Probiotics are the good bacteria and yeast that benefit the body, specifically the digestive system. Unlike the germs that cause diseases, these are the good ones that fight on our side against ailments. Probiotics can be found in natural foods as well as from food supplements.
It’s not exactly clear how natural probiotics work, however, research shows that when the gut loses the good bacteria, taking probiotics can help replace them. They function to balance the good and bad bacteria to ensure the body works as it should.
Several bacteria types are classified as probiotics and each has a different health effect. Most of the probiotics, however, come from two main groups:
Lactobacillus is the most common type and is commonly found in yogurt and fermented foods. Various strains of this bacteria group help with diarrhea, and lactose intolerance.
Bifidobacterium is present in some dairy foods and helps with irritable bowel syndrome symptoms among other health conditions.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast classified under probiotics. It is known to help in the fight against digestive problems including diarrhea.
Benefits of Probiotics
1. Weight Loss
According to a meta-analysis, it is possible to reduce one’s body mass index by consuming probiotics. Ingesting more than one type of these natural probiotics over a period of 8 weeks results in significant weight loss. This research also showed that probiotics can improve blood sugar control and significantly affect sensitivity to leptin, the hormone that regulates appetite. This is crucial for those fighting with weight problems and type two diabetes.
2. Skin Conditions
Some studies have shown that taking probiotics over time helps improve the skin health. With the right bacterial strain, it is possible to control skin problems like rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis. It all goes back to controlling inflammation. Since many skin conditions stem from inflammation, the probiotics can effectively minimize skin problems.
3. Improved Immune Health
One can get tired of always being sick if every month you are on a different medication for a new infection. Research shows that the use of probiotics reduces instances of upper respiratory infections. This is because probiotics function to crowd out the infectious bacteria, therefore, lowering the symptoms of the need for medication in case of an infection. A better balance of the two opposite types of bacteria helps to control diseases, therefore, warding off issues of flu and cold. Some types of bacteria promote the manufacture of natural antibodies. These include the IgA-producing cells, natural killer cells, and the T-lymphocytes.
The use of probiotics has can also fight off allergies. Those who use probiotics have been shown to suffer fewer episodes of the sniffles. It also reduces pro-inflammatory markers among the users. This may be due to the fact that natural probiotics alter the permeability of intestinal walls, therefore, keeping the pro-inflammatory agents from crossing into the bloodstream.
5. Improved Mental Health
It has been reported that those who take probiotics feel happier and less affected by the troubles of life. Other researchers, though not sure of the link between probiotics and moods, suggest that the bacteria lowers the levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. They, however, think there is an effect on the gut-brain axis that signal between the nervous system and the GI tract.
6. Promotes Digestion
Probiotics have an incredible benefit to the gut hence its popularity. These bacteria are known to restore the natural balance of GI tract bacteria. In case one has an imbalance that may result in sickness, taking probiotics restores health.
When the population of bad bacteria is higher than that of the good ones, you will feel sick. It causes several digestive disorders and diseases which may only go away when you use antibiotics. These health conditions may progress to issues such as allergies, mental health disorders, and obesity. With regular use of probiotics, the gut and by extension, the body remains healthy.
7. Prevents and Treats Diarrhea
When you include probiotics in your diet, it may prevent diarrhea or reduce its intensity if its already begun. The use of antibiotics can kill good bacteria in your gut. This is where probiotics come in and restore the lost good bacteria and intestinal flora to make your gut healthy again.
8. Oral Health
Bacteria affects more than just our digestion. They play a role in our oral health. For this reason, the market is a flush with probiotic lozenges and gums to help maintain healthy teeth and gum. This helps prevent many oral diseases. Probiotics help prevent both mouth and throat infections that can cause painful symptoms. A dosage of probiotics may be what you need to deal with bad breath naturally. This will, however, work only in conjunction with good oral practice like brushing and flossing.
9. Vaginal Health
Women have used both oral and vaginal Lactobacilli to help control vaginal infections. Natural probiotics help in treating bacterial vaginosis however, more evidence is required. Those who use probiotics are likely to encounter fewer pregnancy complications due to bacterial vaginosis.
10. Cardiovascular Health
Taking probiotics regularly contributes to a lower LDL level. This is achieved by the lactic acid bacteria that break down bile in the gut and prevents its reabsorption, therefore, preventing bile from entering the bloodstream in the form of cholesterol.
What Foods Have Probiotics
1. Organic Yogurt
This is one of the most popular sources of probiotics in everyday diets. Yogurt is made from milk fermented using lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. As you consume this delicious snack, you are feeding your gut with beneficial bacteria. Yogurt helps reduce diarrhea resulting from antibiotics use and can relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Those with lactose intolerance will find this drink beneficial due to the lactic acid bacteria that helps break down the lactose in milk. The bacterium turns this lactose into lactic acid hence the characteristic sour taste. Remember not all yogurt contains live probiotics as some may get killed during milk processing leaving only a few or no good bacteria. Always choose brands with live bacteria to enjoy these health benefits.
This fermented food contains lots of probiotics that can strengthen the gut, help in digestion and prevent digestive problems. Some brands of yogurt contain added probiotics including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei that contributes to the significant amount of probiotics in the drink.
