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THE PROS OF PROBIOTICS
“Good” bacteria, or probiotics, can help balance out “bad” bacteria like parasites that can result in viruses or infections.
While probiotics are primarily charged with supporting healthy digestive and immune systems, they have other critical responsibilities as well.
Probiotics can be found in a host of foods, particularly those that are fermented or cultured, and supplementation may also be advised to ensure adequate levels.
The good stuff
As the name would suggest, probiotics are experts when it comes to doing what they do: helping support good health. This makes particular sense when you consider their roots, where “pro” means “for” or “promoting,” and “biotics” means “life.”
When most people think of bacteria, they automatically conjure up visions of nasty parasites that lead to colds, flus and infections. While these adversaries certainly exist, they’re more than balanced out by friendly bacteria, or probiotics. These valiant warriors can be obtained through food, beverages and/or supplements, and help with a myriad of vital functions both inside and outside the body.
What exactly are probiotics?
Before we examine what they do, let’s take a closer look at what they are.
The human microbiome is comprised of microbes (microorganisms) that can have negative (viruses) or positive (digestive balance) effects. While these microscopic organisms outnumber human cells by a 10 to 1 ratio, they only comprise one to three percent of the body’s total mass.
Probiotics are live versions of these microorganisms that are normally present in the intestines that, when introduced, can help replenish and shore up the ranks of good bacteria – keeping the body in balance, especially when compounded by age, lifestyle, genetics and diet. They’re defined by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
There are three main types of probiotics that work synergistically to support a healthy digestive system, and also have individual responsibilities:
Lactobacillus – With more than 50 species, lactobacillus can support treat yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, traveler’s diarrhea and other conditions, along with preventing respiratory infections.
Bifidobacteria – Boasting more than 30 species, bifidobacteria comprise most of the healthy bacteria in the colon and can support to improve glucose intolerance, blood lipids and IBS symptoms.
Saccharomyces boulardii – The only yeast probiotic, saccharomyces boulardii can support to alleviate antibiotic-triggered diarrhea.
Probiotics’ main functions
Like most superheroes, probiotics perform a myriad of vital functions. The top two are probably supporting a healthy digestive tract and supporting a healthy immune system.
In addition to improving regular digestion, good bacteria and yeast’s gut-balancing powers can support those who suffer from gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea caused by infection or antibiotics, heartburn, Crohn’s Disease, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease or UTIs. They can also help address an imbalanced gum microbiome precipitated by stress, lack of sleep, kidney stones or taking antibiotics. Probiotics can also support fortify the gut lining and notify it about impending foreign invaders, which can support protect against viruses and pathogens.
In addition, probiotics can support athletic performance by boosting antioxidant, protein and fat absorption; support positive moods by helping the gut produce serotonin; and break down lactose (the sugar in milk), which can be especially beneficial for those who are lactose intolerant.
What are the best sources of probiotics?
The good news is that these good bacteria can be found in a variety of foods, especially those that fall into the fermented and/or cultured categories. However, if you check the list below and discover that, other than yogurt and aged cheeses, your diet is lacking, probiotic supplements can be a viable option.
Although they’re considered to be safe for most people, with these – as with all supplements – you’ll want to consult with your physician or a holistic practitioner like Dr. Sergey Kalitenko to determine if they’re an appropriate treatment regimen for you.
Here are some food-based probiotic sources (in alphabetical order):
What’s the bottom line?
To keep your digestive and immune systems in tiptop shape, probiotics can support to ensure the optimal balance of friendly bacteria and yeasts in the body. While they can be obtained through fermented and cultured foods along with other food sources, supplementation as recommended by a medical professional may be needed to ensure adequate probiotic levels.