Probiotics play a vital role in our lives because 80 % of our immune system is located in our digestive system. We need to make having a healthy gut a major focal point if we want to maintain optimal health. Gut is quite literally our second brain, as it originates from the same type of tissue as our brain! During fetal development, one part turns into our central nervous system, while the other develops into our enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from our brain stem down to our abdomen. Hence, our gut and our brain work in tandem, each influencing the other. And this is why our intestinal health can have such a profound influence on our mental health, and vice versa.
Gut is quite literally our second brain, as it originates from the same type of tissue as our brain!
What are Probiotics?
The word “probiotic” is a compound of two Greek words: “pro,” to signify promotion of and “biotic,” which means life.
According to the World Health Organization, ‘probiotic is any living microorganism that has a health benefit when ingested’. USDA defines it as ‘Any viable microbial dietary supplement that beneficially affects the host’.
Human body consists of both the good and the bad bacteria. While the bad bacteria might lead to infection and diseases, the probiotics (good/useful bacteria) aid in maintaining a good digestive health.
Types of probiotics:
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the two major types of probiotics. While, the former is more commonly found in yoghurt and fermented foods while the latter is found in other dairy products.
Probiotics are not all alike. For example, if a specific kind of Lactobacillus helps prevent an illness, it doesn’t necessarily mean that another kind of Lactobacillus would have the same effect or that any of the Bifidobacterium probiotics would do the same.
Benefits of probiotics:
- in keeping the gut healthy
- support people who cannot digest lactose (the sugar in milk).
- in fighting diarrhoea
- to ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- in treating atopic dermatitis
Apart from these well-known facts there are some research findings that might awe you!!!!
Probiotics as an anti-depressant:
The probiotic bacteria might have the potential to change brain neurochemistry and treat anxiety and depression-related disorders, according to a study published in the journal proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Probiotics in pregnancy and postpartum:
In a study on postpartum women who were trying to lose abdominal fat, the addition of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium capsules were found to be helpful in reducing their waist circumferences.
Maintaining a balance of good bacteria is essential, especially for the expectatant moms. Russian neurologist Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, says that a woman’s gut flora can also influence the health of her child. If the child’s gut flora is compromised from birth, he may be at an increased risk of vaccine damage. In fact, this imbalanced gut flora may be the primary factor that contributes to children having adverse reactions to a vaccine. Fortunately, you can easily have a screening for this imbalance and if it is found, all immunizations should be avoided until it is corrected with strategies that are comprehensively described in Dr. McBride’s book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
Probiotics boost immunity:
By eating probiotic-rich foods and maintaining good intestinal flora, a person will also be able to maintain a healthy immune system
Probiotics help in treatment of gastro-intestinal disorders:
According to a report published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, they are useful in the prevention and treatment of several gastrointestinal disorders, such as infectious diarrhea, antibiotic diarrhea, and traveler’s diarrhea.
Probiotics help maintain urinary health:
Infections of the urinary tract are extremely common, especially in women. Most infections disappear with antibiotics, but about 30 to 40 percent might return. Hence, they are suggested as supplements when antibiotics are prescribed.
Most people, including children, are in need of a probiotic boost due to the use of prescription medication, particularly antibiotics, as well as high carbohydrate diets, the consumption of chlorinated and fluoridated water, and conventional foods, such as non-organic meat and dairy that contain antibiotic residues. These chemicals kill off probiotics in your system, which over time damages your digestive tract.
Here are the top seven probiotic killers that can prevent your body from getting all the tremendous benefits it needs:
- Prescription antibiotics
- Tap water
- GMO foods
- Emotional stress
- Chemicals and medications
Hence, in order to improve your gut flora balance, make sure to avoid the probiotic killers. We’re exposed to many of these foods, toxins and stressors on a daily basis, and if you’re going to restore your digestive health, they must be addressed. If they’re not addressed, your gut micro-organisms become imbalanced, and your system can become a breeding ground for bad bacteria, yeast, viruses, fungi and parasites.
The only way to fix this issue and heal your gut is to eliminate the foods that feed bad bacteria and start consuming probiotic-rich foods and supplements so probiotics benefits can work their magic.
Sources of Probiotics:
Often yogurt is all that comes to our minds when we hear the word probiotic. There are various other sources of probiotcs. Dr.Challa recommends the following unpasteurized probiotic rich foods,
- Kombucha tea
The Safety and Side-Effects of Probiotic Supplements:
Although, some probiotics have shown promise in research studies, strong scientific evidence to support specific uses of probiotics for most health conditions is lacking. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any probiotics for preventing or treating any health problem. Some experts have cautioned that the rapid growth in marketing and use of probiotics may have outpaced scientific research for many of their proposed uses and benefits.
“Most of our knowledge about safety comes from studies of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium; less is known about other probiotics. In people who are generally healthy, probiotics have a good safety record. Side effects, if they occur at all, usually consist only of mild digestive symptoms such as gas. On the other hand, there have been reports linking probiotics to severe side effects, such as dangerous infections, in people with serious underlying medical problems. People who are most at risk of severe side-effects include critically ill patients, those who have had surgery, very sick infants, and people with weakened immune systems.” says the NIH