Probiotics enhance a healthy balance of gut bacteria, and several studies link them to a myriad of health benefits. While bacteria have a reputation for causing disease, the idea of consuming them to promote good health may sound counterintuitive. Some digestive disease specialists recommend probiotics supplements for disorders that are not responsive to conventional medicine, for example, irritable bowel syndrome or lactose intolerance. Clinical studies suggest that probiotic therapy can help treat various gastrointestinal conditions and delay allergy development in children.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms you can consume through fermented foods or supplements. They are made up of beneficial bacteria and yeasts naturally found in the body and are especially good for the digestive system. Your body constantly has good and bad bacteria, and when you get an infection, the harmful bacteria increase in volume, causing an imbalance in your digestive health.
The beneficial bacteria play a role in eliminating the extra harmful bacteria as a way to promote regularity. An excellent way to add good bacteria into your body is to take probiotic supplements.
Gut Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
In addition to taking supplements, you can also get probiotics from fermented or cultured foods, which are the most natural source of these microorganisms. As a general guideline, you can add as many fermented foods to your diet as possible, since there lacks a recommended daily intake for probiotics.
Fermented food undergoes a process known as lacto-fermentation, where the natural bacteria in the food feed on starch and sugar to create lactic acid. The result is an environment that preserves the food while promoting beneficial enzymes and various species of good bacteria. The most common fermented foods containing a healthy dose of probiotics include yogurt, buttermilk, sourdough bread, and some cheeses.
Here are some gut health benefits you derive from consuming food and supplements that contain probiotics:
They Help Balance the Healthy Bacteria in The Digestive System
Since probiotics contain good bacteria in good measure, they can provide several health benefits when you consume them. The benefits are derived from the ability of the microorganisms to restore the natural balance of gut bacteria. When you have an imbalance, the harmful bacteria are too many and outweigh the healthy ones, which can happen because of illnesses or being under antibiotic medication. Consequences of such an imbalance include allergies, obesity, and mental health problems.
They Can Help Treat and Prevent Diarrhea
Probiotics have the ability to prevent diarrhea or lessen its severity. Diarrhea is one of the common side effects of being under antibiotics treatments. It occurs because the medication can tamper with the balance of the good and bad bacteria in the gut system. Probiotics are also beneficial in alleviating other forms of diarrhea not associated with antibiotics. Studies show that probiotics can help reduce the risk traveler's diarrhea by 8% while lowering the risk of diarrhea caused by other factors by 57% in children and 26% in adults. However, their effectiveness varies depending on the dose and strain of probiotics taken.
On the other hand, probiotics can help alleviate constipation problems. They slow the gut transit time by over 10 hours and increase the frequency of weekly bowel movements. Besides, they play a significant role in softening stool, making it easier to pass.
Probiotics Can Help Alleviate the Symptoms of Certain Digestive Disorders
If you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, certain probiotics could help alleviate the symptoms and enhance your digestive health. Research also suggests that probiotics may help with the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
Probiotics and Lactose Intolerance
If you suffer from lactose intolerance, you know how disruptive the symptoms can be in your digestive health and general day-to-day life. Abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and nausea can be enough to put you off milk products. Fortunately, probiotics can give your gut a helping hand in digesting lactose.
They work by reducing the concentration of lactose in fermented and cultured foods. They also boost the activity of the enzyme that breaks down lactose, promoting its function in the stomach and small intestines before lactose reaches the colon.
Other benefits of probiotics that coincide with your gut health include:
- Improved immunity: probiotics play a crucial role in promoting regularity in the immune system, which is vital for your digestive health. A healthy immune system can respond to infections throughout the body to promote good health.
- Probiotics support good mental health: emerging studies show that there is a link between the gut and the brain, a factor known as the gut-brain axis. It's a meaningful relationship that affects both physical and mental health. The microorganisms are under study for their ability to improve people's mental outlook by reducing stress and anxiety.
- Probiotics reduce the risk of chronic disease: gut microbiota has a role in the development of obesity. They also promote insulin resistance inflammation associated with obesity. Using probiotics in weight management and disease prevention produces positive results.
- They reduce the risk of gastrointestinal health: probiotics have a positive effect on various gastrointestinal disorders. In many health care settings, they are used to reduce diarrhea and alleviate constipation that arises from taking antibiotics in both adults and children. They also inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori that is responsible for stomach ulcers and cancer.
Probiotics play a crucial role in promoting gut health by creating a balance between good and bad bacteria. They provide several benefits for your gut health by reducing the adverse effects of harmful bacteria. Supplements and fermented foods are good sources of these microorganisms.
Generally, their intake is thought to be safe for most people. However, some people with severe health conditions and some immune system disorders should stay away from them. Before taking probiotics supplements, it's recommendable to first talk to your doctor about it.
If you would like more information and advice on the use of probiotics, experts at GI Associated and Endoscopy Center can help you. Reach out to us today by filling out our contact form to schedule an appointment.