As increasing numbers of Americans are seeking means to regulate their health, they are looking at more than just diet and exercise. Supplements and foods containing probiotics are playing a very important role in this healthy endeavor.
Probiotics are organisms like bacteria and yeast. The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined probiotics as “living microorganisms that provide a health benefit to the host when ingested in adequate amounts.”
Indeed, the human digestive system has more than 500 different types of bacteria. Their main functions are to keep the intestines in good order and assist in digestion. Probiotics also play an important role in keeping the immune system effective.
The Workings of Probiotics
The digestive system has a balance of friendly bacteria that keeps the intestines in working form. When this balance is disturbed, digestive disorders such as diarrhea can occur.
Taking antibiotics and damage to the intestinal lining can cause these issues. Probiotics can help stem these problems.
Additionally, probiotics assist in keeping the immune system healthy. According to experts at WebMD, the introduction of friendly or beneficial bacteria challenges the immune system in a positive manner and helps strengthen it.
Advantages of Taking Probiotics
Even as research continues in the field of probiotics, existing data shows that these microorganisms help in the treatment and prevention of a number of illnesses and conditions.
The most commonly known role of probiotics is in the maintenance of digestive order and comfort. They also support good colon health by assisting in the amelioration of conditions such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Probiotics can help you lose and manage your weight, which in turn helps in the management of Type 2 diabetes.
Integrating probiotics into your diet can also lower the risk of cancer and the chances of getting autoimmune diseases, as well as reduce LDL cholesterol.
Probiotics help keep your immune system in good shape, which in turn results in fewer infections such as colds, flu, and yeast infections, as well as the incidence of allergy attacks.
When it comes to the absorption of essential minerals and vitamins such as calcium, iron, and zinc, probiotics are wonderful catalysts. They also help with the synthesis of Vitamin K, which is essential for the maintenance of healthy bones.
These microorganisms assist with healthy brain functioning and help alleviate anxiety and depression.
Probiotics also help in the treatment and prevention of a range of diseases, such as childhood diarrhea; ulcerative colitis; necrotizing enterocolitis, which is largely seen in infants; antibiotic-associated diarrhea and infectious diarrhea; pouchitis, which is an inflammation of the intestines; eczema caused by cow milk allergy; and Crohn’s disease.
With all these different functions, probiotics, which literally mean “for life,” help support overall health and longevity.
Making Probiotics a Part of Your Daily Life
Today, you can find a plethora of sources that contain probiotics. They are the essential or central ingredients in a variety of fermented foods. Some of the most commonly known foods containing probiotics include yogurt, buttermilk, cheese, miso, kimchi, tempeh, and kefir.
Since most of these foods with probiotics are produced through natural processes, there is no way of knowing the exact amount contained. So, to get the right amount and type of probiotics, you might have to seek the supplement aisle in your health food shop or grocery store.
Before you buy any product that claims to have probiotics, make sure you read the ingredient list. Sometimes the product might contain artificial coloring or excess sugar. Such products should be avoided.
Probiotics come in a variety of forms. These include powders, capsules, tablets, and food products such as yogurt. While it doesn’t matter as to how you consume probiotics, it is essential that you take it in the right dose.
Depending on the kind of probiotic supplement you are seeking, you need to take enough organisms that can grow in the lining of your intestines. In other words, read the instructions and dosage being consumed. This can vary from as little as 50 million live cells per dose to a trillion live cells.
Also, given the range of bacterial and yeast supplements, you need to find out about your specific needs. For instance, the bacteria Lactobacillus reuteri is seen to be helpful for infectious diarrhea in children. So talk to your healthcare provider before you start a probiotic regime.
This is especially important if you have a depressed immune system or have a serious disease. While most probiotics are not known to have side effects in healthy consumers, they might negatively impact people who are suffering from autoimmune diseases or other serious problems.
Since the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate probiotics with the same stringency as prescription drugs, you have to be aware as a consumer and make sure you understand all the pros and cons of taking probiotics.