Probiotics and their health benefits

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The health benefits of Probiotics and prebiotics have gained in more popularity lately.

In fact, people awareness about the correlation between health and nutrition have increased, creating a good environment for probiotic foods and supplements to be developed.

Bottom line? To maintain a good health is a key priority for most people.

In this guide, you will find everything you need to know about the benefits of probiotics and how to use them to improve your health.

Let’s dive in.

Content:

  1. What are probiotics?
  2. Health benefits of probiotics
  3. Probiotic foods and drinks
  4. probiotic supplements

What are probiotics?

I can say that there is two definitions of probiotics, a nerdy definition and a simple one.

The nerdy:

“Probiotics are live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”. According to The world health organization (WHO)[1].

I know it doesn’t explain much which will bring up the simple probiotic definition:

Simply, probiotics are mostly bacteria that live in our guts and they are responsible for a lot of beneficial effects.

Yes, you read right,

BACTERIA.

But don’t let the word scare you, because they are really good and friendly bacteria and their consumption can have a huge impact on improving your intestinal health, enhancement of the immune response, disease prevention and more…[2][3].

Prebiotics vs Probiotics

As it’s already explained, probiotics are the good bacteria in our guts. On the other hand, prebiotics are the non-digestible foods that make their way through our digestive tract and promote the growth of the good bacteria.

Health benefits of probiotics

Researches are showing more evidence to support the beneficial effects attributed to probiotics.

While some probiotics benefits are well documented others are expecting promising result but they still need additional studies to be conducted.

So, what are the benefits of probiotics?

1.Gut health

Our health is related to our digestive system, therefore taking care of our guts health will profoundly affect different aspects of our general health.

Probiotics have a main role in the improvement of our intestinal health and they are used to cure different gut related illness such as:

Antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD)

Antibiotics are a common treatment for bacterial infections, their role is to kill or prevent the growth of the bacteria.

As a side effect, antibiotics therapy tends also to kill the good bacteria in your guts and change the normal intestinal microflora, as a result you can develop diarrhea, Antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD).

As shown in different studies, taking foods or supplements that contain probiotics like L. rhamnosus and S. boulardii after or during the antibiotics therapy will cure, prevent or reduce the risk of AAD [15].

Infectious diarrhea

Infectious diarrhea caused by Rotavirus is very common among kids and infants. Rotavirus disease may also cause fever, vomiting, abdominal pain and it’s a significant cause of young children death.

The treatment of the infectious diarrhea is one of the health benefits of probiotics. Clinical studies have shown that L. rhamnosus, L. reuteri, L. casei, and B. animalis play a mean role in reducing the duration of infectious diarrhea among children [16], so including this kind of probiotics in the kids diet will have a huge impact on their gut health.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is the inability, for some people, to digest the sugar in milk products (lactose).

People with lactose intolerance develop symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and gas.

Some probiotics have the ability to improve lactose metabolism and make it easy for people with lactose intolerance to digest the sugar in milk products [17][18].

Yogurts with probiotics like S. thermophilus and L. delbrueckii ssp. Bulgaricus are a good choice.

2.Allergies

The early life exposure to bacteria help the infants to develop their immune system. as a result, a strong immune system means better protection against allergy.

According to recent studies, some probiotic strains like B. lactis and L. rhamnosus GG are effective in preventing and decreasing the eczema severity [19].

There is also some evidence that some strains may improve other food allergy symptoms, but farther studies need to be conducted.

3.Mental health

Probiotics benefits touch different aspect of our health including our brain and mental health.

But the question is, why our intestines health has that impact on our brain?

Our guts have a nervous system composed from millions of neurons associated with the brain. So, any change in our intestines microflora will impact our brain and our mental state.

Recent studies have shown that mental health benefits of probiotics. Those benefits include reduction of depression and anxiety [20]. However, probiotics don’t have to be used as substitute for depression FDA-approved drugs.

4.Reduce Cholesterol levels

You already know that high cholesterol levels are very bad for your health. Because they may lead to heart attacks and/or to other health complications.

Most of the cardiovascular disease are a result of the unhealthy diets like those high in sugar, salt or high in fat.

The good news is, for the people with high cholesterol level, that consuming probiotics could be very effective in reducing the levels of cholesterol and prevent health complications and heart attacks [21].

Probiotic foods and drinks

Having a healthy diet is a key priority for most people but what foods actually help you maintain good health?

Since we are talking about probiotics benefits, I will give you a list of probiotic drinks and foods and some tips to include them in your everyday diet.

Stick with these digestive probiotic foods and drinks to get the key benefits.

1.Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk drink. it is made by the combination of kefir grains as a starter and any kind of milk, including goat milk, sheep milk, cow milk or even coconut milk.

The interaction between the bacteria in kefir grains and the proteins in the milk is very strong which makes kefir a drink rich in probiotics.

People who suffer from lactose intolerance or irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) can experience an improvement of their health if they include kefir in their diets.

2.Tempeh

Tempeh is an Indonesian food made by the fermentation of cooked soybeans. It is a great source for fiber and proteins which make it a very popular food among vegetarians.

