Probiotics are a popular topic these days in the world of nutrition, but what exactly are they and do they really provide us with any health benefits? The World Health Organization defines them as “live microorganisms when administered in adequate amounts can confer a health benefit on the host.” I think it is safe to say that most nutritionist, doctors and researchers agree that there are health benefits to consuming probiotics. I want to note that probiotics are considered safe for consumption by all resources that I researched, therefore making them one of the healthiest ways to increase wellness.
Probiotics help us to in maintaining healthy bacteria levels in the digestive tract. We each have colonies of bacteria in our intestinal tracts called gut or intestinal flora, which consist of both healthy and unhealthy bacteria. WebMD states that there are approximately 400 different types of probiotic bacteria that promote a healthy digestive tract. While researching this subject, I saw estimates of up to 500 different types of bacteria that are in our digestive systems at any time! In terms of digestive health, we should strive to create a healthy balance between both the healthy probiotic bacteria and the negative bacteria present. It is when we have an overabundance of unhealthy bacteria that we see health issues arise.
One of the largest groups of probiotic bacteria found in the intestinal tract is Lactic Acid bacteria, which is the type of probiotic found in dairy yogurt. Yeast is another common probiotic found in humans. Foods that contain probiotics typically refer to them as "live cultures." Some of the unhealthy bacteria found in the human body and can lead to disease are Candida and E. Coli. These unhealthy bacteria, if in abundance in the intestinal tract can lead to short term illnesses including upset stomach, headaches, emotional and mood instability and fatigue.
There are things that destroy the healthy probiotic bacteria in our bodies including pharmaceutical medications (antibiotics most always), diet (especially highly acidic foods), food toxins, and environmental toxins. Many medical doctors recommend consuming probiotics when prescribing antibiotics for this reason. One study found that probiotics can reduce diarrhea associated with taken antibiotics by up to 60% (Lactic Acid Probiotics like in yogurt). Keep in mind that probiotics are only effective as long as they are being taken, meaning that consistency is key when consuming them. The healthy probiotics that we consume do not remain in the system indefinitely, so we must continue to reintroduce them into our systems on a regular basis.
Foods such as yogurts, cottage cheese, fermented teas, and foods that are fermented such as sauerkraut are all high in probiotics. You can also purchase probiotic supplements in most natural food and nutrition stores. Here is the list of some of the health benefits:
- Probiotics help in the prevention and treatment of diarrhea and gas
- They help in prevention and treatment of vaginal yeast infections
- They can help in preventing and treating urinary tract infections
- Probiotics help in strengthening the immune system
- They can help to delay the development of allergies in children
- They can help with the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease
- They can help to reduce the level of lactose intolerance in people with lactose sensitivity
- They can treat halitosis (bad breath)
- They increase the rate of absorption and assimilation of B vitamins
- Probiotics increase calcium absorption
- They can promote anti-cancer activity in the body
- Research shows that consuming probiotics can have a favorable effect on cholesterol levels
- They help to lower to rate of diaper rash in children
- Probiotics can help reduce colic in infants
- They can help prevent common colds and decrease the recovery time from a cold
If you aren’t already consuming a hearty dose of foods that contain probiotics, it is certainly worth consideration. More and more research being conducted confirms the positive health benefits that probiotics offer. Unlike many of the marketing claims used to drive food sales these days, in the case of probiotics, scientific research continues to confirm that they are the real deal!
In Wellness and Love,
www.health.harvard.edu “Health Beneftis of Taking Probiotics.”
www.globalhealingcenter.com “Health Benefits of Probiotics.”
Dr. Christopher Weaver DC, PAK is a Doctor of Chiropractic and Professional Applied Kinesiologist. He's published two books on health and Wellness.