You’ve probably heard the terms prebiotics and probiotics quite a lot in the last few years. They’re two of the current buzzwords in the health and wellness industry and lots of new prebiotic and probiotic supplements companies are appearing every year.
The probiotics industry is growing rapidly and is now worth over $37 billion USD. Millions of consumers now take regular probiotics to improve their overall health and well-being.
The research around probiotics is relatively new so we are still learning lots more about them. Despite the research being in its early days, we’re already starting to notice the many incredible benefits of probiotics.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics refer to the live bacteria that are commonly found in certain foods such as yogurt, kefir, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, sauerkraut, and kombucha tea. Probiotic microorganisms feed off prebiotic fibers, which are found in many plant-based foods.
The most common probiotic microorganisms are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, Lactococcus, Streptococcus, and Enterococcus, and these microbial species are closely associated with good health.
Taking Probiotic Supplements
Although many foods contain probiotic bacteria, you may not consume very many of them in your diet. If you want to gain the maximum benefits from probiotics, you can take probiotic supplements.
Whether you’re keen on taking probiotics for weight loss or you want to see if they can reduce your digestive discomfort, there are lots of different kinds of probiotics. As great as they can be, it’s important to do some research and find the best products for your needs.
You can get probiotics that have been specifically created for certain gut health issues as well. For example, you may find probiotics for IBS, or supplements to reduce bloating.
What Are the Benefits of Probiotics?
Probiotics are labelled as the resolution for any gut health issue. While they are incredible for your digestive health, their benefits go far beyond the gut.
Probiotics may also help with the management of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. They can even boost your mood thanks to the close connection between the gut and brain.
Let’s take a closer look at the many benefits of probiotics.
- Improved Gut Health
One of the most widely recognized benefits of probiotics is the ability to improve gut health. Probiotic foods and supplements contain live bacteria that are beneficial for your digestive system.
When you ingest probiotic foods or supplements, it helps to diversify the different bacterial species in your gut. More specifically, it increases the number of beneficial species and lowers the levels of potentially harmful microorganisms.
Many studies show that consuming probiotic foods or taking probiotic supplements can minimize gut health issues and relieve digestive discomfort. They can benefit those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), constipation, and diarrhoea.
The effectiveness of probiotics depends on the strains of bacteria in the food or supplement, and what gut health issue you’re trying to resolve. That’s why choosing the right probiotic species for your needs is important.
- Better Mental Health
There is a close link between the health of your gut microbiome and your overall well-being. When the ‘bad’ bacteria outbalance the beneficial bacteria in your gut, it can lead to disease. Poor gut health is thought to play a role in obesity, allergies, and a range of mental health conditions.
The gut-brain axis is a real thing and more researchers are becoming interested in the strong connection between these two areas of your body. Both animal and human studies have shown that increasing your consumption of probiotics may improve a range of mental health conditions.
Specifically, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus bacterial strains were effective in treating depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and autism. They also improved spatial and non-spatial memory.
- Improved Immune Function
Probiotics are able to modulate some of the natural immune functions inside your body. This helps to protect you from harmful pathogens and can reduce the severity of autoimmune conditions, such as allergies, eczema, Crohn’s disease, and dermatitis.
It’s thought that certain probiotics species may improve immunity by:
- Increasing the production of antimicrobial substances in the body
- Inhibiting bacterial toxin production
- Prevent harmful pathogens from entering the body through the gut wall
- Improving the antibacterial effects of bile salts inside the body
- Inducing an immune response against bacterial and viral pathogens
- Inhibiting autoimmune and allergic reactions
- Enhancing white blood cells (macrophage and lymphocyte) and cytokine production