Taking care of your body requires more than just a plate full of veggies and a few days of cardio. While gut health is slowly becoming more prominent in the wellness mainstream, there’s still a lot of confusion about probiotics and their benefits.
What are probiotics? Do you need them? Are they safe? What do they even do?
We’re here to clear the air and give you the lowdown on this buzzy supplement so you can make an informed decision about whether or not they’re right for you.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms—often referred to as “good” or “helpful” bacteria— that are similar to the trillions found naturally in your digestive system. While most bacteria have a bad rap for getting you sick, these strains of good bacteria are crucial for proper digestion, nutrient absorption, and a strong immune system.
You see, your gut's microbiome (the collection of all the bacteria in your digestive system) is like its own little rainforest. And, like any ecosystem, it needs a balance of different bacteria to function properly.
Unfortunately, the modern world isn't always kind to our gut health. Between processed foods, stress, and antibiotic overuse, our guts can become overrun by bad bacteria, leading to digestive issues like bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
Probiotics can help replenish the good bacteria in your gut, restoring balance and promoting optimal health.
What are probiotic examples?
There are many different strains of probiotics, but some of the most common are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Lactobacillus is the most common type of probiotic and can be found in yogurt and fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. Bifidobacterium is another common type of probiotic that's found in fermented foods like miso and some types of yogurt.
Here's the full list of foods that contain probiotics:
- Some cheeses like Gouda, cheddar, cottage cheese, and mozzarella
- Traditional buttermilk
If you don't want to get your probiotics from food, you can also take them in supplement form. Probiotic supplements come in many different strains and can be taken in capsules, powders, or liquids.
Benefits of probiotics
Now that we know what probiotics are, let's take a look at some of the benefits associated with taking them.
They may improve digestive health
Probiotics can help improve your digestion by restoring the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. This can lead to reduced bloating, diarrhea, and constipation caused by an imbalance of gut bacteria.
They may bolster your immune system
Your gut health is closely linked to your immune system, so it's no surprise that probiotics can also help boost your immunity. In fact, some studies have shown that probiotic supplements may help reduce the duration and risk of respiratory infections and, in women specifically, urinary tract infections.
They may improve mental health
There's growing evidence to suggest that probiotics can also improve mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Research shows that supplementing with Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus for at least a month can reduce the intensity of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and autism.
They may help with weight loss
Some studies have also shown that probiotics can help with weight loss. By helping you feel fuller longer and by preventing the absorption of dietary fat in your intestine, probiotics may help you lose stubborn belly fat.
They may help with skin allergies
Probiotics may also help with skin allergies and eczema, especially in infants and children. One study showed that probiotic-supplemented milk reduced eczema symptoms for infants, and another found that the children of pregnant women who took probiotics had an 83% lower risk of developing the condition.
More research is needed to confirm the exact benefits of probiotics, but there's no doubt that these little microbes can have a big impact on your health. So, if you're looking to improve your gut health, consider adding some probiotic-rich foods or supplements to your diet.
What are the signs you need probiotics?
Most everyone can benefit from probiotics, but there are certain signs that your body may need a little extra help. If you're experiencing any of the following, you may want to consider taking a probiotic supplement:
- You're taking or have recently taken antibiotics: Antibiotics kill both bad and good bacteria in your gut, so it's important to replenish your supply of good bacteria with probiotics.
- You're experiencing digestive issues: If you have diarrhea, constipation, or bloating, it could be a sign that you need more probiotics.
- You have a weak immune system: If you're constantly getting sick, probiotics may help bolster your immune system.
- You have brain fog, poor memory, or are experiencing some level of cognitive dysfunction: A balanced gut microbiome is essential for a healthy brain. Research shows that probiotics can improve cognitive function and memory.
- You have anxiety or depression: As mentioned earlier, there's growing evidence to suggest that probiotics can also improve mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. So if you're struggling with your mental health, it may be worth giving them a try.
To sum it up
As it continues to grow in popularity, gut health is becoming a hot topic. And probiotics are at the forefront of this conversation.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that offer a host of health benefits when consumed. They can improve digestive health, bolster your immune system, improve mental health, help with weight loss, and even help with skin allergies. Most people can benefit from taking probiotics, but if you're experiencing digestive issues, have a weak immune system, or are struggling with anxiety or depression, you may need them more than others.
You can get probiotics from food or supplements. If you decide to take probiotics, consider talking to your doctor first to make sure they're right for you.
Probiotics are a healthy and natural way to improve your gut health. By understanding what they are and how they work, you can incorporate them into your wellness routine and enjoy the many benefits they have to offer.