Good health and a robust digestive system go hand in hand to give you a life that is free of diseases.
And probiotics play a vital role in enhancing our digestion and keeping it robust. Probiotics are good bacteria that live in our bodies and have many benefits.
We have both good and bad bacteria in our bodies, and the number of bad ones increases when we fall sick.
But probiotics are good bacteria, and their low number can make us sick instead. Taking probiotic supplements can help to keep their numbers high.
What are Probiotics?
We live with the notion that all bacteria are harmful, but it’s not true—our body houses both good and bad bacteria.
Probiotics are a mix of living good bacteria that naturally live in our body and play a role in keeping it healthy. It also helps fight off harmful bacteria when their number increases in the body in case of an infection.
Probiotics are a small part of the bigger picture, involving our body and the micro-organisms living in it, or a ‘Microbiome.’
A microbiome is like a forest ecosystem where every plant and animal has a part in keeping the forest thriving. In the same way, our body is also a microbiome where there are trillions of microbes that keep our body healthy. These microbes include viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi.
Every human being has a unique microbiome. The types of microbial cells are different for every person.
To consider a microbe as a probiotic, it needs to fulfill the following conditions:
- It is safe to consume.
- It can be isolated from the body.
- It should survive in the intestine after ingestion.
- It has a proven benefit for our bodies.
You can get probiotics from food sources as well as from supplements. The most common probiotic microbes are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria and their different strains.
Different probiotic microbes and their different strains have various benefits for the body.
Where are probiotics found in the body?
The most common place we know where probiotics live is in the gut, but several other areas host these beneficial microbes. These are:
- Urinary Tract
What Are The Benefits Of Probiotics For Gut Health?
The probiotic microbes in our digestive tract are part of a complex gut flora called a gut microbiome. It includes different micro-organisms like viruses, bacteria, fungi, helminths, and archaea, where the vast majority comprises bacteria.
Our gut is a complex ecosystem home to around 300-500 species of microbes. Most of these microbes are in our large intestine or the colon, at the end of our digestive tract.
The intrinsic metabolic functions of our gut flora resemble the working of an organ.
It performs some vital health functions, such as producing K and B vitamins which are crucial for our body. These microbes in our gut also change fiber to short-chain fats that nourish our gut wall and perform metabolic functions. These fats strengthen our immune system and gut wall.
Now, there are times when this delicate balance of our gut flora goes off balance due to many reasons such as overuse of antibiotics, unhealthy diet, underlying diseases, etc. In such cases, probiotic-rich food and supplements balance the level of microbes in our gut.
With prolonged use of antibiotics, the good bacteria in our gut reduces, whereas the harmful bacteria start thriving. Probiotics help restore the gut flora’s balance by introducing good bacteria into the system.
Probiotics can also help reduce irritable bowel symptom, a digestive problem that’s becoming increasingly common nowadays thanks to our unhealthy eating habits. It can also prevent diarrhea, gas, bloating, and constipation. In some cases, probiotics can be beneficial for chronic diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcers.
These microbes also help to fight against Helicobacter Pylori infections which play a significant role in causing stomach cancer and ulcers.
What Are The Sources Of Probiotics?
You can get probiotics in two ways: from the food you eat and supplements containing probiotic microbes. You can quickly increase the number of good microbes in your body through certain food items, some of which you eat every other day.
Some of these food items include:
- Cottage cheese
- Sourdough bread
- Fermented pickles
- Miso soup
Apart from these food items, you can also take probiotic supplements that may contain just one or many microbe strains. It may be in the form of powders, liquid, or pills.
Your diet plays a vital role in maintaining the balance of micro-organisms in your gut. While having probiotic-rich foods, ensure your overall diet is balanced and healthy.(1)
Are Probiotics Completely Safe?
Since the microbes in probiotics are the same ones present in our body naturally, they are entirely safe to consume. Some mild side effects like bloating, diarrhea, and allergic reactions may last a few days.
But some people need to be cautious before taking probiotic supplements. Anyone who suffers from a chronic illness or had recent surgery should be careful about including probiotics in their diet. Even those with a compromised and weak immune system should discuss with their healthcare provider about taking probiotics.
Have an explicit talk with your doctor before indulging in probiotic-rich foods or supplements.
The Final Take – Probiotics for Gut Health
If you are already on a journey toward having a healthy balanced diet, then adding probiotics to your diet will be a game-changer.
Or, if you regularly have digestive issues, probiotics may be a healthy option to reduce those. Probiotics have numerous benefits for our gut and our overall body. They are generally safe to consume, and each probiotic microbe will have different positive effects on our bodies.
Talk with your physician before you start taking any probiotic supplements. They can guide you on how to start and which supplement brands will be best.
You can even incorporate probiotics into your kids’ diet and other family members. It is high time to give enough attention to our gut flora with the help of probiotics.