Probiotics: Maximizing Their Health Benefits
Probiotics have become one of the most popular dietary supplements over the years, with more and more people realizing the health benefits they can offer. However, to make the most out of probiotics, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what they are and how they work.
What Are Probiotics and How Do They Work?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, commonly referred to as “friendly” bacteria, that are found in various parts of the body, but mainly in the gut. They play a crucial role in maintaining the overall health of our bodies by influencing the immune system, digestion, and overall wellbeing.
The term “probiotic” is derived from the Latin pro, meaning “for” or “in favor of,” and the Greek bios, meaning “life.” These microorganisms are generally too small to be seen by the naked eye and can be bacterial, viral, or fungal in nature.
Probiotics work by living in the gut and interacting with other microorganisms. They can affect the health of the gut as well as the immune system, supporting healthy digestion, reducing the risk of gastrointestinal issues, providing valuable nutrients, supporting immune function, maintaining gut integrity, and improving overall health.
How Can Probiotics Help?
Probiotics have been shown to have a wide range of benefits for our health. Here are some of the key ways that probiotics can help:
1. Probiotics Help with Digestion
Probiotics use a special process called fermentation to break down the food you eat. They work with digestive enzymes to break down the food matter and absorb its nutrients. Without this help, digestion can be slowed or impaired, causing food to pass through your body without the benefits you need.
2. Probiotics Help Reduce Gastrointestinal Issues
Probiotics can help to reduce the risk of gas, bloating, and diarrhea, especially when traveling or taking antibiotics. Several studies suggest that probiotics are associated with a reduced risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Taking probiotics can also prevent or treat infectious diarrhea not caused by antibiotics.
3. Probiotics Provide Valuable Nutrients
Fermentation in the large intestine produces valuable enzymes and nutrients that your body needs for healthy functioning. These enzymes help to break down protein and fat, while the nutrients include B vitamins, vitamin K, and short-chain fatty acids. All of these byproducts can help with energy production, tissue repair and maintenance, cognitive function, and hundreds of other processes. Probiotics support the fermentation process, promoting the breakdown of nutrients and proper digestion.
4. Probiotics Support Immune Function
More than 70 percent of your immune system is in your gut. Your gut bacteria are constantly secreting huge quantities of antibodies into the gut, helping your body manage any harmful bacteria you might encounter in everyday life. Infections, diseases, and even autoimmune conditions are most often the result of your gut bacteria being unable to do their job properly.
5. Maintain Gut Integrity
Your gut lining is naturally permeable, which allows nutrients to pass from the food you eat into your bloodstream. The bacteria lining the wall of your gut act as a barrier to prevent harmful substances such as antigens, toxins, and other invaders from entering the bloodstream. They also support the uptake of nutrients, electrolytes, water, and other beneficial substances from the intestines. This is vital for healthy digestion and the normal functioning of the body.
When to Take Probiotics
Research shows that probiotics are best taken just before or during a meal. Survivability has all to do with the pH balance of your stomach. The lower the pH, the more acidity. The higher the pH, the more alkalinity. Stomach pH is very low—around 2 to 3, which is too harsh an environment for most bacteria to survive. However, after a meal, the pH of your stomach contents temporarily rises to a more alkaline value of around 7. The reduced acidity means there is less chance of the probiotics being destroyed.
Side Effects of Probiotics
Most of your body’s microflora lives in your gut, making it the area most prone to side effects from probiotics. Typical symptoms may include gas, bloating, cramps, or a feeling of fullness. You may also experience a change in bowel movements. These symptoms usually subside after a week or two of taking the probiotic.
How to Choose a Good Probiotic
A good probiotic should be designed in a way that allows the bacteria to survive the harsh acidic environment of your stomach. Look for a probiotic supplement that uses some form of time-release technology, such as BIO-tract or delayed-release capsules that protect the probiotic bacteria and prevent them from being broken down in your stomach.
A good probiotic should also contain at least 5 strains and preferably 10. All of those strains have different benefits and work together to promote healthy digestion and overall health.
In conclusion, probiotics are essential for normal, healthy functioning. Several studies have shown that they can have important roles in supporting immune function, digestion, and overall wellbeing. Incorporating a high-quality probiotic supplement into your diet can be a simple yet effective way to improve your overall health and wellness.