This is the first of two articles focusing on probiotics. This one answers the question, “What are probiotics and do I need them?” The second one is a guide to Selecting Probiotic Supplements and can be found here.
For many of us, when we hear the word ‘bacteria,’ we think of organisms that are harmful to our health, causing disease. It conjures up thoughts of infections and food poisoning and produce pulled from grocery stores and restaurants. For those of us who are not health professionals, many may not be aware that some bacteria are not only beneficial, but essential for the maintenance of a healthy microbiome, which refers to the entire colony of microbes, including the beneficial bacteria., that work to maintain healthy body and a healthy brain.
There are many types of these beneficial, essential bacteria. Trillions of these beneficial bacteria live in the average human body and are welcomed residents. They aid in a variety of biological functions. They help us digest food, fight of harmful bacteria, and keep our immune systems working properly. Think of them as our built-in army. They are the “good guys”. Unfortunately, many things can happen to deplete our army of good bacteria.
Ways to help the “good guys”:
l. Limit, as much as possible, taking antibiotics, which kill the good as well as the bad bacteria
2. get enough sleep;
3. consume enough fiber, which is food for the healthy bacteria;
4. eat foods that contain probiotics (see the list below);
5. take probiotic supplements, especially if you are taking antibiotics (see article entitled “Selecting Probiotic Supplements“);
6. limit consumption of sugar. alcohol, foods with artificial coloring, and chlorinated water;
7. avoid using antibacterial soaps to wash your hands or body and
8. limit the use of painkillers, especially those containing NSAlDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen).
How Do Probiotics Work?
Taking a probiotic supplement helps bring in `troop replacements” to take the place of those that were killed by antibiotics or other perpetrators. Probiotics boost levels of the he bacteria and suppress the activities of harmful bacteria. They are live beneficial bacteria that are included in many foods and supplements. Probiotics are live helpful microscopic organisms that can he utilized to reestablish harmony within your digestive system.
What Health Problems do Probiotics Address?
Research is ongoing, and benefits are being noted, in the use of probiotics for these conditions:
- Colds, flu and respiratory infections
- Faster absorption of vitamin and minerals
- Fortification of the immune system
- Weight and Fat loss (requires up to 100 billion probiotic cells daily for substantial results)
- High blood pressure (requires up to 100 billion probiotic cells daily for substantial results)
- High cholesterol
- Throat infections
- Abdominal pain
- Lactose intolerance
- Irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease
- Mastitis (reducing breast pain)
- Vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
- Diverticular disease
- Anxiety and Depression
- Intestinal infections
- Skin conditions, like eczema
- Oral health, including periodontitis
- Treatment of diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
- Colic in infants
- Liver disease
- Reduction of the recurrence of bladder cancer
Foods that Supply Probiotics:
- Yoghurt is one of the best sources of probiotics. Be sure that the yoghurt you buy has active cultures. Yogurt may be better than milk for people with lactose intolerance. This is because the bacteria turn some of the lactose into lactic acid.
- Kefir is a fermented probiotic milk drink. It is made by adding kefir grains to cow’s or goat’s milk. Like yogurt, kefir is generally well-tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant.
- Sauerkraut is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria.
- Tempeh is a fermented soybean product.
- Kimchi is a fermented, spicy Korean side dish usually consisting mainly of cabbage.
- Miso is a Japanese seasoning traditionally made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus called koi.
- Kombucha is a fermented black or green tea drink.