If you want to improve your immunity and overall health work on your gut. No, you don’t have to do abdominal exercises, but you want to make sure your gut is well-populated with health promoting micro-organisms (bacteria). Probiotics are supplements that contain these friendly bacteria. Let’s discuss how to boost your health with probiotics? To understand the importance of bacteria on our health reflect on this. We have about 10 trillion cells in our body. But, we have about 100 trillion bacteria in and on our body. Most of these bacteria are beneficial to our health.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are nutritional supplements that contain friendly health promoting bacteria. The gastrointestinal tract is the residence for micro-organisms, primarily bacteria that actually play a huge role in improving our immunity and overall health by enhancing digestion, improving immune function, suppressing damaging inflammation,and facilitating hormone metabolism and nervous system responses. Probiotics also protect the inner lining of the gastrointestinal tract preventing penetration of toxins and harmful micro-organisms. There’s up to a 1000 different types of micro-organisms living in the gut. But, they just don’t take up residence.
As we age these beneficial micro-organisms decrease in number adversely impacting our health. Poor diet, stress, antibiotics, and nutrient deficiencies also lead to declining numbers of micro-organisms. Overweight individuals have lower numbers of microflora than do slender people.
Up to 70% of the immune system is found in the gut. The inner lining of the gut is home to endocrine (hormone), nerve, and immune cells. These 3 types of cells work together to monitor and adjust many physiologic functions. And, probiotics affect the function and cellular communication of these cells.
Imbalance of Micro-organisms
As the number of probiotics decline health problems rise. Perhaps, the biggest impact from a lack of probiotics is on the gastrointestinal tract. Food is not completely digested. Nutrients may not be absorbed. Bloating and intestinal pain can occur. Gastrointestinal diseases like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are more likely. Immune function is comprised increasing the chances of infection and inflammation. These beneficial micro-organisms balance the production of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. This delicate balance is disrupted with a decline in intestinal microflora.
Microflora deficiency is also linked to depression and emotional imbalance, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even autism.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics can be found in dairy products like yogurt and kefir, and in some breakfast cereals. They are available in supplements too. By enhancing immune function probiotics have been shown to reduce the frequency and duration of respiratory infections including the common cold and the flu, and even allergies. When it comes to GI symptoms probiotics can reduce episodes of acute diarrhea, and diarrhea associated with antibiotic use. More minor symptoms like bloating, gas, and occasional constipation can respond to probiotic use, too.
Probiotic use has also been shown to improve high blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce total and LDL cholesterol.
Friendly bacteria help the body produce nitric oxide. This done by the bacteria in the mouth as well as the gut.
See “Nitric Oxide Foods”, and “Boosting Nitric Oxide with Exercise”.
The friendly bacteria to look for in a probiotic include Lactobacillus species, Bifidobacterium species, Streptococcus species. Look for a supplement that:
- comes in a powder or capsule form.
- microflora dosing of 10 to 20 billion colony forming units (CFU) for adults.
- at least 8 different bacteria strains including the 3 discussed above.
- allergy caused skin disease like eczema
- irritable bowel and inflammatory bowel disease
- lactose intolerance
- respiratory infections
- vaginal infections
- gum disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- colon cancer
- side effects related to antibiotic use