What Are Probiotics?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines probiotics as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health beneﬁt on the host.”
These friendly bacteria are good for your digestive health. These microorganisms help move food through your gut. They are naturally found in your body. There are around 2,000 different types of bacteria found in your body.
FUN FACT: There are 10 times more probiotics in your gut than cells in your body. Pretty cool huh!
Types of Good Bacteria
This is the most commonly used probiotic. It is found in the intestines, female genitals, and the mouth. It produces lactase and vitamin K.
This strain is very acid-resistant and tolerates bile effectively. This helpful probiotic produces lactic acid. It also produces other organic acids in the lining of the vagina and cervix. Its presence discourages the adherence and growth of pathogenic microbes.
It also fights infections from
harmful pathogens. These include harmful E. coli, salmonella, and yeast infections.
Lactobacillus Gasseri is now being studied for it’s apparent benefits in aiding weight loss.
This is a spherical-shaped gram-positive bacterium. It is the first genetically modified organism used alive to treat human disease.
This ferments milk sugar (lactose) to lactic acid. It is used to make yogurt, cheese, and buttermilk.
This is mostly found dormant on plant surfaces. Once eaten by animals, particularly cows, they are transferred to the gastrointestinal tract. There, they become active and multiply.
This is a strain of lactic acid bacteria. It lives in the intestines and stomachs of humans, other mammals, and birds. However, not all humans have this type of good bacteria. It’s name was taken from its discoverer, German microbiologist Gerhard Reuter.
This strain of beneficial bacteria exist in our microbiome. This consists of the microbial genes that live in our system. Specifically, this is found in our intestines. It is helpful in preventing the growth of harmful bacteria in our intestines and stomach.
It was originally thought to be a subspecies of L. casei. However, further genetic research shows it is a species on its own.
This is a lactic acid–forming bacterial species. It was first isolated and named in 1915 by B. W. Hammer of the Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station. This bacteria strain caused an outbreak of coagulation in evaporated milk packed by an Iowa condensary.
They are similar to another strain of probiotics, lactobacillus. One way to set them apart is Bacillus coagulans form reproductive structures called spores.
This is a rod-shaped bacterium found in the large intestines of most mammals, including humans. It’s another lactic acid bacterium that produces acetic acid, formic acid, ethanol, and sometimes succinic acid.
Bifidobacteria plays a crucial role in keeping the microbial balance of a healthy intestinal tract. It helps digest food and decreases the chance of allergies. It also prevents several forms of tumor growth.
This strain of bacteria is found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms. Most E. coli strains are harmless. However, there are some that cause dangerous food poisoning. The harmless strains produce vitamin K2 and prevent colonization of the intestine with pathogenic bacteria.
The last of the probiotics on this list is an essential lactic acid bacterium. It’s used for commercial purposes, which include the production of dairy products. It hydrolyzes milk proteins and casein into nitrogen compounds. These are then used as starting cultures for food fermentation.
It boosts the immune system, fights against antibiotic-associated diarrhea, supports colon health, and protects against small intestine irritation. This strain is also helpful during chemotherapy. It protects the intestinal tissues from irritation caused by chemotherapy drugs.
How Probiotics Help
Probiotics focus mainly on digestive health. Adding them to our daily diets relieves many digestive problems. These include Crohn’s disease, gut dysbiosis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Probiotics also prevent and treat infectious diarrhea in children and adults. They also treat chronic constipation and bloating.
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common type of vaginal infection. This is followed by yeast infection. They are caused by an excess of harmful bacteria. These lead to a burning sensation during urination, itching around the vagina, an unappealing fish-like odor, unusual discharge, and vaginal irritation.
Some studies show that eating food with probiotics (such as yogurt) helps with these infections. Probiotics produce lactic acid. This leads to an acidic vaginal environment that discourages the growth of bad bacteria. They also stop microbes from adhering to the vaginal wall. They also displace those microbes that have already taken hold.
These good bacteria can lower cholesterol. They do this by reducing the absorption of bile. They also increase HDL cholesterol. In addition, they can also reduce molecules known as cholesterol ester saturated fatty acids. These acids cause the buildup of dangerous plaque in the arteries.
Probiotics boosts the activity of the immune system. They increase vaccination immune response, reduce colds and flu, and boost T-cell activity as needed. They also reduce the frequency and severity of respiratory diseases. Lastly, they strengthen the overall immune system.
These friendly bacteria have properties that are essential to boost energy
production in the body. These properties also make sure you are absorbing vitamins and minerals you need for your overall well-being. They can also help you sleep better. Taking in probiotics boosts the production of hormones that help you get a good night’s rest.
The intake of probiotics lowers stress and anxiety. They also lower the levels of stress hormone cortisol. Those taking probiotics also have better memory. Anyone who is experiencing low mood, chronic stress, and other symptoms of anxiety will also benefit from the good bacteria.
Probiotics may help weight loss. A 2013 research in the British Journal of Nutrition shows that eating probiotics increases weight loss in people who are dieting.
What probiotics do is they break down fiber the body can’t digest. They then turn the fiber to beneficial short-chain fatty acids.
Some probiotics can kill harmful bacteria, like the bacteria that’s responsible for tooth decay. It can also reduce the number of other types of decay-causing bacteria.
They can also help patients with gingivitis. Probiotics decrease gum bleeding and plaque formation. Finally, they can fight oral candida too.
Skin and Hair
Research shows that probiotics improve skin and hair conditions.
First, for hair, women show a healthier and shinier mane. Probiotics cause females to have a more acidic pH level, and this correlates with hair luster. Probiotics also answer the problems of hair loss and hair thinness.
For the skin, probiotics provide a ton of benefits. First, they quickly heal scars and burns, reconstructs atopic dermatitis, and rejuvenates the skin. The good bacteria also treats acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
Some strains can also cause an increase in the testosterone levels of men. They also promote fertility in women. They also boost the levels of the “feel good” hormone oxytocin. In addition, they boost low libido as well.
There are some substances and food that go against what these good bacteria are trying to do. In order for us to receive the full benefits of probiotics, it’s best to avoid the following as much as possible:
- Prescription antibiotics
- GMO food
- Tap water
- Emotional stress
- Chemicals and medication