Probiotics are live microorganisms that are essential in optimizing our health. They play important roles in achieving better digestion, regulating our intestinal function and boosting our immune system. This is all due the stimulation of growth of beneficial bacteria. Probiotics are typically found in fermented foods and can be taken as a supplement as well.
How do Probiotics Work?
In order to understand how probiotics work for our body, it’s worthy to first understand the microbiology of our gastrointestinal tract. Microbiology is basically the study of microorganisms, those tiny, live, microscopic entities. Within these microbes, some can be disease-causing, whereas others are known as ‘friendly bacteria’ which actually play a very important role to human health. The majority of the microbes in our bodies, contribute in a positive manner, which is why it’s important to have a good balance of good bacteria within our intestinal tracts. Probiotics are exactly that. They are the ‘good guys’ that our body needs, in order to help ward off the harmful bacteria. They take over the bad bacteria in the small intestine, before they are able to cause any damage.
Within everyone’s body, we are bound to have bacteria whether we like it or not. This bacteria comes from various foods, interactions between people or animals, pollution, contaminated water, parasites, and many other ways. This is why it’s important to replenish our body with the good bacteria. This is especially critical before and after taking antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy the growth of all bacteria, even the good ones, causing an imbalance within our intestinal flora. When there is a disturbance amongst the friendly bacteria, many health problems can arise.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Many disorders and illnesses of the gastrointestinal tract are prevented and even treated with the use of probiotics. Probiotics help in the treatment for intestinal inflammation, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, chronic constipation, Crohn’s Disease, urinary tract infections, vaginal infections and more. Probiotics benefit the lining of our intestines and helps to maintain and boost our immune systems, by balancing the intestinal flora and keeping bad bacteria from multiplying. Probiotics are also essential in the prevention of various childhood sicknesses, such as the common cold, ear infections and strep throat. Pumping up your body with this good bacteria, actually has the ability to reverse IBS, ulcers, inflammatory bowel and gut disease and/or disruptions. In essence, good bacteria in the gut will keep our immune system strong and ready to fight against toxic microbes that form or enter in our body.
Where to Find Probiotics?
Probiotics can be found in a variety of different fermented foods and cultured dairy products.
Foods that contain probiotics:
- aged cheeses
- miso (Japanese fermented seasoning)
- kombucha (fermented tea)
- tempeh (cultured soy product)
- kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables)
- kefir (fermented milk beverage)
While eating foods that contain active cultures are beneficial in increasing good bacteria in our body, these foods lack the high doses that are only found in supplement form. In order to achieve proper balance in the gastrointestinal system, our body requires these high-dose of probiotics.
When choosing a probiotic supplement, make sure the bottle’s label displays the amount of live microorganisms within each capsule or dosage. The bottle should also indicate the type of strain. An example of one of the main probiotic strains is Lactobacillus acidophilus. Also note that good quality probiotics will need to be stored in the fridge at all times and should indicate an expiry date. These are live cultures, so if you find the bottle on the shelf, chances are they are not going to be of much help. Our intestinal tract contains thousands of different strains of bacteria, so it’s best to choose a probiotic that is a multi-strain. This will help treat different areas of our digestive and intestinal tracts.
There is no specific amount of daily intake of probiotics, as everyone differs. For example, one overcoming or enduring a serious illness/disorder should take more than they normally would. Those who want to maintain healthy intestinal flora will benefit from taking 10-20 billion CFU per day. A recommended dose should be around 11 billion CFU (colony-forming-units), which can be taken 1- 2 times a day. Start off slow, with perhaps 1-5 billion CFU and gradually increase the intake. This will allow you to see how your body responds to the probiotics, and will prevent any side effects (which can occur if you take a high dosage all at once).
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