Probiotics 101: The Power of Curative Culture
Bacteria and yeasts outnumber the cells of your body 10 to 1, according to Healthline.com. Your body contains nearly 40 trillion cells. Most of those trillions of bacteria in your body live in your gut. These “good” or “friendly” bacteria, called probiotics, primarily support your digestive health, but they also boost a wide array of functions and systems throughout your body via your intestines.
The word “probiotics” consists of a Latin prefix and a Greek suffix meaning “for life.” Probiotics are the opposite of antibiotics, which tend to kill good bacteria as well as the bacteria and yeasts that cause infection.
Conversely, probiotics support the vitality of your entire body while minimizing the proliferation of bad bacteria and yeasts, ensuring you retain the optimal ratio of healthful microorganisms throughout your body’s systems.
Types of Probiotics
Some species of probiotics occur naturally in your mouth, gut and in most fermented foods, suc has yogurt, kimchi, kefir and tempeh. Probiotics are not prebiotics, a type of indigestible fiber that serves as food for probiotics.
As Dr. David Perlmutter explains, there are five core species of probiotics:
The Global Healing Center provides an extensive list that includes 13 additional strains not mentioned by Dr. Perlmutter. Dr. Edward Group, who curates the site, suggests obtaining niche probiotics through supplements, since no single food or assortment provides the array on his list.
- Lactobacillus plantarum: Found primarily in cultured vegetables
- Lactobacillus acidophilus: Abundant in fermented dairy products
- Lactobacillus brevis: Lives in sauerkraut and pickles
- Bifidobacterium lactis: Also found in fermented milk products
- Bificobacterium longum: One of the first probiotics to colonize your gut after birth
Although probiotics refers specifically to bacteria, the term includes a certain species of yeast that behave like probiotics within your body. The strain, Saccharomyces boulardii, proved to be a powerful probiotic in double-blind clinical studies.
Probiotics Power: Health Benefits
Probiotics help food to move smoothly through your gut, states WebMD.com. Each species plays its part in protecting the integrity of your intestinal lining and facilitating the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream through your intestinal walls.
As a result, doctors often prescribe or suggest probiotics to address intestinal and digestive health issues, such as
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Severe constipation
- Crohn’s Disease
- Ulceratice colitis
- Necrotizing enterocolitis in infants
- Lactose intolerance
Additionally, from their living sites in your gut, probiotics manufacture vitamins from the foods you eat, transform fiber into short-chain fats that feed your gut walls and fuel metabolic activity. By countering the proliferation of bad bacteria, probiotics directly affect the health of your immune system from within your bowels.
Probiotics also play an integral role in defending your body from a host of infections while ensuring optimal total-body health. Following are several familiar ailments that probiotics can relieve as well as the benefits that probiotics convey to their human hosts.
Vaginosis and Yeast Infections
Vaginosis and yeast infections occur when harmful strains of bacteria and yeast flourish within the vagina. Luckily, two strands of probiotics, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri, are uniquely adept at colonizing the vagina and ridding it of detrimental cultures, states MedlinePlus.gov, the website of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
These same two strands appear to reduce the likelihood of eczema outbreaks, general allergies and severe diarrhea caused by antibiotics or chemotherapy.
Probiotics potentially prevent the worsening of stomach ulcers attributed to the harmful bacteria Heliobacter pylori. Studies indicate that probiotics disrupt H. pylori’s ability to metabolize and colonize. Probiotics also help to regulate positive microorganism levels in your gut after heavy antibiotic therapies used to treat H. pylori.
Modulation of Your Immune System
The California Dairy Research Foundation reports that probiotics stimulate the activity of immunoreactive cells, such as macrophages and lymphocytes (white blood cells). Probiotics also appear to positively affect key immune factors, such as interferon, immunoglobulins and ctyokines.
Consequently, your immune system on probiotics provides more intense cell-based and antibody responses to infection, which is pivotal to year-round health and to individuals with compromised immune systems, such as AIDS, cancer and leukemia patients, and the elderly and impaired. Probiotics are pivotal preventing or alleviating autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Probiotics help your intestines to harvest and utilize energy, reports Medscape.com. This process directly affects your metabolic processes, such as fat burning.
The ratios of gut probiotics change with obesity, resulting in fewer of the gut probiotics that mitigate metabolic processes. The jury’s still out, but preliminary studies entailing the manipulation of gut probiotics levels indicate a correlation between thinner waists and the presence of certain probiotic strains in specific densities.
Probiotics reduce plaque, bloody gums related to gingivitis and even oral cancer, according to Colegate’s Oral Care Center.
Similar to sites in your intestines, probiotics colonize your mouth, targeting bacteria that cause oral disease, plaque and bad breath. Several strains reside in your saliva at all times:
- L. paracasei
- L. plantarum
- L. rhamnosus
- L. salivarius
Sugary foods, pesticides and pollution can reduce your concentrations of salivary probiotics, but daily supplementation sufficiently reverses this outcome.
Probiotics: From Old Wives Cure to Contemporary
Folkloric use of fermented foods for medicinal purposes dates back thousands of years. The Russian scientist Eli Metchnikoff, while working at the Pasteur Institute in the early 20th century, induced his colleagues to join him in drinking sour milk to replace harmful intestinal bacteria with good counterparts, thereby preventing intestinal illness.
Metchnikoff received the 1908 Nobel Prize in medicine for his work. Since Metchnikoff’s death, countless studies have confirmed or implied the efficacy of dietary probiotics at boosting immune function, mental acuity, mood regulation, cancer prevention, digestive function, weight loss and much more.
If you’re seeking a harmless, potent agent to fill in your nutritional gaps and convey all of the aforementioned benefits, consider incorporating a basic or comprehensive probiotic complex into your regimen today.