What You Need to Know About Probiotics
Helping to add good bacteria to your body
Edited By:Raja Sivamani , MD, MS, AP
Bacteria and microorganisms are bad, but are they really? The general preconception about bacteria and other microorganisms is they cause diseases and we should avoid them. Yes, bad microorganisms exist, but good microorganisms exist too! When healthy, our bodies host over a hundred-trillion friendly bacteria that play a significant role in various bodily functions.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts, available from foods and supplements, which can provide health benefits to various processes in your body. Probiotics are thought to balance the ratio of good vs bad microorganisms in our body so it can continue to function in a healthy way. For example, balancing your gut microbiome may allow your system to more efficiently break down and process foods, avoiding constipation and improving intestinal health. These bacterial species are mainly present in our intestinal tract to help move food through our gut, however, are also present in other systems in our body like our skin. The popularity of probiotics has skyrocketed over the past few decades due to scientific findings of their possible health benefits, however, it is still early to completely buy-in because research is relatively recent.
What Are the Benefits of Probiotics?
Although research on probiotics is still growing, many believe that incorporating probiotics into daily nutrition may provide plenty of health benefits. Benefits of introducing probiotics to your diet may include: improvement of intestinal health, enhancement of the immune response, improvement of lactose metabolism, prevention of diarrhoeal diseases, and protection against allergies.
Probiotics From Food
Probiotic foods consist of many different cultures of bacteria, however, two groups dominate over the others: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains. Many strains of each of these two major groups are present in unpasteurized, fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Aside from the major two groups, Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactococcus lactis are two other species important to the food industry, primarily dairy products. With the increase in popularity, pharmaceutical companies and food industries are now developing supplements and pills that contain probiotics for easier availability. Different bacteria provide different beneficial effects for the body, so it’s best to diversify your food intake to increase diversity in your gut.
How Do Probiotics Help My Skin?
Probiotics primarily benefit the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and stomach, so how does that help my skin? The GI tract and skin are both organs of detoxification. A healthy microbiome in our gut allows us to break down foods, absorb nutrients, and eliminate toxins. When our gut is out of balance and there is a larger ratio of bad bacteria to good bacteria, problems arise. The connectioean between oral probiotics and the skin are still under research but several studies suggest that probiotics may help with itch and with bolstering the skin barrier. Chronic inflammation is one of those problems. Research is still growing but show hopeful benefits and also show minimal adverse effects of taking probiotics currently.
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