Walk into any supermarket and we are faced with many probiotic-based products. We know it as the “good bacteria” that help our gut stay healthy, keeping constipation, depression, and many other disorders at bay. Naturally found in yogurt and other fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, probiotics can also be purchased in capsules, juice, cookies, candy, and granola bars. The demand for probiotics has grown so much that manufacturers have even introduced them to cosmetics.
What exactly are Probiotics?
Probiotics are “good” live microorganisms found in our gut. They are the same, or look very similar, to the bacteria already found in our body. Our lower part of the intestines are filled with a diverse range of bacteria that help us digest food, produce vitamins, and fight disease-causing agents. Not all of them are good though. Having an imbalance of bad bacteria that outnumber the good, can wreak havoc on our health, causing problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, weight gain and even skin problems.
How do Probiotics work?
Taking care of your gut health is one of the most important things you can do to boost your immune system. Probiotics mostly consist of bacteria, but some of them are also a type of yeast. They are not the same as prebiotics, which are dietary fibers used to feed the good bacteria in our gut, so they can proliferate.
The two main probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and within both groups, there are numerous strains of species. Different types of bacteria work on protecting our body from different diseases, so choosing the right type is important.
Many probiotic supplements now contain a combination of different species.
The gut flora in our colon performs many functions. It produces Vitamin K and some B vitamins. They convert fibers into short-chain fatty acids like propionate and butyrate, which gets absorbed into our gut wall easily. Our gut flora also boosts our immune system and prevents toxic or unwanted compounds from leaking into our bodies.
Probiotics and our digestive system
People who chronically use antibiotics can suffer from an imbalance in their gut health because antibiotics can cause diarrhea and kill many good types of bacteria, leaving the bad ones to multiply. Probiotics can help heal this, and a variety of other gut disorders, like Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and even stomach cancer-causing bacteria.
How do probiotics impact weight loss?
Studies have shown that gut flora may affect body fat regulation. People who are overweight are shown to have a different gut bacteria composition than those who are normal weight. The two groups of good bacteria in the gut are bacteroides and firmicutes, and obese people are found to have more firmicutes and fewer bacteroidetes when compared to leaner people.
Probiotics also fight obesity by releasing the satiety hormone like GLP-1, and ANGPTL4, which increases the level of protein in our body, thereby decreasing fat storage. It also reduces obesity caused by systemic inflammation.
As you can see, probiotics offer many health benefits that strengthen our immune system, shield us against digestive system issues, and even curb mood disorders like depression. If probiotics aren’t part of your diet yet, go grab yourself some yogurt for starters, and think about other ways you can include probiotics into your diet.