Do Probiotics Really Make a Difference To Your Health?
There’s been a lot of talks about probiotics lately. Some are all for it while others remain doubtful. Can it really help you lose weight? Can it cure cancer? How can bacteria be good for your health?
A lot of food companies are currently advertising their product’s probiotic contents and its supposed health benefits. But they are yet to present any scientific evidence backing it up. With everything said about it (good and bad), the confusion is understandable.
To clear this up once and for all, let’s turn to science.
What are Probiotics?
When we hear the word “bacteria”, the first thing that comes to mind are germs and illnesses.
In truth, there are two kinds of bacteria: the good and the bad. The latter is what makes us sick. The former helps our body fight those bad bacterias, hence the name.
Probiotics are more popularly known as the good bacteria (and rightly so). These living microorganisms are naturally found in some of the foods we eat. They are also very similar to the ones living within our bodies especially in the gut area.
The two most common groups of probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Each of these groups includes many different types of bacterial strains. They are usually found in dairy products. Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut have probiotics too.
How Does It Help the Body?
Much has been said as to what probiotics can do to your body. But its main job is keeping the healthy balance of good and bad bacteria within.
As mentioned earlier, your body plays host to both good and bad bacteria. Keeping their numbers in balance is vital to its overall function. When your body loses some of its good bacteria, the scale tips in favor of the bad. This could cause some serious health consequences.
Probiotics work by replacing the lost good bacteria thus restoring the balance between the two. But since each of our bodies are structured differently, our reactions may vary. Also, there are a lot of different probiotic strains with their own unique functions. Thus, the effects vary on a case to case basis.
Not All Strains Are The Same
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are only two of the probiotic groups. A lot more probiotic strains are out there too. Each has its own purpose.
For example, lactobacillus helveticus helps reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance. While lactobacillus plantarum 299V helps reduce pain and bloating during diarrhea.
Some probiotic strains are also found to have negative effects on people who aren’t sick.
This is why knowing the specific kind of strain present in your probiotic supplement is vital. A supplement with strains specifically for lactose intolerance won’t help much when you have a cold.
In short, there is no silver bullet when it comes to probiotics. It’s not a cure-all solution. So read the labels carefully and do your research.
The concept of probiotics started when one scientist theorized that Bulgarian peasants lived longer due to their yogurt diet. Since then, many scientists and researchers have studied its effects on the body.
For the past several years, several studies were conducted to establish its health benefits. Many of these studies agree that sick people can benefit more from it than healthy ones.
One common conclusion is that probiotics can help prevent common side effects of ingesting antibiotics. You see, when you take in antibiotics, you don’t only get rid of the bad bacteria. You risk wiping out the good ones too. When this happens, bad bacteria can take over and may cause inflammation and diarrhea. Adding yogurt with lactobacillus strains to your diet after a course of antibiotics prevents these.
A review published by the Stanford University concluded its benefits on our livers too. They found that probiotics have promising effects on patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Several studies were considered in coming up with this conclusion. Though results vary, there are convincing pieces of evidence attesting to its benefits. Some of them are improved liver enzymes and hepatic inflammation.
Another review describes the role of probiotics in treating H. pylori infection. The same also described its great potential in managing various gastrointestinal disorders.
A joint study by biotechnologists from Italy and Denmark provides evidence that probiotics do more than balance our body’s microorganisms. They are also essential in maintaining good health.
How To Get Optimal Benefits
One small drop of probiotics taken once a month will only waste your money. It won’t have any measurable effects on your body. For probiotics to be truly effective, you have to take it in large doses. Be careful though, too much can have negative side effects too. Consult with your health care provider if you’re not sure how much you should take.
Experts also advise that probiotics be taken in the morning before breakfast. You’d want it to populate your gut and your breakfast will help push it down your intestines.
Finally, for probiotics to effectively colonize your cells, it has to be exposed to the surface for as long as possible. If you’re targeting ear, nose and throat infections, lozenges are the most ideal way to take it in. It slowly melts in your mouth giving the strains ample time to attach itself to the cells.