Probiotics for Your Gut Flora Review
There is a lot of confusion as to the use and function of probiotics. There are many various microorganisms that live in the body, some are beneficial and others are not. Where antibiotics are meant to prevent the growth of the bad kinds of bacteria or to just outright kill them, probiotics are living bacteria and yeasts that benefit the body, our digestive system in particular.
Probiotics exist naturally in our stomach already, but are also found in some of the foods we eat and can be found in dietary supplements.
Where Do You Find Probiotics?
Probiotics are all around you, easy to find in your local grocery store or whole foods marketplace. Since there are different kinds of probiotics, each of which has a different benefit for the stomach, it is good to know where to get the kinds that you need.
Let’s take a look at where you can get some of the most common types of probiotics.
- Foods with probiotics
- Buttermilk, fermented/unfermented milk, kefir, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, specific types of soft cheese, specific types of juice and soy beverages, and yogurt.
- Probiotic supplements
- These can be found in tablet, capsule, liquid and powder form, designed with different types of probiotic, available at various stores like health food stores or vitamin shops.
- Probiotics found naturally in the body
- Bacteria from the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus microorganism families.
- Yeast called Saccharomyces Boulardii
How Are Probiotics Beneficial To The Body?
Microorganisms naturally exist in many places throughout the world, in the foods we eat, in the beds we sleep on, on the toothbrush we use, and even in our own bodies. While this may sound gross, it is important to understand that these organisms are a perfectly normal part of everyday life, and where some bacteria is what causes infection, other bacteria is part of what prevents it.
Ordinarily the body doesn’t need extra probiotics introduced in the form of food or supplements to function properly, due to the probiotics naturally already in your system. However, there are situations in which the natural balance of “good” to “bad” bacteria is thrown out of whack. Like for example, when you are taking antibiotic medication for being sick.
These medications not only inhibit and or kill the “bad” bacteria, but they can also inhibit and or kill off the “good” kind as well. For this reason, after you’ve recovered from whatever ailment you were taking the medication for, taking a probiotic can help to restore the natural balance of bacteria in your stomach.
How Do Probiotics Help The Body?
Probiotics assist digestion and also benefit the body in a number of ways.
A few ways in which they are helpful include:
- By reducing the amount of “bad” bacteria in your stomach, which leads to inflammation and infection
- By replenishing the body’s “good” bacteria when the natural balance is thrown off
- By reestablishing the necessary balance between the various bacteria in the gut, so the body can function properly
How Are Probiotics Used Medicinally?
Probiotics first came to the attention of the scientific community at the beginning of the twentieth century, when Elie Metchnikoff suggested the idea that stomach flora could be altered and harmful bacteria removed and replaced with specifically useful bacterias to bring about certain health benefits. Since then, they have been used to treat a number of conditions. For certain ailments they are simple and natural remedies that work on their own. For others, they can be helpful to add to a care regime.
Here are just some of the medical issues that can be treated with probiotics.
- Treating conditions involving inflammation, such as pouchitis
- Treating inflammation from bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Treating inflammation and ulcers in the gut caused by Helicobacter pylori bacterium
- Treating acid reflux, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), spastic colon, as well as reducing the duration of infectious diarrhea and the return of colorectal and bladder cancer
- In women, it can be used in treating or preventing vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
Additional Medicinal Uses Being Studied
- Boosting the immune system
- Infections of the skin, such as eczema
- Issues sleeping
- Lactose intolerance
- Mental Illness
- Respiratory and gut infections in children
- Stiffness in the joints
Are Probiotics Safe For Me?
A fair amount of caution is always reasonable when trying new things on your body. Many studies have shown positive results with the use of probiotics, however in some cases side effects have been noted, such as mild stomach irritation, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, and allergic reactions. Despite this though, the fact that probiotics are naturally already present in the human body, leads most to believe they are safe for the most part.
It is also important to remember that supplement manufacturers don’t need FDA approval to sell their products or to make claims to their safety or effectiveness. Researchers have yet to determine the true effectiveness of probiotic supplements, and it is still uncertain which probiotics or what combination of them are most effective for treating particular diseases and conditions. Ultimately more research is needed to make a more specific determination on the safety and effectiveness of probiotic use.
