Probiotics are most known for being an additive in yogurt and kefir to achieve a healthy gut. What are probiotics, and do they really work? They definitely do work, and by understanding what probiotics are, you can understand why they work and in some cases, why they may not.
Probiotics are “good” gut bacteria
Your body contains more than 100 trillion bacteria, over ten times the amount of cells in your body. Research has shown that these microorganisms in your gut can either work to prevent disease, or encourage it. This is why some strains are referred to as “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria.
Good gut bacteria can be anti-bacterial, anti-allergenic, anti-viral, anti-depressive, and antifungal. They also regulate glutathione and immune responses. In fact, babies who don’t develop normal gut flora end up with poor immune systems that can affect them throughout their lives.
Your body requires probiotics to digest food, absorb nutrients, produce essential vitamins, absorb minerals, and eliminate toxins.
Eliminating “bad” bacteria
Bad gut bacteria compromise your immune system and block your body from achieving optimal health. These bad bacteria (like fungi and yeast) grow when nourished by sugar or foods that quickly convert to sugar.
The fiber found in vegetables feeds the good bacteria and as these fibers break down, they work to eliminate bad bacteria.
You still need some “bad” bacteria
Regardless of the quantity of bacteria in your gut, it’s the ratio between good and bad that matters most. The ideal ratio is 85% good and 15% bad.
Your gut is a second brain
Not only does your gut have its own intelligence, it’s also where the majority of serotonin is produced. That’s right, more serotonin is produced in the gut than in the brain. Watch this informative video from Dr. Mercola explaining this, and more about probiotics.
When probiotics don’t work
Your body produces its own probiotics, and that explains why studies have shown no benefits for healthy people. It’s not that probiotics don’t work, it’s that people who maintain healthy gut flora are producing their own and no external source is required.
Conditions treated with probiotics
Probiotics have been used to treat over 170 diseases, including the following common conditions:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Atopic Dermatitis
- Allergic Rhinitis
- The common cold
Sourcing probiotics from food and as supplements
Probiotics exist naturally in many fermented foods like sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kim chee, olives, and pickles. They’re also found in in pickled versions of carrots, squash, onions, and eggplant.
You can find commercially sold probiotic supplements at any health food store, but not all brands are created equal. Here’s what you need to be aware of when selecting a probiotic:
- Probiotics have to be alive when you take them. Bacteria are live microorganisms, and need to be alive when consumed to be effective.
- Timing is everything. Probiotics need to be taken on an empty stomach at least 15 minutes before meals. Not with your meals or after your meals. Probiotics taken on an empty stomach are less likely to become damaged due to a pH closer to neutral.
- Taking probiotics with antibiotics. Antibiotics kill your good gut bacteria and can leave you susceptible to pathogens like Candida. Taking probiotics 2 hours apart from the antibiotics will slow the growth of bad bacteria, and can reduce many common antibiotic side effects.
- Beware of manufacturer claims. This study found that thirteen out of fourteen commercially sold probiotics did not contain all the microorganisms listed on the label. Several companies even misspelled the names.
- Processed yogurt and kefir aren’t a good source of probiotics. These two commercially available fermented foods sold in the US add plenty of sugar to their products, negating the effects of any added probiotics.
In 2009, Dannon was sued for $35 million when scientific analysis could not back up their advertised health claims.
- Probiotics require special storage. Since the microorganisms need to be consumed alive, probiotics should be kept in the refrigerator. Storing probiotics out of the fridge will cause the microorganisms to die, reducing its efficacy.
Probiotics are a wonderful supplement to our health, and sharing this knowledge will enrich the lives of others. If you’re interested in studying healthcare so you can help others achieve optimal health, contact us today!