Probiotics

What is the Purpose of Your Daily Probiotic?

First, do you know what a probiotic is? Everyone is taking them these days...but what exactly are they and do you really need to take a supplement? Probiotics are beneficial bacterium (most popularly in strains: lactobacillus and bifidobacterium) that are most bioavailable in the gut flora. Probiotics come in many strains and are found in yogurt, tempeh, kombucha, miso kefir, pickles, fermented foods and sauerkrat to name a few. 

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By now you’ve probably heard of the microbiome, the community of trillions of microorganisms that live inside and on your body. But did you know that microbes are so fundamental to life that they outnumber human cells by 10 to 1?

Our microbiome is full of all kinds of microbes, both good and bad. When our microbiome is balanced, the good guys work hard to keep us vibrant and healthy. However, when too many of the bad guys are hanging around, the good bacteria lose their footing and can’t do their jobs properly. Probiotics work to replenish the beneficial bacteria in our body and provide a myriad of important health benefits.

Here are just SOME of the reasons why taking a daily probiotic supplement is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall health and wellness.

1. Promote a healthy microbiome

Modern diets are filled with preservatives, sugar, dyes, pesticides and additives. This kind of exposure to antibiotics in both medicine and food (including fruits/veggies)  can wreak havoc on your body’s delicate balance of bacteria. Even aging, stress, environmental toxins, and medications (such as antacids, birth control, and steroids) can have indiscriminate effects on your healthy microflora balance.

When the good guys are overwhelmed, your microbiome can quickly shift and create issues that are less than ideal. Luckily, consuming probiotic supplements can increase your body’s levels of healthy bacteria and encourage optimal conditions in your body.

2. Balances immune system

Approximately 80% of your immune system is located in your gut! Because so many of your immune cells inhabit your intestinal tract, a healthy and balanced immune response is largely dependent on strong communities of beneficial bacteria existing within the gut environment. A high-quality supplement (preferably with multiple strains of good bacteria) works to crowd out the bad guys and support the foundation of your health at its core.

3. Enhance nutrient absorption

No matter how "healthy" you eat and how many superfoods you consume daily, your body won’t be able to benefit from them if your gut environment isn’t teeming with healthy bacteria. You see, enzymes and digestive bacteria break down the food you eat into molecules that make their way into your bloodstream to nourish your body. Inadequate or unbalanced microbial populations in the gut can derail this process and can even lead to malabsorption of critical nutrients. 

A daily supplemental probiotic may help your body naturally absorb all of the nutrients from your food and the additional supplements that you are taking. 

4. Improve your mood

Your “gut feeling” is more than just a hunch. In fact, your mental and emotional balance hinge on a healthy gut environment.   The good guys in your intestinal tract produce hundreds of nervous system chemicals that regulate your moods. Indeed, almost 95% of your body’s serotonin—the happiness chemical also found in the brain—is manufactured by your gut bacteria, so replenishing them often is one of the best things you can do to support healthy emotional function.

5. Maintain a healthy body weight

According to recent research, having a healthy balance of microflora in your gut helps speed up your metabolism and can even encourage weight loss. In one study, women who took probiotics over a six month period lost more weight, and were able to maintain and continue that loss, than those taking a placebo. An unbalanced gut can also lead to changes in mood and hormone levels that trigger "comfort food" cravings, leading to unwanted extra pounds.

6. Fight bad breath/body odor

You may be surprised to learn that our mouths and skin are home to an incredible amount of bacteria. This bacteria may cause odors. Studies show that certain probiotics, like Streptococcus salivarius K12, can help support the oral microbiome by suppressing the growth of bad breath-causing microbes. Unlike mouthwash or mints that simply mask bad breath odor, probiotics can help overcome this occasional, yet embarrassing, issue by encouraging long-term equilibrium of oral bacteria. There are also proven benefits that it can clear skin (whether taken internally or topically).

7. Lowers inflammation

It can help with pain and inflammation. By supporting immune system, probiotics can help to alleviate temporary inflammation—improving the health of your bones, joints, skin, and other areas of your body. In a study published in Gut Microbes, researchers measured participants’ levels of acute inflammation before and after taking Bifidobacterium supplements. By the end of the 8-week trial, inflammation levels significantly decreased in the probiotic group, proving that these good bacteria can effectively keep temporary inflammation in check. 

8. Reduces tired/foggy brain/fatigue

A foggy brain has a lot to do with digestion. Fatigue (and the resulting irritability) are often signs of poor digestion, which occurs as a result of an unhealthy gut. Scientists administered Lactobacillus plantarum to mice for six weeks. At the end of the trial, the mice showed increased grip strength, muscle weight, and endurance; and decreased fatigue. Taking beneficial probiotics can help give you energy and support your body’s ability to properly digest and process all the healthy nutrients you eat so you can regain your vitality.

9. Balance your blood sugar

Did you know that probiotics can help balance blood sugar levels? Yes, gut bacteria communicate with your cells to send chemical messages throughout your body. This communication process, in turn, enables your body to support and maintain healthy glucose levels. Taking a daily probiotic ensures that enough of the good guys are working on your behalf to optimize all of your body’s processes. 

10. Improve the appearance of your skin

 Your skin is your largest organ, and it protects your body from countless external threats. But, what many people don’t realize is that your skin is an important reflection of your internal health. Skin problems can result from nutritional and hormonal imbalances, as well as immune system disruptions, all issues that begin in the gut. By helping you to better absorb the nutrients from your foods and supporting immune system response, probiotics can reduce temporary inflammation and help you achieve healthier-looking skin that glows.

Author
Meghan Doherty Clinical Nutritionist

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