they will repair both your physical and your mental health.


Probiotics in Human Medicine
Probiotics: Effects on Immunity
Probiotics: Health Benefits in the Mouth
Probiotics, Their Health Benefits and Applications for Developing Healthier Foods: A Review


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