This, like yogurt, is a fermented milk drink though it is made by adding kefir grains to goat or cow milk creating the delicious and healthy snack. The kefir grains should not be confused with cereal since they are lactic acid bacteria cultures and yeast. There have been many health benefits associated with kefir including protecting against infections and resolving some digestive issues. Even though yogurt takes the lead as a popular source of natural probiotics, kefir is a better source. This drink contains several strains of good bacteria and yeast hence its diverse benefits and potency. It is beneficial to those with lactose intolerance and other digestive problems.
Kefir has lactobacilli strains hence its benefit to those with lactose intolerance. These lactic acid bacteria digest lactose turning it into lactic acid. Due to its action, it reduces bloating. The bacteria are known to colonize the gut, therefore, healing the digestive tract and the body.
This is a finely shredded cabbage which is then fermented by lactobacilli. This makes the European traditional food with significant health benefits apart from its nutritional value. This is often used on sausages or as a side dish. It gets its sour taste from the lactic acid coming from the bacterial digestion of the cabbage. Sauerkraut can be stored for months if the container is airtight. And apart from its probiotic properties, it is a source of fiber, iron, manganese, sodium, and vitamins B, C, and K. this food also provides antioxidants essential for eye health. It is crucial that you choose the unpasteurized type to get the live bacteria.
This food has been in use for millennia and is not going away any time soon. It is fermented using lactobacillus which when ingested will bring balance to the gut, therefore, boosting immunity. This improves the population of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract and contributes to overall health.
This food is made by fermenting soybean to form a firm patty with a nutty flavor. It originated from Indonesia and has become popular worldwide as a source of high protein meat alternative. When fermented, the soybean loses the phytic acid which prevents iron and zinc absorption. So the fermentation makes it better in addition to being a probiotic food source. The bacteria also produce vitamin B12 which naturally does not exist in soybean. Overall, tempeh is a very nutritious food with probiotics for good health.
It is fermented with a yeast starter hence its benefits. The yeast helps fight infections in the GI tract for a healthy body. The results of the fermentation is a meaty, tender piece with neutral flavor hence its popularity as a seasoning item. Apart from its benefits to the gut, tempeh is an excellent source of protein and calcium.
Kimchi is a Korean, spicy, fermented side dish. Its main ingredient is cabbage but it can be made from other vegetables. In addition to fermentation, it is flavored using a mix of seasonings including garlic, salt, red pepper, ginger, and scallion. Since it is fermented using Lactobacillus kimchii, and Lactobacillus brevis among other lactic acid bacteria, it is a very good source of this gut healthy probiotic. One does not have to go out of his way to eat this food since it can be used as a side dish very easily. Its cabbage source gives Kimchi high content of minerals and vitamins like B2, B6, and K.
Kimchi made from cabbage is high in some vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and iron.
This Japanese seasoning is made by fermenting soybean with a fungus known as koji. Other ingredients can also be added as desired, these can include rice, rye, and barley.
The resulting soup is commonly used in miso soup. Its salty and is available in brown, red, yellow, and white varieties. It is a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins, phytonutrients, manganese, and copper. Other than these nutrients and the probiotic benefit, miso has been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer among middle-aged Japanese women. Those who regularly consume miso soup have a reduced risk of stroke. This goes to show how beneficial the probiotic is. It is made by fermenting soybean using the fungus Aspergillus oryzae. Miso is a complete protein and is effective at stimulating the GI tract, boosting the immune system and reducing the risks for several cancers and stroke.
Kombucha is made by fermenting green or black tea in a colony of good bacteria and yeast. This healthy probiotic tea is consumed in the Asian countries and other parts of the world. The tea has several health benefits due to its nutrients and natural probiotic potential.
Since it is fermented, Kombucha contains some amounts of alcohol giving it the carbonation. The tea has probiotic benefits and antioxidant properties with benefits to the immune system. The tea is fermented with lactic acid bacteria hence its increased concentration of lactic acid. This requires that it be taken in moderation to prevent lactic acid build up in the bloodstream. It also contains a yeast known as SCOBY.
8. Green Peas
This may seem far-fetched, however, a 2014 study found that green peas contain the potent probiotic Leuconostoc mesenteroides. This probiotic is often associated with low-temperature fermentations. They effectively stimulate the immune system making it stronger. The probiotic also protects the gut’s mucosal barrier, therefore, preventing toxins and harmful bacteria from crossing into the bloodstream.
9. Green Olives
The green olives in brine undergo fermentation under lactobacillus hence the lactic acid. This bacteria is naturally present on them and nothing needs adding to make it a delicious probiotic. The major bacterial strains in olives are the Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus pentosus. The fruits have a high potential for decreasing bloating, especially in those with IBS. The combination of probiotic strains plays a great role in keeping the balance of bacteria in the gut for great health.
This, just like Miso and Tempeh is made from fermented soybean. It is a staple in Japanese kitchens and is mixed with rice to make breakfast enjoyable. This food contains the bacterial strain Bacillus Subtilis. The fermentation gives Natto a slimy texture, distinctive smell, and a strong flavor. It is a rich source of protein and vitamin K2. This makes the food beneficial to cardiovascular health in addition to the gut and immune system. Regular consumption of natto is associated with higher bone mineral density due to the high vitamin K2 in natto. It prevents skin problems like eczema, acne, psoriasis all which stem from inflammation.
Regular consumption of foods rich in probiotics has been shown to give the body significant benefits. Users have stronger immune systems, reduced skin problems, a quieter and healthier gut and help with lactose intolerance among other benefits. These all depend on the type of natural probiotic in the food. The best options are those with more than one type of probiotic to give various health benefits.
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