Also, tempeh is a low-fat food, so it is a great choice for people who are trying to lose weight.

Due to the fermentation process, tempeh acquires a lot of probiotics benefits which make it a probiotic food that you can include in different dishes and recipes, such as salads soups or even pasta sauces.

3.Fermented foods

Lactic acid fermentation is a very old method to preserve some kind of vegetables and foods for later use.

In this process the lactic acid producing bacteria or the lactobacillus strains transform the sugar in the vegetables and other foods into lactic acid which help preserve them.

Fermented foods have all the probiotics benefits we have talked about before. and to enjoy this health benefits you need to try and include fermented foods in your diet regularly.

Here is a list of some of the most famous fermented foods:

  • Kimchi
  • Natto
  • Pickles
  • Miso

4.Kombucha tea

This tea like drink has become popular with health food enthusiasts for a good reason. This drink is chock full of gut-friendly bacteria, probiotics.

It’s made from the fermentation of sugar by yeasts in tea meaning that it has a slightly sweet flavor, much like your favorite sweet tea.

Many people who have IBS or other digestive concerns will drink kombucha on a regular basis and notice an improvement in their symptoms.

5.Sauerkraut

Although you may not regularly eat sauerkraut, unless you’re having a hot dog, this naturally fermented food is rich with Lactobacillus probiotic strain which helps to get rid of bad bacteria in your gut and instead allow the beneficial bacteria to grow.

Try adding sauerkraut to some of your savory dishes or as a side dish. Just a small serving a few times a week can make a difference.

Over time, you’ll start to notice a decrease in gas, bloating, and indigestion.

6.Mangos

Mangos are not exactly a probiotic food, but they can help keep the good gut bacteria alive more so than other fruits. So, mangos are technically prebiotics.

It’s a rich source of prebiotics, the materials that gut bacteria need to stay healthy and you can enjoy mango in a variety of ways. Add it to smoothies or slice up for breakfast.

This power packed superfood is also a rich source of many nutrients. Add mangos into your diet with one or two times a week.

7.Yogurt

No matter what type of yogurt you like, this food contains probiotics in their natural form, which will help them be the most effective source for your body.

Whether you like dairy or non-dairy yogurts, they’re all going to have probiotics in them. The types of probiotics found in yogurt help to remove fungus and harmful bacteria. They work to repair a damaged gut and contain beneficial enzymes that will help your body digest and absorb nutrients.

Many people today suffer from digestive problems, but you don’t have to live with unpleasant or embarrassing symptoms. These are the foods that’ll keep your gut healthy and improve your general health over time. Try including them in your diet to see the benefits and you’ll enjoy improved health over time.

Probiotic supplements

Natural probiotics that come from fermented foods, dairy products or any other natural source are the best option for you. However, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of free time to include this foods in your diet and it is also difficult to carry them around with you.

If it is the case, probiotics supplements can be just a good alternative.

Before you try and buy a probiotic supplement here is some things that what you need to consider first:

  • Look for established brands that have a great reputation and lot of client’s reviews.
  • As long as you are not looking for as specific probiotic strain, try to buy supplement with variety of strains.
  • Do your research before you buy.

Types of good bacteria:

Here is a list of the probiotic strains which you need to keep an eye on when you are buying a supplement:

1.Lactobacillus acidophilus

It’s the most widely used good bacteria or probiotic that lives in our intestine and protects against the bad bacteria.

Several substances such as lactic acids and hydrogen peroxide are formed when the lactobacillus acidophilus breaks down the food in the intestine and create an unfriendly environment for the bad bacteria.[4]

2.Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus

This is the main probiotic “friendly bacteria” used to make yogurt and some kind of cheese, and it also has a main role in the fermentation of some foods like pickles, sauerkraut, beer and wine.

3.Lactobacillus casei

This bacterium is found in the human mouth and intestine and has two main roles:

It complements the growth of lactobacillus acidophilus and it’s responsible for the production of a digestive enzyme called amylase.

It is widely used in dairy production.

4.Lactobacillus reuteri

This probiotic is known for its benefits of reducing the cholesterol levels[5], it’s good for children gut health[6] and it contribute in woman vaginal health[7].

5.Lactobacillus plantarum

It’s present in many fermented foods as well as saliva.

What is interesting about this probiotic “plantarum” is its ability to resist multiple kind of antibiotics [8].

6.Lactobacillus rhamnosus

L. rhamnosus is a widely used probiotic strain due to its various health benefits such as stimulation of immune responses, treatment and prevention of gastro-intestinal infections and diarrhea [9].

7.Streptococcus thermophilus – used in food fermentation and also in the production of yogurt along with Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus.

8.Saccharomyces boulardii

Well known for its medical use and treatment of Antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) and some chronic diseases [10].

9.Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis

This health promoting probiotic is added to several fermented and non-fermented foods [11]. It includes  a lot of health benefits attributes like modulation of the immune system [12], reduction of colonic transit time [13] and increased digestive comfort [14].

10.Bifidobacterium bifidum

B. bifidum is a dominant bacterium in the human body, especially for the first two years following birth.

11.Bifidobacterium infantis

It’s naturally found in the human intestine and it helps you maintain a healthy digestif tract.