Probiotics are a type of “friendly” bacteria that are making headlines for all the right reasons, says Whole Body Research, an all-natural supplement company. For some, the simple thought of “bacteria” is gross enough to warrant a couple squirts of hand sanitizer and a slight cringe. So, the thought of ingesting bacteria intentionally, may at first, seem even more peculiar. But good bacteria, like probiotics, help promote a healthier self.
Probiotics are living organisms that are naturally found in the body. The digestive system alone is home to more than 500 types of bacteria, all of which create an optimal environment for the body to work. Researchers point to the significant health benefits probiotics offer, particularly involving the digestive and immune systems. Down to basics, they help digest food and fight off bad bacteria when people get sick.
Digestive and immune system health are highly dependent on one other. Balance within the digestive system is greatly tied to proper immune functioning. When the balance of good and bad bacteria is ideal, the body can remove the unwanted bad, including viruses. An imbalance can leave the immune system vulnerable.
“This is where probiotics come into play,” explains Whole Body Research. “Probiotics aid in restoring the balance within the digestive system and, in turn, the body as a whole.”
From yogurt and sauerkraut to miso soup, probiotics are found in various foods. People just need to know where to look. Stronger scientific evidence is still needed in order to prove the exact conditions probiotics can affectively combat. But enough research already exists to highlight that there are real benefits in consuming probiotics and that it’s not just fictional hype surrounding the mass trend.
A Digestive Boost
An article originally featured in the 2012 issue of the Journal of Gluten Sensitivity calls the human gastrointestinal tract “a unique, diverse and very dynamic microbial ecosystem.”
A normally functioning gut ecosystem “…enhances digestive processes, produces certain vitamins and nutrients, facilitates absorptive processes, participates in development and maturation of the immune system and limits colonization of the gut by pathogenic microorganisms,” continues the study.
An abnormal gut, often caused by an imbalance in good bacteria, can lead to the development of chronic inflammatory, autoimmune and atopic processes throughout the body. Seeing as probiotics can improve gastrointestinal health, researchers believe these “friendly” organisms can serve as an addition to traditional treatment for people with celiac disease.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationalso found probiotics to be affective in fighting antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD), a very common gastrointestinal problem.
Researchers at Rutgers University took an innovative approach to the benefits of probiotics. The team modified a strain of E.coli to produce beta-carotene, which was then put inside the intestine of a mouse. The mouse was able to continue producing beta-carotene, as well as spread the vitamin to various tissues. Now that researchers have proven that modified E. coli can produce beta-carotene and that the mouse can then use it, the next step is creating a “human-friendly probiotic strain that will be capable of producing high levels of beta-carotene,” explains Professor Loredana Quadro, who led the research.
Backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this research could offer a solution to a vitamin A deficiency issue, through the creation of modified gut bacteria.
An Immune Boost
In the realm of immunity, good hygiene may be negatively impacting health. Most people today go especially out of the way to keep clean, but this consistent process removes more than just dirt. It doesn’t allow the body to come in contact with as many pathogenic organisms, which may contribute to a loss of disease-fighting power.
“In societies with good hygiene, we’ve seen a sharp increase in autoimmune and allergic diseases,” says Stefano Guandalini, M.D., professor of pediatrics and gastroenterology at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Eating foods with probiotics can help counter this issue, introducing the body to good bacteria that is “believed to challenge the immune system in healthy ways,” Dr. Guandalini continues to WebMD.
People can always count on eating right to empower a struggling immune system, but the consumption of probiotics looks to offer additional help in supporting the production of antioxidants.
“Too many Americans are eating too much of the wrong foods. Bringing balance to your diet, exercising more, and taking supplements can all combat the average American’s tendency to consume too much sugar. In doing so, your body will thank you,” says Whole Body Research.