If you were to target a street full of people on a busy high street and ask for their opinions on probiotics you are very likely to get a very simple conclusion that it is ‘yoghurt’. Whilst this is correct many fail to recognize that there is plenty of research in the US to suggest that this live bacteria commonly found in yoghurt has a wealth of benefits as we will explore in more detail below:
What are probiotics?
Let’s start with some basic facts…. a compound of two Greek words; “pro” and “biotic” meaning life. The World Health Organization even defines a probiotic as a living mechanism that promotes many health benefits after digestion.
Probiotics are available in the following unpasteurized foods:
- Kombucha tea
- Variety of pickles
- Plain yoghurts
There are other foods that contain probiotics but there is no guarantee that they contain the right amount in the right form for you to gain the health benefits. These include cereals, some juices, granola and frozen yoghurt.
The miracles of the probiotic can help with a number of health issues ranging from diarrhea to constipation and can even prevent colds (or at least fight them when you show signs of having a cold).
What are the health benefits?
Probiotic products and supplements may be new to us in the food industry but probiotics have been with us since we took our first breath. Not relevant to C-section babies but during the natural delivery of a baby, the baby is picking up bacteria from its mother to help support their immune system when they enter the big world.
Probiotics work in two different ways; playing an important role in our digestive trait and to protect our immune system against harmful bacteria’s.
Did you know that there are over 1,000 different forms of bacteria in the digestive traits? Each form having a specific purpose to aid the breakdown and absorption of foods in the body. But unfortunately when we consume medicines such as anti-biotics, prescribed to fight bacteria that are causing us ill health, the medicine also kills healthy (good) intestinal flora (aids digestion).
There are even many cases of patients suffering from horrible side effects when taking anti-biotics such as diarrhea. In these situations doctors will prescribe probiotics to the patient to help repopulate the digestive trait with good bacteria.
The digestive benefits can also assist with other digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Those that suffer with IBS experience very uncomfortable symptoms such as abdominal pain and irregularity.
Even if you do not suffer with any digestive illnesses taking a probiotic product will be fantastic for overall management of your digestive system. Bad bacteria has a tendency to latch on to the lining of your intestines and if these sites are filled with good bacteria there will be nowhere for the bad bacteria to hang on to.
If you like thousands of people in the US suffer from urinary tract infections, probiotics could be the answer you have been waiting for. There is plenty of research to suggest regular use of probiotics can prevent bad bacteria from invading the urinary tract. As previously mentioned if there is plenty of good bacteria in your system there is simply no room for bad bacteria.
It is extremely common for women to suffer infections of the urinary tract. Yes the majority of these infections do go with a dose of antibiotics but unfortunately once you have had one spout of infection it will very likely return.
Very similarly to the digestive trait the vagina heavily relies on a good balance between bad and good bacteria. When there is a slight difference in the balance it is very common for women to get very uncomfortable infections. Classic examples include a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis. Although a bacterial vaginosis can result in a yeast infection if left untreated.
There are lots of things (many out of your control) that can affect the balance such as the environment, stress levels, medication and changes in diet.
Probiotics can help keep an active infection under control and reduce some of the symptoms. It is worth noting that the probiotic product needs to be taken as suppositories for it to have maximum effect rather than orally (as food).
Probiotics play a special role for pregnant ladies. There is a strong link between pregnancy and bacterial vaginosis. In fact it has been indicated that this infection if left untreated can contribute towards premature labor.
Surprising to many, good bacteria can help stimulate the immune system. A person who regularly eats probiotic foods such as natural yoghurt can improve the health of their immune system.
It is important to remember that any product containing probiotics is a live product and will not do you any good if they are ‘dead’. Therefore ensure the product is well within date. The last thing you want to do is to purchase a product where the supplement/product exceeds the lifespan of the probiotic. To maximize the life cycle of the product store somewhere cool and dry, ideally in the fridge where possible.
As previously mentioned if you choose not to take probiotics on a consistent basis, it is recommended that you take them when you are on anti-biotics. Antibiotics are very effective at killing any type of bacteria in your body – the good and the bad. Replace any loss in good bacteria with probiotics.
If you are unsure whether probiotics will help you, seek advice from your doctor who will be able to provide the best course of action.