While a relatively new concept, the idea of taking probiotics for gut health has taken hold in much of the American consciousness. Most know that probiotics can help to quell stomach issues and balance out the body so that it functions better.
However, what you may not know is that there are a number of probiotic supplement choices and that all of them are not created equal.
If you are considering probiotics for stomach issues, it may be nice to know that the rest of your body can also benefit from them. In fact, there are specific conditions that can be treated in part, through probiotics.
In truth, there are many misconceptions about probiotics and what they do. This is a shame because more people would probably take them if they knew everything that they could help with.
If you are ready to hop onto the probiotics revolution, it’s best to start with accurate information. This will help you to purchase the right probiotics and eat the appropriate foods in order to get the best match for your body.
What Are Probiotics Exactly?
Probiotics are essentially the good bacteria or microorganisms that reside in each one of us. It is a common misconception that all bacteria is bad or even that good bacteria only live in our guts because both are untrue.
Many good bacteria live almost everywhere in our bodies including our nose, mouth, throat, stomach, and especially in the upper and lower intestines.
In fact, the bacteria in our throat, mouth and nose happen to be one of our first lines of defense when confronted with a virus like influenza.
Which is either airborne and can be contracted through the nose and upper respiratory tract or through direct contact which means physical contact with either the mouth, nose or eyes for example by way of touching, kissing, or drinking after them.
Research has shown that a higher count of beneficial and influential species of bacteria is specifically linked to a lower incidence of many ailments such as halitosis (bad breath), dental caries (cavities), ear infections, strep throat, and tonsillitis.
Many of the things we use can kill both the good and bad bacteria in our bodies from antibiotics to mouthwash while trying to fix one ailment a whole other can arise.
For example many women that are prescribed antibiotics for one reason or another can develop a yeast infection because many of the good bacteria in their vaginas have been killed.
Probiotic supplements are commonly prescribed or taken for stomach imbalances, they can also help this and many other ailments.
Healing the Stomach…
The reason that probiotics are prescribed for stomach issues is because they actually improve digestion. When the bacteria in your gut is balanced, food can pass through easier. This reduces foul smelling flatulence, bloating and burping.
Because of this, probiotics can help with easing symptoms of the following:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Diarrhea (Infectious or antibiotic induced)
Other Than Stomach Problems…
… How Can Probiotics Help Me?
There is an impressive list of ways probiotics can benefit your body.
Instead of just listing a mind numbing amount of ailments probiotics combat, this publication will just pick a couple of ailments, detail what they are and how a probiotic would help our bodies take the natural actions to combat the ailment.
You may not think of cholesterol when you consider taking probiotic supplements, but it is one of the ailments that can be addressed by bringing them into your diet.
However, a lot of the cholesterol made by the liver is converted into bile acids that are then kept in the gallbladder and then used to aid in the digestion of fats. Through subpar diets our bodies can have too much pathogenic microflora in the GI tract.
What these pathogenic microflora do is break down the acids into a hand full of things which includes a toxic substance called lithocholate.
The lithocholate makes the liver convert less cholesterol into bile acids. This has two effects to our bodies; the first being when there is excess cholesterol that is not being converted into bile acids it starts to accumulate in the blood stream making cholesterol levels rise.
The second thing that happens is a severely less amount of cholesterol actually gets to the colon so it can be excreted by a bowel movement.
No one ever likes to talk about women’s issues, but if you are considering probiotics and want to know how else they can help you… it’s something you should also consider (especially if you’re a woman). Women's issues such as:
- Water retention
- Breast soreness
- Severe menstrual cramps
- Heavy flow
- Slower menstrual cycles
- Migraine headaches
In every body's GI tract there is an enzyme by the name of Beta-glucuronidase that essentially reactivates the estrogen sent by the liver from our blood stream so it can be retained by our body's.
When this bacterial flora is not balanced, estrogen is not reactivated nor retained and is wasted and discarded as stool. Supplementation can stop the aggravating effects brought on by low probiotic levels.
