What even are probiotics?
Probiotics are the combination of live friendly bacteria and yeasts that naturally inhabit our bodies. And we’ll figure out today if probiotics are good for you.
Whenever someone mentions bacteria, people often immediately think of them as bad, when in fact, our bodies contain just as much bacteria as they do our cells!
In fact, your gut is home to a complex eco-system of 300–500 bacterial species (Healthline).
Without them, we would not function, because believe it or not, the metabolic activities of your gut bacteria is likened to those of an actual organ. Because of this fact, scientists refer to the gut microbiome as the “forgotten organ”.
This brings us to get to know our gut microbiome, which is the community of microbes in your gut consisting of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, viruses and protozoa. Everyone’s gut microbiome is unique, as unique as your own fingerprint.
Your gut microbiome performs many important health functions. It produces vitamins, including vitamin K and a couple of the B vitamins.
Besides that, it also transforms fibres into short-chain fats, that feed your gut wall and execute many metabolic functions.
These fats also restore your immune system and strengthen your gut wall, which prevent unwelcomed substances from breaching into the body and invoking an immune response.
Despite juggling all these crucial roles, your gut microbiome is unfortunately highly responsive to your diet. So much so that studies show that an unbalanced gut microbiome is tied to many diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression.
So to assist our gut microbiome, probiotics are an extremely helpful addition to our diet.
How probiotics benefit the body
As we have said earlier, probiotics are made up of friendly bacteria that keep our bodies healthy and running optimally.
Our gut microbiome is populated with both good bacteria and bad bacteria, and there is a balance maintained.
When bad bacteria start to multiply and outnumber the good, that is when the balance is tipped and your health starts to deteriorate, you start to feel sick.
The good bacteria in probiotics help us in multiple ways, including fighting off bad bacteria that enter your body.
They support immune function and control inflammation.
Not just that, their functions can extend to combatting digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), reducing gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
To add to the list, probiotics also help your body digest food and create vitamins.
Will taking probiotics improve my gut microbiome?
Yes, it is possible to increase good microbes in your body this way. Fermented foods like pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut contain the high amounts of good bacteria that benefit your body. Fermented drinks like kefir (fermented dairy drink) or kombucha (fermented tea) is another way to introduce extra probiotics into your diet.
Some people opt to take probiotic supplements. While they may be convenient, they usually aren’t the best sources of natural probiotics, and usually contain fewer strains compared to naturally occurring sources.
Live and active probiotic cultures are always best.
Are probiotics safe?
Because microbes used as probiotics already exist naturally in your body, probiotic foods and supplements are generally considered safe (Cleveland Clinic).
However, possible side effects include digestion discomfort the first few days when starting to take them, especially if the person has existing digestion issues.
Other than that, it may trigger allergic reactions from people who already have weakened immune systems having undergone treatments or surgery (chemotherapy for example), or those already having critical illness.
Overall, when first introducing your body to probiotics, small amounts would be advisable. Get your body used to the benefits, one small dose at a time.
I hope you found this article informative! Feel free to leave a comment or question.
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