They can interact and or interfere with current medications you may be on, and if pregnant or breastfeeding it is good to be informed. With this in mind it is always best to discuss the possibility of using probiotics with your doctor or pediatrician before trying it out for yourself or for your child.
Probiotic Species And Strains
As discussed, there are a number of kinds of probiotics. To make sure that you are getting the right kind of your condition or concern, take a look at the different families and species of probiotics that are most commonly recommended.
- Acidophilus- This is one of the more important strains of the lactobacillus family, because it assists with nutrient absorption, strengthens the integrity of the intestinal wall, and helps with the overall digestion process.
- Helps with the digestive tract, immune system, nutrient absorption, urinary/vaginal health in women, and relieves cramping, diarrhea, and flatulence
- Fermentum- Commonly found in foods like kimchi and sourdough, this probiotic makes glutathione and superoxide dismutase, which are strong antioxidants for neutralizing toxins produced by the stomach during digestion. It has also been found in recent studies to be useful against foodborne pathogens.
- Helps with detoxing and digestion
- Paracasei- This strain colonizes in the small intestine, and in the colon when ingested along with milk protein, improving its resistance to stomach acids. It also supports liver function.
- Helps with overall liver function
- Plantarum- This strain produces hydrogen peroxide, which the body uses to defend against “bad” bacteria consumed while eating, and for adults it has been shown to actively improve immune function.
- Helps with overall immune health and digestion
- Rhamnosus- This particular strain is unique in its ability to travel through the gastrointestinal tract and is widely considered to be the most useful probiotic for vaginal health in women, and studies have shown it reduced the symptoms of diarrhea in Americans travelling to foreign countries.
- Helps with traveler’s diarrhea and in women can be used for vaginal health
- Salivarius- This strain is special for its ability to survive under extreme bad conditions, such as high salt environments or entirely without oxygen. It resides in the mouth, sinuses, throat, vagina, and intestines, but thrives most ideally in the small intestines. Studies have shown positive results with increasing the markers of immune activity, in addition to reducing the growth of “bad” bacteria.
- Helps with immune and oral health
- Gasseri- This is a newer strain recently linked to microflora in the vagina. Studies have shown that women feeling vaginal pain generally have less L. gasseri in their system than those who aren’t experiencing that discomfort. It has also shown positive results in supporting digestive health.
- Helps with vaginal health and diarrhea
- Reuteri- This strain is found in oral cavities and in the intestine, and has shown positive results in improving immune, digestive and oral health.
- Helps with immune, digestive and oral health
- Bifidum- This strain is one of the first to colonize in our intestines we are young, and continues throughout our lives as one of the central groups of “good” bacteria in the large intestine. Also found in the small intestine, it is useful in regulating the balance of “good” to “bad” bacteria, inhibiting the growth of molds, yeasts, and other undesirables through attaching to the intestinal mucosa more effectively than the other strains. It helps to breakdown complex carbs, proteins and fats while digesting, in addition to creating enzymes which break up larger molecules into their smaller parts for more efficient use by the body. Recent studies have also shown it to be effective in relieving diarrhea, during travel in particular.
- Helps with nutrient absorption, digestion, and relieves traveller’s diarrhea
- Longum- This strain is one of the most commonly found probiotics in the gastrointestinal tract. It is most useful for its ability to find and neutralize the typical toxins found in the stomach, and for breaking down carbohydrates. Studies have also shown it to be beneficial for immune health and for its antioxidant properties.
- Helps with detoxing and overall immune and digestive health
- Infantis- This strain is one of the most prevalent types of “good” bacteria found in young children, however the amount decreases as we grow older, but continues to be an important microflora throughout our lives. Studies have shown it has benefits for relieving bloating and difficulty with bowel movements.
- Helps with bloating, constipation, and basic digestive health
Choose the Right Probiotic For Your Body
It is amazing at what kind of good that the introduction of friendly bacteria into your system can do. Whether you are healing from surgery, recovering from taking antibiotics or have another condition that can be aided by probiotics for your digestive tract, there is one mix that is right with you. Take a look and see the options available and then incorporate them into your healthy living routine. You’ll be glad you did and your stomach will thank you too!