The benefits of probiotics are well-known around the world. First and foremost, probiotics are live microorganisms that help rebalance your gut flora.
You may have heard your GP say that you need to take probiotics during a course of antibiotics. Why? Antibiotics kill the infection in the body but, at the same time, they wipe out the good bacteria. That’s why taking probiotics could help prevent that.
Apart from balancing your gut flora, probiotics can also help regulate vaginal flora in women. Additionally, taking probiotics was associated with better digestive health, better mental health and a stronger physique.
Benefits of probiotics:
They balance the friendly bacteria in the gut
Everyone knows that the main benefit of probiotics is to balance the friendly bacteria in the gut. When you ingest probiotics, you introduce good bacteria that may help fight inflammation and keep your digestive tract in tip-top shape.
Ingesting probiotics can also relieve constipation. It is usually the case that those with an unbalanced gut flora have a hard time moving their bowels.
They help reduce digestive symptoms
In a 2015 study, certain types of probiotics like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus have improved symptoms in patients with ulcerative colitis and IBS.
The same study showed that probiotics had no significant effects on subjects with Chron’s disease.
Improved mental health
A 2016 study showed that a 2 months course of Lactobacillus can improve depression, anxiety and OCD. In another study, a group of 40 people with depression took probiotics for 8 weeks, while another group took sugar pills. The group that was on probiotics saw a reduction in the C-reactive protein which is a marker of inflammation in the body.
This group had an improved mood overall, while the group that took sugar pills saw no changes.
Improved heart health
Other researchers found out that probiotics can lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol in the body. Both these conditions can have serious effects on the heart.
In their 2022 study, Peng Wang & Co. discovered that certain lactic-producing bacteria can reduce bad cholesterol in the body by breaking down the bile in the gut. Probiotics helped prevent the bile from entering the bloodstream and becoming ‘cholesterol’.
Types of probiotics
You can take probiotics by eating some types of food or taking health supplements.
Foods that are considered ‘probiotics’:
Kefir is fermented milk that contains lactic acid bacteria, a very good bacteria that is beneficial to your gut.
A 2016 study found that kefir grains contain over 61 strains of bacteria and yeast that will help rebalance your gut flora.
Organic yoghurt is also considered a ‘probiotic’. It helps your digestion and adds beneficial bacteria to your gut.
Sauerkraut or pickled cabbage is a great probiotic found in supermarkets around the world. Add sauerkraut to your meal for improved digestion.
Kimchi is a Korean dish made of salted and fermented vegetables like napa cabbage and Korean radish. It includes condiments like garlic, ginger and spring onions.
Ginger is a herbaceous perennial plant native to South East Asia. Its root is used to fight infection in the body. In Western society, ginger root is consumed to fight off the flu or to cleanse your body of toxins.
Kombucha is a less familiar drink to those who have not adopted a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Kombucha is sweetened black tea made of a culture of good bacteria. This drink will help your digestion and boost your immune system.
It is beneficial for your health to consume probiotics. Even if you are healthy, consider the benefits of probiotics related to your mental health and overall immune system. The healthier and more diverse your diet is the more equipped your gut (and brain) is to deal with inflammation.
Remember that old saying ‘Let food be thy medicine’? It may hold some truth.
Marlena Bontas is a freelance writer with a passion for health, technology and mental wellness. She has an MA in Psychology from the University of Helsinki and is currently travelling. Write her on Twitter at @MarlenaEeva.