Because food moves through the stomach faster with probiotics, they can help to reduce or remove allergies to certain foods entirely. In addition to this, probiotic supplements encourage a healthier environment within the body, they can aid in toxin processing.
This is beneficial with allergies like hay fever or alleviating symptoms associated with other allergens such as:
- Animal dander
- Food allergies
Just like your gut, your mouth has a lot of bacteria as well. You may not want to think about it, but your mouth is actually a living environment to a host of microscopic creatures.
There are supplements for oral health that you can take that will aid in the health of your mouth, probiotics being one of these because they help to balance out the beneficial bacteria in the mouth.
What Is The Right Probiotic for me?
With a plethora of probiotics available for supplementation this day in age it can be confusing and overwhelming to pick the one that would best fit the needs of each individual.
Since probiotics can aid in the body's natural defenses against many ailments it makes most sense to go over some of the most popular probiotics themselves and what they are typically used for.
Even though the listed supplements below are all probiotics they’re all very different strains of the probiotic bacteria and have separate jobs that are more condensed in different places around the digestive tract.
It is always suggested that before taking any supplements to first talk to a physician or healthcare provider to cover all bases and make sure there is no reactions with current medications or existing health conditions.
Arguably the single most crucial strain of Lactobacillus in its species and it constantly reproduces and resides on the inside surface of the small intestine, urinary tract and genital system. L. acidophilus is also found in some food that are fermented such as yogurt.
Its role is to aid in the absorption of nutrients and aids in the digestion of foods containing dairy.
Supplementation of this probiotic has been linked to positive results in those with mild lactose intolerance as well as those with vaginal infections like candidiasis while recovering microorganisms after a treatment for an infection.
Much like L. acidophilus, B. longum happens to be one of the most common strain of good bacteria that is found in the digestive tract of most healthy adults and is used to help maintain the integrity of the walls of the internal organs.
Also like L acidophilus this strain of good bacteria has been linked to the improvement of lactose tolerance as well and is specifically aggressive as a scavenger of toxins.
This probiotic is also linked to the prevention of diarrhea, some food allergies and the colonization of harmful pathogens making a great supplement for overall intestinal health.
This probiotic resides in the colon, vagina, breast milk as well as both the small and large intestines and is arguably the most critical probiotic used in the normal and typical digestion of dairy products.
This bacterium is capable of living in clusters , pairs or even on occasion independently. B. bifidum is specifically important to those that are older because as we get older our normal capability to digest dairy starts to fall.
This strain is also known for its capability to break down complex carbohydrates, fat and even protein into little segments that are more thoroughly used by our bodies.
This probiotic is found in many mammals including humans and is linked to the decline of respiratory illnesses.
Like L. acidophilus this probiotic belongs to the Lactobacillus strain and this specific strain aids in the neutralization of a handful of the byproducts of digestion that promotes a typical and healthy amount of bacteria in both the digestive tract as well as vaginal genitalia.
This particular good bacteria is very adaptable and is able to live in those with a variety of PH’s where some may not and is known for lowering cholesterol levels arguably the better than any other in its species.
L. rhamnosus is one of the more popular probiotics in its own strain and is coincidentally known as the “travel probiotic” for its unique ability to help prevent the off-putting of occasional travelers diarrhea.
Travelers diarrhea is a stomach and intestinal infection that is known as the most prevalent ailment that affects travelers today.
The side effects of this ailment are three or more ill formed stools that are passed by a traveler within a 24 hour period as well as abdominal cramps, nausea and bloating.
Another great fact about this probiotic is that it is shown to amazingly stop an allergic reaction to peanuts in around 80% of children.
Your Health is In Your Hands… Or Rather, Your Stomach…
There are many probiotics to choose from and you may want to talk to your doctor or dentist about which will be best for you. You may want to consider a multi-probiotic, that is, one that has an array of bacteria that will provide you the most benefit.
You’re taking the right step towards your health and you are bound to notice a number of positive changes within your own body not that long after you begin taking your probiotics. So, what are you waiting for? Make your selection and see how quickly you can feel better.