Probiotics have become a popular health topic. Naturally occurring in many foods, as well as being available in supplement form, including probiotics in a diet has many benefits for both the digestive system and the rest of the body.
The digestive system houses more than 500 different types of bacteria, which total more than a trillion. The amount and types of bacteria are in a constant state of flux, as bacteria are influenced by diet, stress, medications, and more. Probiotics are organisms such as bacteria or yeast that are taken to keep the digestive system working properly, as well as an array of other benefits.
When digestive problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, or bloating occur, probiotics can be used to improve the condition. Often antibiotics or infection can reduce the number of helpful bacteria living in the gut. When the amount is reduced, it can be harder for the body to digest food, resulting in gastrointestinal problems. Replacing the bacteria lost with probiotics may resolve these issues. Individuals with ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome have also shown improvement when taking probiotics.
There is evidence that probiotics may help boost the immune system. In studies, countries with very clean hygiene had an increased level of autoimmune and allergic diseases. Scientists think that antibacterial soap and increased hygiene may have the effect of not challenging the immune system with pathogenic organisms, making it more susceptible to allergies and autoimmune problems. Probiotics may help to challenge the system, while keeping good health, and improve the immune system. Two widely studied types of bacteria, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, demonstrate the wide effect that probiotics can have on the human body. Intestinal bacteria produce proteins that affect the chemical detection and signaling molecules contained in the digestive tract. Over time, the imbalance of good-and-bad bacteria in the digestive tract may signal to the detectors, triggering disease and illness to occur. Restoring the balance can reverse these signals, improving overall health. Studies have also shown that probiotics stabilise blood sugar levels, improve HDL cholesterol, decrease liver inflammation, improve metabolic syndrome, and reduce DNA damage that can result in the formation of malignant cells.
Along with physical health, probiotics may help improve mental health as well. Recent studies on animals showed that probiotics made mice less anxious and reduced the effect that the stress hormone, cortisol, had on the animals. In humans, studies have shown that introducing healthy bacteria may help alter the way that emotional information is processed, having an anti-anxiety effect on those in the study.
Because of the wide-array of probiotics available, there are things to look when purchasing a supplement. Probiotics are only helpful if they are alive organisms, so the expiration date of the supplement should always be checked. Enough probiotics need to be ingested in order for them to work properly. The CFU, a common way that bacteria are measured, should be in the ten to 20 million range in probiotics for the most benefit. Probiotics should be kept in a cool, dry area and taken consistently, in order for health to improve.
Probitoics were once thought to just improve intestinal problems. Studies have shown that along with helping the digestive tract, they improve a wide array of both physical and mental health problems.