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The Health Benefits Of Probiotics

The Health Benefits Of Probiotics
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BY HELEN SANDERS

Research continues to show us the abundance of benefits probiotics, i.e. healthy/good bacteria, can offer us. From supporting our immune system to helping digestion, they can play a big part in keeping us healthy.

This is a guide which I hope will tell you everything you could ever need to know about probiotics, the benefits they offer as well as foods and supplements that contain them.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria. Now I know, the idea of bacteria being a good thing is hard to get your head around. After all, we are told to use antibacterial hand wash all the time and we use antibiotics to kill bacterial infections. This is because harmful strains of bacteria can be problematic, but good bacteria can keep you healthy.

The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) defines probiotics as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” (source).

Probiotics are found in the digestive tract and can help your immune system fight infections. Moreover, they stimulate the digestive juices, which makes sure our digestive organs stay healthy and work correctly.

They also assist your body in absorbing nutrients. Probiotics have a vast range of other benefits, including:

  • Support a healthy immune system
  • Improve digestion
  • Promote healthy skin
  • Fight harmful bacteria
  • Help prevent yeast and fungal infections
  • Produce vitamins B12 and K2

Everyone has probiotics naturally within various bost systems. Even newborn babies are exposed to bacteria during birth which starts the natural production of probiotics.

However, because of overuse of antibiotics and some foods containing their residue, most people, even children, are in need of extra probiotics either via food or supplementation.

There are many things that can kill your natural source of good bacteria including certain foods and chemicals.

It is important to maintain a healthy amount of probiotics as prolonged periods with low probiotics can cause long term damage to your digestive tract.  In order to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria, steer clear of probiotic killers. Some of which include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Farmed meat and dairy
  • Sugar and processed foods
  • Tap water
  • Stress
  • Medication
  • Chemicals

Benefits of Probiotics

Research into the benefits of probiotics is ongoing, however, many benefits have already been scientifically proven:

Boost Immunity

Good bacteria are vital to maintaining your immune system. They are continuously competing with bad bacteria found in foods and pollutants we ingest in order to attach themselves to our gut and assist the receptor cells of the immune system.

As long as we expose ourselves to enough good bacteria, they can  successfully protect our health.

Manage Weight

Research continuously suggests that probiotics could play a huge role in effective weight management. A recent study in obese adults showed that probiotics lowered their body weight (source).

Also, a study which focused on mice which were obese due to a high fat diet suggests that the use of particular strains of probiotics with a high fat diet prevented further weight gain and therefore could be beneficial in reducing the risk of obesity (source).

Mental Health

The gut is often referred to as the second brain. More serotonin, a hormone which enhances your mood, is produced in the gut than the brain.

Recent research has showed positive psychological benefits resulting from supplementation with probiotics. This suggests the link between probiotics and lowering anxiety and depression (source)

Many other benefits of probiotics include:

  • Fight food-borne illnesses
  • Prevent urinary tract infections
  • Aid digestion
  • Prevent overuse of antibiotics
  • Help prevent cold and flu
  • Fight bacteria resistant to antibiotics

Good Gut Bacteria

If I asked you “where is your immune system?” what would your answer be?

Most people don’t tend to think of their immune system as having a specific location within the body. Therefore it might be surprising to know that 80 percent of your immune system is located in your gut.

This means what happens in your gut can have an immense effect on you immune system and overall health.

In a healthy gut, probiotics thrive and aid the receptor cells of your immune system. It is hugely important to ensure the correct balance of good and bacteria within your gastrointestinal tract. Ideally over 85 percent should be good bacteria.

To maintain your health, you need to ensure you get enough probiotics in your diet. This can prevent development of chronic illnesses and diseases which are surprisingly impacted by the health of your gut.

How Probiotics Work:

There are always both good and bad bacteria within your gut. The key to staying healthy is maintaining the right balance.

Often through the consumption of good bacterial killers, our balance can be offset. This can lead to problems such as yeast, fungal or bacterial infections. One way to prevent this is to increase your consumption of good bacteria in your diet.

 

“Helen Sanders is chief editor at HealthAmbition.com. Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. We pride ourselves on making sure our actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives.”
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