Ten health benefits of probiotics
Science has encouraging evidence that probiotics can be beneficial in the treatment or prevention of a variety of health issues.
Research suggests that probiotics, which contain ‘friendly’ bacteria can help…
- Produce vitamins such as B6, B12, and K2
- Absorb minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium
- improve our mood, including anxiety and depression
- Periodontal disease and oral health
- The immune system- such as help fend off colds and flu.
- Treat and prevent gastrointestinal (GI) infections
- Prevent urinary tract infections and vaginal yeast infections
- Improve GI conditions such as irritable bowel, acid reflux, and constipation
- Improve skin conditions such as acne, eczema, rosacea
- Prevent or tackle Antibiotic associated diarrhea
But before you walk down the yogurt aisle…
What you should know:
There are hundreds of probiotic-containing yogurts and supplements on the market. They contain varying species, strains and amounts of probiotic bacteria. And it’s far from a “one size fits all” situation.
The properties of one species or strain within that species may be better at targeting a specific health issue than another.
To lift the curtain
Considerations when buying probiotics:
- Evidence based. Choose brands that have been scientifically tested.
- Variety is key. Unless you have been recommended a specific strain by a practitioner, stick with a product that has multiple strains of bacteria.
- Shelf life. Use products that displays potency at the time of expiration
- Quality and quantity. Benefits can be dose-dependent. So choose a product with high amounts of ‘good bacteria’ or at least 20 billion CFU colony forming units.
- Read up. If you are trying to support a specific aspect of your health, do your homework first. Find out which species of friendly bacteria would be helpful to you before you invest.
I won’t leave you in the dark…
So how do you know which probiotic to use? I’ve got you covered, with a few tips on who’s who and what’s what in the different probiotic strains:
One of the most important bacteria groups, this one already lives in your gut. Lactobacillus helps to maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall, and absorb minerals and vitamins. It also produces lactic acid, creating an acidic environment-useful to prevent growth of unfriendly, undesirable guests that thrive in an alkaline environment.
Some important strains of the Lactobacillus species, and what their job involves
- L. acidophilius. Concentrates in the small intestine where it targets digestive processes. Good for occasional stomach upset, diarrhea, cramping, and gas. Can help relieve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Supports the immune system. Beneficial for vaginal and urinary tract health. Can help mitigate the side effects from antibiotics.
- L. rhamnosus. Helps to process sugar and relieve symptoms of allergies and inflammation. Helps prevent ‘Traveler’s diarrhea’. One of the better strains for vaginal and urinary tract health.
- L. fermentum. Plays a role in processes involved in producing superoxide dismutase and glutathione, which are powerful antioxidants. Can help to reduce cholesterol.
- L. salivarius. Helps to improve oral health and prevent bad breath. May help control cavities in healthy adults.
This species helps to produce the same acidic environment as the Lactobacilus species, which aids digestion and the immune system, as well as to help with the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
This group produces B-complex vitamins and vitamin K, has antioxidant properties, scavenges and neutralizes free radicals known to contribute to age- related diseases, and helps with inflammation.
- bifidum. One of the main groups found in the large intestine. The first to colonize the intestines of babies. Prevents growth of molds, yeasts and bacteria in the intestines. Good for overall digestion, aiding in the breakdown of carbohydrates proteins and fats.
- longum. Good for detoxification. Has antioxidant properties. Helps in scavenging free radicals to neutralize them. Helps to relieve inflammation.
- infantis. The name speaks for itself. Important for infant health. The first gut microflora that mom passes on to her offspring. It lives inside our intestines throughout our life-span. Improves digestion, immune system, and proven to fight allergies. Helps prevent kidney stones.
Stays in the gut longer than any other species, which is better for protection. Good stability in conditions of heat, moisture, and light, therefore this species survives stomach acid and the gastric barrier. Colonizes the small intestine.
- coagulans. Helpful in general digestion, constipation, and diarrhea. Helps some of the symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohns disease, rotavirus, H.pylori, may be helpful to prevent cancer-causing agents. Ramps up the immune system. Known for its ability to maintain healthy vaginal PH and flora.
Secretes powerful anti-microbial molecules known as BLIS or Bactriocin-Like Inhibitory Substances. This species is good for oral health. It’s used to inhibit oral candida and undesirable bacteria, and is used as a bad breath remedy.
- salivarius K12. The ten percent of us that naturally carry this species in our throat have fewer sore throats and strep throat infections. This species improves dental plaque scores, provides protection against ear infections, and decreases volatile Sulphur compounds that cause bad breath.
- salavarius M18. Improves dental health of gums and teeth.
Before you begin
If you choose to get your probiotics from a supplement, keep in mind that probiotic supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The research behind them is also fairly early days.
Although, not widely reported, it is still possible to have side-effects from taking probiotics, especially if you are taking other medications or have certain health conditions. Therefore, consult with your physician prior to starting probiotics or any supplement to see if they are right for you and your health.
Looking for foods to get you started?
Try these: Yogurt, Kefir, Miso Soup, Kombucha (fermented) tea Tempeh, Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Soy Milk, Dark Chocolate, Microalgae “blue algae”, Olives, and (yes)-pickles.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and not meant to cure, treat illnesses, or prevent disease. Consult with your physician prior to taking any nutritional supplements or starting a dietary treatment plan.