The Bacteria You Need to Keep a Healthy Digestive System

From Dinner Table to Medicine Cabinet: Why Probiotics May Be Beneficial For Your Health

When you hear the word probiotic, what comes to mind? Originating from both the Latin and Greek to literally mean, “for life,” probiotics have long been a culinary staple to our prehistoric ancestors. For thousands of years, fermented probiotic foods such as wine, cheeses, and pickled vegetables have been consumed all over the globe.

Today, probiotics are not only considered a delicacy to be enjoyed by the masses but have also been shown by recent research to attenuate many chronic conditions and to be significant to overall health and wellness.

What Are Probiotics?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine,

“Probiotics are live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. They are also called “friendly bacteria” or “good bacteria.” Probiotics are available to consumers mainly in the form of dietary supplements and foods.”

The populating of gut bacteria occurs first at birth via the birth canal and then by way of breast milk. After infancy, we can obtain probiotics by eating fermented foods. Once ingested, probiotics survive the gastrointestinal tract and colonize the gut. In the gut, probiotics have been shown to provide the body with vitamins, fatty acids, enzymes, and protection against harmful microbes.

The following is a short list of foods and beverages that contain probiotics and when consumed, are thought to promote healthy gut flora:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Cheese
  • Tempeh
  • Saurkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Miso

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 The Health Benefits of Probiotics

In addition to alleviating common ailments such as vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections, probiotics have also been seen to assuage more serious chronic conditions.

Digestive Health & Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Probiotics have been commonly known to support a healthy digestive tract. However, even conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be eased by the use of probiotics. According to the Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, abdominal pain, bloating, and bowel movements improved after treatment with probiotics.

Easing Anxiety & Stress

Interestingly, the benefits of probiotics don’t stop at the gut. According to the American Psychological Association, the impact gut bacteria have on the brain may begin soon after birth.

“…these microbes help “program” some aspects of brain development, such as its characteristic response to stress.”

Research has shown that gut bacteria can alter brain chemistry and hormone production. In animal studies, when an imbalance between good and harmful bacteria occurs, this can lead to an increase in anxiety and stress hormones. Only within early development of the animals (before weaning) could this effect be reversed and only by restoring beneficial gut bacteria. 

Cancer Prevention

Evidence-based studies have shown that consuming probiotics increases the production of immune cells that are specific to fighting cancer. In animal studies, the activity of such cells known as Natural Killer cells, increased. Additionally, inflammation and DNA damage was reduced.

 Osteoporosis Protection

It is undisputed that certain vitamins and minerals are needed for bone health. Nevertheless, recent animal and human studies have shown that consuming probiotics resulted in increased bone density.

Although the mechanism is not fully understood, it is thought that probiotics produce enzymes and fatty acids that make minerals such as calcium more available to the body and easier to absorb. Furthermore, probiotics decrease inflammation in the body, which in turn, leads to less breakdown of bone surfaces.

3 Things You Can Do To Promote Healthy Gut Bacteria

Diet, aging, stress, infection, and the overuse of antibiotics can upset the balance of gut bacteria. The following are ways you can help to create an internal environment that promotes healthy gut flora.

  1. Eat PRO-biotic Foods

Adding more of the probiotic foods mentioned above can help create a healthy environment for your gut bacteria. Especially after taking antibiotics, probiotic foods may help to repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria. When buying probiotic foods, make sure the label says that it contains, “live and active cultures.”

If you decide to supplement with probiotics, look for those in the refrigerated section of your health foods store and always discuss it first with your physician to ensure proper dosage. 

  1. Nourish Your Gut Bacteria With PRE-biotics

Feeding your body right means good news for your gut bacteria! The following nutrient-rich foods are called, PRE-biotics, or foods that nourish your gut bacteria so they, in turn, can keep you healthy:

  • Legumes
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale
  • Whole grains
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Honey
  1. Decrease Your Stress Levels!

Research has found that stress can decrease the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut while also increasing the amount of harmful bacteria. Additionally, once the “good bacteria” is reduced, some of the mechanisms the body utilizes to handle stress are prevented. This may lead to more stress, even weakening overall immunity.

Bottom Line

More and more evidence for the benefits of healthy gut bacteria is emerging every day. The addition of a nutritious and natural modality of preventative medicine, such as probiotics, may in turn keep you healthy for years to come.

Watch this video to find out more about Probiotics and its benefits.



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