Health Benefits of Probiotics
From the newest health and fitness magazines to the yogurt display at Wegman’s, you see people everywhere talking about the benefits of probiotics, but you don’t know a thing about them. What are they? How do you get them? And what on Earth do they do?
At Ask Dr. Nandi, we’re here to help you be your own health hero and understand probiotics and the role they play in your gut health and total wellbeing.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are the good bacteria that naturally occur in your body, particularly in the gut. These live microorganisms help regulate digestion and intestinal function, as well as keep the body’s microflora balanced.
Probiotics are found in fermented foods that contain live cultures, such as yogurt, kefir, aged cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and some soy beverages. Probiotics are also taken in supplements, and the two most common forms available are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Probiotics have a huge range of health benefits. Here are just a few:
- Help with diarrhea and gastroenteritis
- Reduce symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), including constipation, gas, and bloating
- Decrease LDL, the bad cholesterol
- Boosts immune system, reducing the severity and length of respiratory infections
- Fights tooth decay and gingivitis by reducing gum inflammation
- Reduces symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Helps relieve psoriasis and eczema
- Reduces occurrence of yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Probiotics may even change how the brain responds to its environment, reducing anxiety and the symptoms of depression.
Research also shows that probiotics may reduce colic. In one study, nursing mothers who supplemented with probiotics had babies that cried 194 minutes less than babies who were given simethicone, a drug used to reduce gas and bloating.
Each person has his or her own, unique microflora environment, kind of like a gut fingerprint, with over 1,000 different forms of microorganisms naturally occurring in the body. Antibiotics, pregnancy, diet, and other things mess with your body’s natural microflora, causing a lack of good bacteria.
Eat fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, or sauerkraut to increase the probiotics in your system.
Find probiotic fortified foods, such as dark chocolate, juices, flour, and cereal.