Humans are certainly an exceptional species, but we are indeed animals, and like many animals, we have symbiotic relationships with other species. In our case, we have an entire microbiome of beneficial gut bacteria and yeasts. These "probiotic" microbes are crucial to digestion and overall gut health. Unfortunately, our modern diets can strip these helpful organisms from our gut. How can you get more probiotics in your digestive tract?
Benefits of Probiotics
Derived from the Greek, probiotic means "for life," and microbes perform critical functions in our body. They break down food and medications, generate vitamins, and counteract harmful bacteria. Most people have a healthy population of these good microbes, and that provides a natural balance that supports your overall metabolism.
For example, studies have shown that when the population of gut microbiota declines, conditions such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and constipation worsen. In some cases, this is because harmful bacteria can proliferate when good bacteria are largely absent. We've also seen that taking antibiotics kills beneficial gut bacteria, increasing the risk of intestinal distress. (This isn't to say that people should not take antibiotics but rather that they should take probiotics to restore their gut health.)
You can easily add to your probiotic population by consuming foods that carry those helpful bacteria, which include the bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii. They appear in many fermented foods, including yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and kombucha.
Conditions Treated by Probiotics
Many digestive tract issues can be alleviated by these helpful microbes. Your gut's microbiome is largely responsible for breaking down food, processing nutrients and releasing them into the lining, and removing or blocking harmful materials. They work in tandem with your saliva, stomach lining, and intestines to help you achieve the most benefit from your food.
Probiotic microbes also appear in sensitive areas of the body, including the lungs, urinary tract, vagina, and even your skin. In all these organs, they ward off harmful bacteria and release beneficial nutrients.
Therefore, when your probiotic population is low, you may experience the following conditions:
Increased probiotic consumption has helped relieve symptoms of:
In short, gaining that healthy gut microbiome is crucial to your overall health and wellness.
Note: While taking probiotic supplements and consuming probiotic-rich foods are certainly helpful, they are not panaceas for chronic respiratory, intestinal, or skin conditions. Always complete your course of antibiotics, and consult with your doctor about additional treatment options.
A Probiotic-Rich Diet
Probiotic microbes appear in a wide variety of foods and beverages, so no matter what your tastes are, you can add to your gut's microbiome and enjoy better health.
Probiotic-rich foods include:
Probiotics certainly live up to their name, and they're relatively easy and affordable to add to your diet. Whether you're experiencing digestive issues or simply want to be proactive, include these beneficial microbes in your food and beverage choices, or take supplements to increase your population of good bacteria. You'll restore your body's balance in little time.