Benefits of Probiotics
We generally tend to consider bacteria as the fore-runner of many diseases, thus it might come as a surprise to know that some bacteria actually have the potential to stave off many diseases. Probiotics, or good bacteria, as they are called belong to this category. Known to aid digestion, probiotics are very essential to maintain our health. Probiotics are those live microorganisms which when fed to the body in adequate numbers actively promote health and well-being.
Until recently, we had a conception that the colon is a repository organ for waste products. However, thanks to the extensive research conducted on probiotics, it is now clearly becoming evident that the gut is much more than the repository of waste products; rather it is the storehouse of friendly bacteria which go a long way in keeping us healthy. An increasingly body of scientific work has now conclusively proven that when taken in huge quantities, these live microorganisms have the capacity to improve the health of our digestive system and our body as a whole.
What are the benefits of probiotics?
Close to 400 different types of bacteria live in the human gut, the most common probiotics among them being L. acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum. Found naturally in the gut, these friendly bacteria balance out the negative effects of bad bacteria such as E Coli or candida. If by any chance these friendly floras are not present in sufficient quantities, the gut gets taken over by the bad pathogens and then the individual becomes susceptible to a host of diseases. Probiotic supplements can then be taken to restore the balance. The probiotics create a natural shield of antibiotics which protects the body from various disease causing organisms.
These beneficial bacteria not only help with our digestion by breaking down fat, carbohydrates and proteins but they also help in better absorption of food. Not only this, these friendly gut flora synthesize a number of vital nutrients such as vitamin k2 (menaquinone), B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid among others. Probiotics are naturally found in some fermented food such as live cultured yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and Kombucha tea. If you have a problem with fermented foods, you can avail of the many probiotic products available in the market in the form of tablets, capsules, powders or supplements.
The health benefits of probiotics
Several studies have established the fact that probiotics not only aid in digestion but also have the capacity to treat gastrointestinal diseases, allergies and even treat urinary tract infections.
Maintains digestive health
Our gut is inhabited by millions of friendly bacteria that help break down the food molecules and convert them into essential nutrients to be absorbed by the body. This is made possible by the multitude of good bacteria present. However this balance gets disturbed when we take antibiotics. Antibiotics, in their quest to cure us, go on killing the bacteria’s indiscriminately and in the process some good bacteria also gets destroyed. When taking antibiotics, it is therefore especially important that you take probiotics to restore the balance in your system. Probiotics increase the population of friendly bacteria in the gut enabling them to expel the foreign elements.
People suffering from irritable bowel syndrome stand to benefit the most from the use of probiotics. IBS includes a range of conditions such as constipation, irregular bowel movement, bloating, diarrhea abdominal cramps etc. Probiotics act as a panacea for all these ills. Regular use of probiotics restores normalcy to bowel movements as well as helps manage digestive health in a better manner.
Good for women’s health
Our uro-genital system contains a healthy mix of both good and bad bacteria. However, a simple reason as getting pregnant or taking antibiotics might be sufficient to disturb this balance. If you are susceptible to yeast infections in the vaginal area, it would be a good thing if you regularly take probiotics. Repeated taking of probiotics will restore the bacterial balance and also destroy the spread of yeast infections. Probiotics are especially important to a pregnant lady as pregnant women are more prone to vaginal infections.
Good for oral health
Many of us suffer from peridontal issues such as bad breath, cavities, bleeding gums etc. Regularly consuming probiotics helps to decrease the level of bad bacteria in the mouth. Probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri is specifically known to kill bacteria that are responsible for teeth decay.
Increases immunity and protects from allergies
Probiotics are not only good for our digestive tract but also good for our body as a whole. Close to about 80% of our immune systems are situated in the gut, therefore a healthy gut means a healthy body. Probiotics strengthen our immune system and protect it from attacks from stray pathogens. A strong immune system makes us immune to allergies and other pathogenic agents. They not only lessen one’s chances of contracting these diseases but also speed up the recovery process.
Probiotics and weight loss
The ratio between good versus bad bacteria should be maintained at 85:15, but that is hardly the case. A wrong choice of diet like eating too much of over-processed and refined food might upset this balance as these processed foods destroys the good bacteria living in the gut. An abundance of bad bacteria might lead to bloating, sugar cravings etc. The imbalance that results might make weight loss a difficult task. However, studies point out that increased probiotic consumption can contribute to weight loss. Therefore if you wish to see your waistline receding, incorporate probiotics in your diet.
Probiotics and men
Probiotics ensure that our digestive system works at the maximum level absorbing all the essential nutrients and vitamins necessary for a healthy body. If, by any chance, there is less of good bacteria then some of the nutrients might not be absorbed properly resulting in decreased performance. This is especially applicable to sportsmen who need all the resources at their disposal, to perform to their optimum capacity. Some preliminary research also suggests that probiotics can help cure erectile dysfunction as well as improve cardiovascular performance.