Probiotics are well known to be vital for maintaining a healthy digestive system. They're readily available and present in foods including yoghurt, fermented vegetables, sauerkraut and kefir (a milk-like drink). If that list of foods doesn't get your tastes buds tingling, then probiotics supplements are readily available too,
So, what are they? Probiotics are living micro-organisms that are often considered the 'good' bacteria in the body. They can help with some health benefits, not just to keep our gut happy, but also with issues such as weight loss, heart health and immune function.
Our gut is a very sensitive place, and there are several factors which can cause pain or an imbalance of bacteria in our body.
One of the factors which can cause digestive de-stress is taking a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics work well to kill off the harmful bacteria causing pain in the body. However they are so good at what they do - they often kill off the good bacteria too! Probiotics top back up the beneficial bacteria in our gut, restoring the balance once again.
Our immune system protects the body against diseases and possible foreign bodies which are detrimental to our health. These unwanted intruders can come from a virus, bacteria, parasites and other threats. So we should be doing what we can to make sure our immune system is adequately protected. Research shows that probiotics help alleviate any inflammation in the gut, boosting the immune system and warning off any future infections in the process.
Studies have shown that the strain of probiotic called Lactobacillus Reuteri can kill off the bad bacteria which causes tooth decay and lessen the harmful effects caused by gingivitis. There's a reason to smile!
Probiotics have shown that they may aid in reducing bad cholesterol and modestly reducing high blood pressure, resulting in protecting the heart.
Protecting your heart with probiotics is possible as good bacteria produces lactic acid that breaks down the bile in the gut, preventing it being reabsorbed into the bloodstream as cholesterol. Less cholesterol in the system means a better chance of a happy, healthy heart!
Unfortunately, this benefit is not mentioned very often, but there is research to support that there is a direct link between the health of our gut and our mental wellbeing. Information flows back and forth between the brain and gut by chemicals called neurotransmitters. Most of these are identical to those found in the brain. These chemical messengers are serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good hormones, which make us feel happy and aware when we are praised for something. Most commonly thought to be found in the brain, a large number of these chemicals are in fact present in the GI track (the pathway food takes from the mouth). To find out more about probiotics and mental health, see our previous feature Probiotics: The Real Happy Pill?
These are just a few examples how probiotics and their healthy bacteria can help you maintain good health. For more information on probiotics, you can find it on the necessary products linked below.