What Are Probiotics?

What Are Probiotics?

You’ve probably heard probiotics are good for your digestive health, but their benefits go beyond healthy digestion and gut balance.

A large body of research shows that having a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract is essential for whole-body health.

What exactly are these health-promoting bacteria, and why are they important? Let’s get started.

What are probiotics good for?

Probiotics are live microorganisms, the most well-known of which are bacteria, that have been shown to help regulate the many aspects of the biological processes that keep you alive and healthy, like inflammation. You can find probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut or dietary supplements—even beauty products.

These friendly bacteria promote gut health and can positively affect everything from immune health, to mood, to how your skin looks and feels and even managing healthy body weight.

Here are five more benefits your body gets from probiotics.

·   Healthy gut, healthy mind—Beneficial bacteria help keep your gut-brain axis healthy. In turn, it improves mood and cognitive health, and performance.

·   Power-organ support—They maintain high-energy consuming organs like your heart, liver, and lungs healthy.

·   Keeping anxiety in check—Certain probiotic strands like Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in patients with clinical depression. 

·   Free radical scavengers—Some probiotic strains may also provide antioxidant properties and protect cells by reducing oxidative stress from free radicals.

·   Keep things “moving along”—They can help relieve constipation. And also help the body manage more serious digestive-health concerns like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Chron’s disease.

·   Move over, “bad” bacteria—Probiotics change the composition in your digestive tract so that the bad bacteria can’t multiply, which can lead to infections, inflammation, and other health concerns.

What are the most common probiotics?

Many probiotics are similar to the “good” bacteria that reside in your gut. The two most common species of bacteria are:

·  Bifidobacterium

·  Lactobacillus

Probiotics are classified by their strains or names. Each probiotic can have a different effect on the body. When you read a food or supplement label, you read the name species, usually abbreviated as B.  or L., followed by the probiotic’s strain.

Here are four common probiotics you may find on food labels.

·   B. animalis

·   B. breve

·   B. lactis

·   L.acidophilus

Is there a difference between probiotics and prebiotics?

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that fuel the good bacteria (probiotics) in your gut. So, adding a balanced ratio of probiotics and their food source to your diet will help you keep your digestive tract healthy and your gut bacteria in balance.

Six probiotic foods to add to your routine

Adding fermented foods to your meals can go a long way in promoting your overall health. You can start by adding a scoop of sauerkraut to your scrambled eggs or having miso soup for dinner.

Here are six probiotic food ideas to get you started.

·   Kombucha—This green or black tea is fermented by bacteria and yeast and is claimed to have a remarkable array of health benefits, but more research is needed. 

·   Yogurt—This is one of the best sources of probiotics, mainly lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria. It may also support bone and heart health.

·   Kefir—Made by adding kefir grains to cow’s or goat’s milk, this fermented drink is also rich in friendly bacteria and yeast. Make sure you buy a plain kefir product, avoid flavored ones because they may contain added sugars and artificial flavors

·   Low-sodium pickles—Pickled cucumbers are left to ferment in a solution of salt and water. They’re also a good source of vitamin K. But make sure you get pickles without vinegar; the more acidic environment kills the live probiotics.

·   Cheese—Not all cheeses contain probiotics. Look for Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, or cottage cheese—the “good bacteria” can survive the aging process. Plus, cheese is also a great source of protein, calcium, vitamin B12, and other nutrients. 

·   Natto or tempeh—These fermented soybean products are great additions to salads, pasta dishes, and soups.

Why should I take probiotics?

As we continue to learn about probiotics, their value in supporting digestive health and overall well-being seems unequivocal.

However, each body has a unique biological composition and may not react in the same way. So, be sure to speak to a health care professional before you add probiotics supplements to your wellness routine.

Reestablishing the connection with your body is important. Noticing signs such as skin discomfort, trouble sleeping, and even mood swings can be indications that your gut’s microbiome is “out of whack.”

Come to PrimeMD to get a checkup. Our team of dedicated healthcare providers will guide you on your wellness journey and help you stay in tip-top shape. You can find your nearest location here.

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