It’s crazy to think that bacteria can be beneficial for your health. We have been conditioned to ward off bacteria to keep the body health, often resorting to antibiotics to kill bacterial infections or using antibacterial soaps to wash away germs. The wrong bacteria can obviously be problematic, but the right bacteria may be exactly what you need to boost overall health.
A growing body of scientific research suggests that consuming healthy live bacteria can prevent some illnesses, especially those that originate in the gut. Probiotics are microorganisms that are friendly bacteria, which are typically from fermented foods. Northern Europeans have actually been consuming probiotics for years because their diet contains a lot of fermented drinks, yogurts, and vegetables.
A Brief History Of Probiotics
The root of probiotic comes from the Greek pro, promoting, and biotic, life. Probiotics are a relatively recent discovery, considering that the “father of probiotics,” a man named Elie Metchnikoff, discovered their significance in the early 20th century. He observed rural life in Bulgaria, and the people seemed to live very long lives, despite poverty and harsh climate. He found that these people consumed fermented foods, which he studied and found that intestinal microbiome could be influenced by these friendly bacteria. He also found that senility could be delayed by increasing the presence of friendly bacteria in the gut.
Great Probiotic Foods
- Fermented vegetables
What Are Microbes And Why Do They Matter?
Microbes are incredibly tiny organisms that include fungi, parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Millions of microbes can fit into the eye of a needle, and yet these microorganisms are powerful enough to influence overall health. Microorganisms in the body outnumber human cells ten to one, with trillions of microorganisms inhabiting the gut, nose, skin, and other areas of the body. The National Institute of Health (NIH) sponsors the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), an organization that researches microbial communities and how they affect health and disease.
The Benefits Of Probiotics
Probiotics For Your Gut
Probiotics have been used to help treat both diarrhea and constipation, which is a more common problem in the United States. For diarrhea, large scientific reviews suggest that probiotics work to reduce antibiotic-related diarrhea in adults by 60%. Other studies found that probiotics shortened the duration of infectious diarrhea in infants and children. The digestive tract needs a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria, but lifestyle and diet (stress, lack of sleep, poor food choices, drugs, antibiotics, and more) often tip the scales in favor of bad bacteria. Probiotics won’t solve your gastrointestinal problems if you continue to make poor lifestyle and dietary choices, but they can offer assistance in establishing a healthy gut microbiome. Further dietary and lifestyle changes need to accompany probiotic consumption to reach optimal gut health.
Probiotics For Vaginal Health
Probiotics may be every woman’s new go-to for maintaining urogenital health. The vagina is a delicately balanced ecosystem, just like the gastrointestinal tract, meaning that an imbalanced system can result in urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, or yeast infections, to name some common female urogenital problems. Oral contraceptives, antibiotics, and spermicides can throw the balance out of whack, but probiotics can help restore healthy vaginal flora. The consumption of probiotics has helped improve bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections, but more research needs to be done on how they affect urinary tract infections.
Probiotics For Heart Health
As you have learned in this article, there are many strains of probiotics, some of which may have the ability to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. By breaking down bile in the gut, lactic acid-producing bacteria help reduce cholesterol levels. Since bile is primarily comprised of cholesterol, it tends to be reabsorbed in the gut, where it enters the bloodstream. Probiotics may prevent this reabsorption from occurring.
Probiotics For Eczema
Eczema is a common skin problem in infants and children. Recent studies have found that the addition of probiotics to a child’s diet may reduce the severity of eczema breakouts. Another study examined how probiotics affected pregnant women and their babies. The findings indicated that the children had an 83% lower risk of developing eczema during their first tow years of life. More research needs to be done in this field, but early anti-inflammatory results are promising.
Probiotics For Immune Function
The increased presence of beneficial gut bacteria has been know to give your immune system a little boost. By adding probiotics to your diet, you help to increase the production of antibodies and other immune cells like T lymphocytes and IgA-producing cells. A large scientific review found that adults who took probiotics had a decreased risk of respiratory infections.