New research provides further evidence that probiotics are critical to good health. They affect many essential body functions and is the key to your anti-aging process. Many take a multi-vitamin every day as a sort of insurance policy to cover your basis. The truth is that probiotics is likely to be even more important than your multi-vitamin.
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that exist mainly in your gastrointestinal tract, also known as the gut, which extends from the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, to the rectum. But billions of probiotics also live in the ears, eyes, nose, armpits, toes, lungs, appendix, joints, vagina, and urinary tract.
Your gut is a complex ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa called the gut flora. There is a constant war going on in the gut between the good and the bad bacteria. If you have a healthy gut flora, you have a strong army of good bacteria or probiotics. The gut barrier is your protective shield against unfriendly invaders, such as bacteria, toxins, and allergens, which enter the body on a daily basis via your food, water, and air.
There are 10 times more probiotics than cells (100 trillion) in the body. Probiotics total about 3.5 pounds of your body weight, more than your heart (0.7 lbs) or your brain (3 lbs).
Augment Immune Function
- Probiotics are responsible for 70-80% of your immune response. When they detect harmful invaders, they repress their growth through competitive exclusion and keep them from colonizing and penetrating the digestive tract. Probiotics also teach the immune system not to overreact to intruders, like allergens, that are harmless to the body. Researchers believe that allergies occur when the gut flora has more of the harmful species of bacteria and not enough of the beneficial ones.
- The gastrointestinal tract of a fetus is sterile. When a mother gives a vaginal birth, the baby experiences its first dose of probiotic inoculation in the birth canal. If the mother is healthy, her vagina will be richly populated with a healthy gut flora. Later on, consumption of breast milk gives the baby more probiotics as the mother’s colostrum (first milk) has up to 40% probiotic content. As the baby grows, bacteria begin to colonize in his/her digestive tract. Probiotics increase the baby’s immunity, reducing the frequency of colic (excessive crying) and illnesses.
- Probiotics help fight viruses such as colds, flu, rotavirus, herpes, and ulcers.
- Probiotics have a protective effect against bladder, breast, and colon cancers. Researchers discovered that the presence of a healthy gut flora positively influences the activity of your genes, helping them to express in a positive, health-promoting manner.
- Probiotics help prevent and alleviate many gastrointestinal problems, including constipation, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis. Studies show that some species of beneficial bacteria are anti-inflammatory.
Essential For Production & Assimilation Of Vitamins & Nutrients
- Probiotics help produce a huge number of vitamins such as vitamin A, B1-3, B5-7, B9, B12, B13, B15, K2, and essential fatty acids.
- Probiotics increase the digestibility, bioavailability and processing of a large number of nutrients including calcium, copper, iron, manganese, potassium, zinc, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and cholesterol.
- Probiotics help break down certain carbohydrates that the body cannot digest without bacterial help. A good example is lactose intolerance – symptoms usually disappear with the use of probiotics.
Enhance Brain Function
Most people are not aware that you have two nervous systems –
- the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and
- the enteric nervous system (gastrointestinal tract).
Both are created out of the same type of tissue. During fetal development, one part turns into the central nervous system, while the other develops into the enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from the brain stem down to the abdomen.
- It is now well established that the vagus nerve is indeed the primary route the gut bacteria use to transmit information to the brain. This is why your gut health can have a profound influence on your mental health.
- Interestingly, neurotransmitters like serotonin are also found in the gut. In fact, 95% of the serotonin, which is involved in mood control, is produced by gut neurons, not the brain.
- Researchers believe that probiotics have a direct effect on brain chemistry. Disorders such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism, and learning disabilities may all be traced back to gut health.
Antibiotics Upset Gut Floral Balance
If you have a serious bacterial infection, antibiotics can save your life. But antibiotics are useless against viral infections that cause the common cold and the flu. Overuse of antibiotics changes the gut flora.
- Antibiotics wipe out both beneficial and harmful bacteria without distinction. The moment your probiotics are gone, opportunistic parasites, fungi, and harmful bacteria rush in to fill the ecological void. This explains why after taking antibiotics, many people develop oral thrush (white lesions caused by the yeast fungus, Candida albicans), vaginal yeast infection, or urinary tract infection.
- Keep in mind that the foods you eat can also be a major source of antibiotics. If you want to protect your gut bacteria, you should buy meats that come from antibiotic-free animals.
- Antibiotics interfere with important hunger hormones secreted by the stomach, leading to increased appetite and body fat. Studies show that obese people have very different gut flora than lean people, and that altering the gut floral balance towards more probiotics result in weigh loss.
Foods Containing Probiotics
What you eat directly affects your gut flora and sugar is the worst enemy for a healthy gut. Sugar, apart from causing elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance, nourishes the bad bacteria and yeast in your gut.
Eating fermented foods, on the other hand, helps to restore your body’s balance of good bacteria. For thousands of years, fermented foods have been part of the diet of many cultures. Examples of fermented foods are:
- kefir, a fermented milk drink
- Lassi, a cultured Indian yogurt drink
- yogurt with live bacteria culture
- fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kim chee
- naturally pickled vegetables (turnips, cucumber, onions, carrots)
- fermented soybeans, such as natto (a Japanese food) and tempeh (an Indonesian food).
Choosing A Quality Probiotics Supplement
If you are not in the habit of eating these traditional fermented foods on a regular basis, you should consider taking a high-quality probiotics supplement for a healthy gut flora. Probiotics are extremely safe and is not associated with any side effects or drug interactions.
- Opt for a well-known, reputable brand because quality matters. The probiotic activity must be guaranteed throughout the entire production process and shelf life of the product.
- There are somewhere between 300 to 500 strains of bacteria in the gut. Check to make sure the supplement contains one or more of these bacteria strains that have confirmed health-promoting features:
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Bifidobacterium brevis
- Bifidobacterium infantis
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus salivarius
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Choose one with a higher bacteria count by looking at the number of organisms per capsule, expressed in billion CFU’s. Most brands range from one to 50 billion CFU’s. In general, the higher the number, the more potent and expensive it is.
- The latest trend in probiotic development is enteric coating to increase the survivability of the bacteria through stomach acids. However, humans have been getting results using beneficial bacteria for ages without enteric coating. The best way to take probiotics is with food.
- Don’t expose your probiotics to heat as they are temperature-sensitive. They thrive at internal body temperature of almost 100 degrees, but at lower temperatures and in the absence of moisture, the bacteria enter a state of dormancy and can survive for a long time. Some probiotics do not require refrigeration but some do in order to maintain potency. Follow handling instructions from the manufacturer.