The human body contains billions of bacteria. Some of these bacteria are good while others are bad. The bad bacteria are what causes the onset of various illnesses. On the contrary, the good bacteria enhance the overall health of individuals. In order for the body to function optimally, there must be a healthy balance between these two types of bacteria. If there is an imbalance, then the body is said to be in a state called dysbiosis.

Probiotics refer to live micro-organisms that promote the health of an individual. These micro-organisms can be found in the body, dietary supplements as well as fermented foods such as yogurt.

Benefits Of Probiotics

  1. Probiotics help to transport food through the gut. They do this by affecting the nerves that control the gut movement.
  2. They maintain good bacteria in the body while inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria. This prevents the body from being in dysbiosis state.
  3. Probiotics help in the treatment of Inflammatory bowel disease and Irritable bowel syndrome
  4. It has been used for years to treat diarrhea. This includes diarrhea caused by antibiotics as well as infectious diarrhea caused by bacteria, viruses or parasite.
  5. They promote the health of the skin. Probiotics help to treat skin conditions such as eczema
  6. They enhance the health of the urinary tract. Probiotics have been proved to minimize the risk of bladder cancers. These live micro-organisms also prevent the occurrence of urinary tract infections.
  7. They promote the health of the vagina. Women have been using yogurt for many years now to fight various vaginal infections.
  8. They promote oral health. Probiotics help in treating periodontal disease as well as tooth decay among other oral health conditions.
  9. They boost one’s immune system.
  10. They help to prevent allergies and common colds.

How Do Probiotics Work?

Probiotics replace good bacteria that are lost after one consumes antibiotics. This helps to balance the good and the bad bacteria in the body. In order to fully benefit from a probiotic, the microbe must be alive during consumption.

When one takes a supplement, millions of CFUs (Colony Forming Units) or bacterial cultures are swallowed. The CFUs encounter harsh acids found in the stomach. For the supplement to be effective, a large number of these bacterial cultures must survive the stomach and enter the intestinal tract. Those that successfully get into the intestinal tract attach to the intestinal walls and start colonizing bad bacteria.

Types of Probiotics

Probiotics are grouped into two major categories: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Lactobacillus is the most common probiotic. They naturally occur in the urinary, genital and the digestive system. One can also get Lactobacillus by consuming fermented foods such as yogurt. This probiotic helps to treat diarrhea, lactose intolerance, skin disorders, and respiratory infections.

Bifidobacterium is mostly found in the colon. Individuals can get the probiotic from dairy products. Bifidobacterium helps to reduce the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, bloating, among other digestive disorders.

Saccharomyces boulardii is the only yeast probiotic. This probiotic is responsible for treating diarrhea and H. Pylori.

Not all probiotics are the same. Just because one type of Bifidobacterium prevents a certain illness, it does not mean that another type of Bifidobacterium will offer the same benefit.

Sources of Probiotics

In addition to the probiotics found in the body, these good bacteria can also be found in dietary supplements and foods.

Most Probiotics are sold as supplements. There are a lot of companies that sell different strains of Probiotics. One should, therefore, know the content of the product before purchasing it.

When it comes to food sources, individuals can opt for foods such as yogurt, kefir, and kimchi. Yogurt is one of the most common foods associated with probiotics. Yogurt promotes the health of the gut and prevents gastrointestinal diseases. It is also beneficial to people who suffer from lactose intolerance.

Kefir contains both yeast and bacteria. These two works together to provide individuals with numerous health benefits. Kimchi, on the other hand, is a fermented vegetable that is made from Chinese cabbage, green onion, radish, garlic, and red pepper powder. This vegetable promotes the health of the colon, brain, and skin. In addition to this, Kimchi also boosts one’s immune system and contains anti-oxidative properties.

Other food sources include a fermented soy paste called Miso, sour pickles and sauerkraut.

Side Effects

FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulates probiotics like foods, instead of medications. This means that companies don’t have to provide any evidence that their products are safe for consumption. With this in mind, one should always ensure that they buy their probiotics from a reputable company. Doing research before buying a specific product will ensure one gets the best product on the market.

Even though Probiotics are generally safe to use, they can make individuals to experience mild side effects. The common side effects include diarrhea, bloating and flatulence. The side effects usually last for a few days. In severe cases, probiotics can lead to allergic reactions.

People who have compromised immune system or other serious health issues should consult their doctors before consuming probiotics. One should also consult their doctors if unsure which type of Probiotic is ideal of them.

Bottom Line

Apart from occurring naturally in the body, probiotics can also be found in dietary supplements and fermented foods. In order to fully benefit from these good bacteria, individuals should ensure they are consuming products that have live micro-organisms.