Thursday, September 17, 2015

Probiotics: The "Good Guy" Bacteria That Live in Your Gut

Where our bodies and health are concerned there certainly are a lot of villains we have to contend with. Stress, drugs such as antibiotics and NSAIDs, radiation, toxins in our air, water, medications, cleaning products, personal hygiene products and foods, bad bacteria, yeast, viruses, sugary and fatty foods, and chlorinated water are all villains that threaten our health. Luckily we also have some of the good guys on our side in the form of good bacteria or probiotics. We normally think of bacteria as being bad guys that make us sick and those do exist, but probiotics are the live bacteria that live in our bodies that protect us from the bad forms of bacteria. The word itself, probiotic, comes from the Greek words pro and biotic and translates as to signify promotion of life.

Benefits of Probiotics
To begin with, our digestive system and the process of digestion is very reliant on probiotics. They help with keeping the intestines healthy and able to break down foods, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste. When we are exposed to the villains that can destroy our good guy probiotics, we can replace them by eating foods with probiotics and taking probiotic supplements. This becomes necessary when our bad bacteria outnumber our good bacteria not only to help with digestion, but also to reduce symptoms from digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome that bring on cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. According to Dr. Shekhar K. Challa, a gastroenterologist and the author of Probiotics For Dummies, if your intestines are loaded with good bacteria there isn't as much room for bad bacteria to live. In addition to being vital for digestion, probiotics play a major role in immune system function. The good bacteria fight off the bad bacteria as well as yeast and viruses. One study showed participants given a probiotic drink showed an increase in the production of lymphocytes which indicates more white blood cells that are part of the immune system. There are other studies that show probiotics can help with mood disorders, skin conditions, maintaining good oral health, and possibly have an impact on weight loss. Our probiotics in the intestines also produce our B vitamins. When we are under stress we produce cortisol and we use up our B vitamins fighting it off. Replenishing our supply of probiotics can help the body keep making these needed B vitamins.

Good Bacteria
There are many different types of probiotic bacteria and they mostly fall into two groups – Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. There are many different types of fermented foods that you can get probiotics from such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, pickles, tempeh, Kimchi and Kombucha tea. There are also a wide variety of foods these days that advertise they have added probiotics. Just be sure to read labels when you buy products and look for ones with live active cultures. Also be aware that the FDA does not regulate probiotic supplements the same as medications, but rather as foods. Be sure you are getting supplements from a reputable company and they are labeled with a high amount of CFUs (colony forming units). The probiotic supplements I prefer come from a company that has been in business for decades, manufactures products in an onsite NSF Good Practices registered facility and is USDA certified organic by Pro-Cert Organic Systems which is the number one food certifier in North America. Taking acidophilus and bifidus as well as this full spectrum probiotic provides lots of friendly bacteria to boost your healthy colonies.

Now that you know how important your probiotics are for digestion, getting nutrients from food, supporting good mood, handling stress, fighting off illness, and possibly even for weight loss, make sure you have a good supply of them working for you. Increasing your fermented foods and taking high quality probiotic supplements is an easy way to get all these benefits.

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Image courtesy of  nenetus  /  FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Sources:
http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/what-are-probiotics
http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/6-healing-benefits-of-probiotics
http://www.medicaldaily.com/mental-health-benefits-probiotics-good-bacteria-may-improve-mood-fight-depression-328882

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