The past decade it has become more popular among the general public to use probiotic products to prevent or treat illnesses or to maintain overall well-being. This is due to expensive TV ads for products like Activia (Dannon). But what are probiotics and why should we care?
Probiotics are living microorganisms found in yoghurt and other cultured foods. The name itself means “for life” and reveals the core benefit of these microorganisms: to help improve the body’s bacterial environment – in other words, to keep it in a healthy balance.
How It All Started
We can go as far as to Old Testament where it’s written that Abraham’s long life (175 years) was due to the “consumption of sour milk.” Also, fermented milk products may have been used to treat ailments of the digestive tract during Roman times.
However, it took two millenniums to scientifically test the effects of probiotics happened. In 1907, Russian microbiologist Elie Metchnikoff found out that good health and longevity of Bulgarians was connected to large amounts of fermented dairy products these people consumed on daily basis. He suggested that the acid-producing microorganisms in fermented dairy products might stop what he called “fouling” in the large intestine. He concluded that including fermented dairy products into the regular diet could lead to a longer, healthier life.
What Do Probiotics Do?
First of all, our gut hosts between 200 and 5000 different microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, parasites, viruses, etc. But microorganisms live everywhere in our body – not only in our gut – including the mouth and skin.
Under healthy or “balanced” conditions, good bacteria in the gut outnumber the bad ones. Here comes the key benefit of probiotics: they act as gut-beneficial bacteria to stop the increase of unfriendly bacteria that causes imbalance and therefore dis-ease. Probiotics also help break down protein and fat in the digestive tract — a great benefit for babies or adults who are trying to recover from an illness. Finally, probiotics are very helpful in the process of re-creating the bacterial balance after taking antibiotics. Unfortunately, the side effect of antibiotics is killing the good bacteria along with the harmful ones, which leads to symptoms such as gas, cramping or diarrhoea.
Proven And Potential Health Benefits of Probiotics
Research has supported multiple benefits of probiotics. First of all, there are many proven “side effects” of keeping our gut in healthy, bacteria-balanced condition. These are:
- better digestion and absorption of food and nutrients
- a strong immune system
- healthy skin
- weight loss (help with burning calories and fat)
The good bacteria in the gut are also responsible for:
- producing vitamin B12 and K2
- blocking out bad bacteria, yeast and fungi
- producing enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria
- stimulating secretion of antibodies ((60-80 % of immune function is located in the gut)
These are the potential benefits when using probiotics for treating and prevention of disease:
- irritable bowel syndrome
- ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- vaginal infections
- urinary tract infections
- infection of the digestive tract
Also, John Hopkins researchers found a link between a healthy gut and blood pressure.
Examples Of Most Used Strains Of Probiotics
The 7 Probiotic-Rich Foods You Can Buy
- kefir (ancient fermented dairy product )
- raw cheese
- apple cider vinegar
- pickled gherkins
- miso (from Japan)
The Main Killers Of Healthy Bacteria In Our Body
- emotional stress
- antibiotics and many other prescription drugs
Also, be aware that heat often kills live active cultures. At the same time, dried probiotics may survive a trip through the intestines if prepared and stored properly.
If you need an extra boost of probiotics or if you don’t have time to eat regularly probiotic-rich foods, you might consider buying dry probiotic blend in capsules. We have a range of products that might be suitable for your needs. Explore them here.