Probiotics continue to gain recognition in nutrition and science for playing an important role in several aspects of a person’s health. In fact, the extent to which probiotics affect our health is quite amazing.
So what are probiotics anyway? Simply stated, they are microorganisms, aka bacteria, that live in your intestinal tract. They are often called ‘good bacteria’ because they affect your health in positive ways, in fact sometimes in very profound ways. The 5 most researched species currently include:
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus brevis
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Bifidobacterium longum
Keep in mind there are thousands of species and you may see these increasingly become part of probiotic supplements as more data becomes available, but these are the most beneficial based on the current science.
Due to genetics, environmental factors, use of antibiotics and most of all our highly processed food diet, the balance of these bacteria get out of whack in the body. These leads to a chain of negative health effects.
Probiotics Affect How Well Your Body Processes Sugar
Your body’s glucose tolerance is related to the ability of your gut bacteria to bread down all sugars and carbohydrates. An imbalance can lead to elevated blood sugar.
Probiotics Help Maintain Strong Immune System Response
One of the common reports of people who begin a probiotic focused diet and lifestyle, they tend to get sick less and for shorter bouts. Having a stock of ‘good’ bacteria in your gut helps to keep your immune system at full strength. The immune systems’ response to good bacteria becomes like a constant counterforce making them stronger to protect you from the bad bacteria. When that resistance is lowered, the immune system’s readiness for defense is lowered.
Probiotics Reduce Inflammation In the Body
Immune function is based on your body’s inflammatory response to invading entities. A strong immune system means reduced systemic inflammation, in turn lowering risks for other degenerative diseases.
Probiotics Prevent Obesity and Diabetes
Blood sugar and insulin response are key factors in developing obesity and diabetes. With a healthier gut microbiome our bodies maintain better blood sugar control, avoiding unnecessary fat storage and a slippery slope to Diabetes.
Probiotics Help Maintain Cognitive Function
Alzheimer’s is now being referred to as Diabetest type 3 by some experts. Cognitive decline has been linked to blood sugar levels and inflammation in the body. There is a close and fascinating connection between the gut bacteria and brain function that you read more about.
Probiotics Help Digest Food and Keep Regular, Productive Bowel Movements
A healthy digestive system is foundational to practically all functions in the body. Probiotics are key to getting the proper nutrition from your food and effectively eliminating what’s left. Many patients report improved bowel function with improved gut bacteria balance.
Probiotics Help Prevent Neurological Disorders
We mentioned cognitive diseases previously, but you can also read about other conditions such as fibromylgia and multiple sclerosis being improved substantially through lifestyle protocols that improve the gut microbiome. Some of these cases are simply amazing recoveries done completely through diet and lifestyle.
So how do we ensure we get enough of the right kind of probiotics in our bodies?
Our diet is the #1 factor in established a healthy gut microbiome. All the articles around diet on our blog are supportive of a healthy gut bacteria balance. Essentially by reducing processed grains and sugary drinks, ensuring adequate protein, vegetables and fiber, you will be setting the stage for good gut health.
There are definitely certain types of foods however that are especially beneficial in adding health gut bacteria. These are what we refer to as ‘fermented foods’. Chances are you’re eating some of them already.
Pickles, yogurt and sauerkraut are two of the more popular fermented foods. But to really leverage food there are several more great sources of probiotics and these include:
- Kombucha Tea
- Pickled fruits
- Cultured condiments
- Fermented meats
Getting a daily dose of cultured foods isn’t always convenient and it’s a challenge to really measure what amount you are getting. That’s why a quality probiotic supplement is a good idea. With the right supplement, you can ensure a broad range of cultures in a timed-release capsule that helps get these helpful critters into your lower intestine where they will do the most good.
The give species listed above are some of the more important types of bacteria to look for in your supplements (this can be different depending on the person, testing to see what breeds you should take is still a bit unreliable however).
But Don’t Forget This Critical Secret: Probiotics have limited effect without quality ‘Prebiotics’
It’s not quite that simple. Getting a regular diet of probiotics only one half of the equation. In order for probiotics to flourish and do their thing, they need a good ‘substrate’. That substrate is known as prebiotics. Essentially, we could call this fiber.
Getting natural sources of fiber in your diet daily is a so important for many reasons. Providing your gut bacteria the fuel it craves is definitely one of them. Fibrous vegetables are your best bet. A surprisingly effective prebiotic is raw potatoes, though not the most palatable of snacks, some people enjoy them with a bit of salt sprinkled on them.
Polyphenols are also thought to serve as effective prebiotics and also to inhibit the growth of bad bacteria.
For a comprehensive background on foods to include in a healthy probiotic supporting diet, check out David Perlmutter’s ‘Brain Maker’, and be sure to talk with one of our providers here at Quality Health Care & Wellness for guidance specific to your medical history and living environment.