I had a special request to write up a blog post about probiotics. I thought this was a great idea. I hadn't written about probiotics specifically before. I had discussed gut flora and keeping your GI tract healthy, but not specifically through the use of adding a probiotic to your diet.
So I thought I would start with a definition of a probiotic. A probiotic is a substance that stimulates the growth of microorganisms, especially those with beneficial properties in the intestinal flora. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that are good for your digestive help. Our body is full of bacteria (good and bad). You can find probiotics in foods and also you can take supplements. There are lots of different types of probiotics with different health benefits.
- Lactobacillus is a common probiotics that you commonly find in yogurt and fermented food items. This strain can help treat diarrhea and also help people who are lactose intolerant.
- Bifidobacterium can be found in some dairy products. If can help to ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
- Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast probiotic and it can help fight diarrhea and other GI issues.
Probiotics are helpful for your GI tract. Your intestinal tract is often known as a "forgotten organ." Your gut needs to stay balanced and prevent a leaky gut (where your intestine doesn't absorb nutrients appropriately). This leaky gut can leave your GI tract vulnerable to other infections or illnesses. These probiotics containing foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, Tempeh, Kimchi and others. I love this list that I found on Health.com outlining a list of foods that are good sources of probiotics. I like the idea of getting probiotics from food sources. I think that your body can use and metabolize them better compared with a supplement. Plus supplements are not regulated the same way as food. Often with a supplement you are only getting one type of probiotic, compared with eating the food item you are eating multiple types of probiotics. Also just keep in mind that probiotics are not the same things as prebiotics which are dietary fibers that serve as the food for friendly bacteria that are already in the gut.
The list of ailments that probiotics can help treat are long. Everything from skin eczema to Crohn's disease. Everyone's experience is going to vary and the type of probiotic that you take could help with a different issue. I believe that working to keep your intestintal tract functioning optimally will help you stay healthier and feel better. There was a guide which outlined various strains of probiotics and which strain helped with which issues. You can find that article if you CLICK HERE. I am not going to rewrite all of those recommendations, but know that resource is available if you need it or would like to look over it.
Some other things to consider when it comes to intestinal health is fluid intake and exercise. Your GI tract benefits from physical activity just like your heart, lungs and brain benefit. Exercise helps your body to move through food you have eaten and absorb what is needs from that food and then excrete the waste in a timely manner. If you have had issues with constipation or just being irregular with bowel movements, work to add in some physical activity (even walking) into your day and that can help keep your GI tract moving appropriately. Fluid intake can also have a big role to play on how well your intestines work. Staying hydrated and focusing on drinking enough water is helpful.
Your intestinal tract flora is able to change based on your environment and what you eat. If you had an illness and had to take antibiotics, that medicine probably wiped out that good bacteria that had colonized in your gut. Often a doctor may prescribe a probiotic at the same time as a antibiotic to help lessen that breakdown of the gut flora. What you eat can have an impact as well on helping your gut to re-colonize with healthy bacteria. There have been studies showing the gut flora in a healthy weight adult who regularly exercises compared with an overweight adult who never exercises and they have different microorganisms living in their GI tract. What you regularly eat has a role on your gut health. Aim for a healthy diet - filled with fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy and whole grains. Those healthy foods will help fuel to healthy bacteria to grow in your intestinal tract. Do I think you need to take a special probiotic supplement to help with your gut health? No, I don't think you HAVE to take one, especially if you are eating this probiotic containing foods and an overall healthy diet. If you have noticed GI issues and try some of these probiotic containing foods and if that doesn't help, you can try some of the supplements and see if that helps with your symptoms. I think it is important to talk about gut health and helping people know that there are ways to aleviate some of these uncomfortable symptoms.
Hopefully that is helpful to provide you some insight into what probiotics are and how they can help your body. If you have any other questions or ideas for topics you would like me to cover on the blog, let me know!