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Gut problems are the worst. More than half of Americans have suffered from digestion-related issues in their lifetime. Whether it is bloating, irregular bowel movements, stomach pains, or another digestion issue, most of us have been there. And, it’s not a place we want to be. So, is there something we can do to keep these digestion issues at bay? Our guts work around the clock to keep our whole body running smoothly, but the fact is, sometimes they need a helping hand. Probiotics to the rescue!
Probiotics are live microorganisms (usually bacteria) that maintain the perfect balance of microorganisms in our guts, to aid digestion. I know what you are thinking. Putting bacteria in my body - on purpose? It sounds crazy, we know. But, don’t worry. While, of course, some bacteria are harmful, some other bacteria are essential.
There are trillions of bacteria living in our bodies already, and we need to make sure there are enough good bacteria to tackle the bad guys. Probiotic Supplements are made to help give a boost to the good guys, by sending in some new recruits. Go team good bacteria!
Everything you need to know...
What exactly is in Probiotics?
Most commonly, Probiotics contain bacteria, but there are also some Probiotics that contain Yeast. The most frequently used bacteria in Probiotics are called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. These aren’t the most catchy names, but all you need to know is what they do. Each type of bacteria has different strains with various roles. Every Probiotic Supplement is unique and will contain differing amounts of bacteria, as well as individual amounts of distinctive strains of bacteria. So, you can find the right Probiotic Supplement to suit your body’s needs!
What do Probiotics have to do with the gut & digestion?
Why is the gut so important when we are discussing probiotics? Because the gut is the home to the majority of our body’s microbes. Basically, bacteria think the gut is the best hangout spot ever, which is why there are trillions of them (good and bad) camping out there. This community of bacteria is called a ‘flora’. If the balance of this flora is off (for example because of your diet), it can cause problems. A gut bacteria imbalance has been linked to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and depression, among other things. This is why Probiotics are so important, as they help maintain or regain this flora balance.
What are the Health Benefits of Probiotics?
The health benefits of Probiotics will vary, depending on which bacteria is used in each supplement. However, it is proven that having the right sorts of bacteria in your gut can do loads of great stuff for your body, including:
1. Helping us fight disease
2. Getting the right vitamins
3. Improving food digestion
4. Helping to combat IBS
5. Promoting healthy skin
6. Helping us lose weight
7. Improving blood pressure and cholesterol
8. Helping to reduce Inflammation
How do I get Probiotics in my diet?
Supplements are a great way of getting the right Probiotics in your body, but they are not the only way! Believe it or not, you are probably consuming Probiotics in the food you are already eating. Any food that has been produced by bacterial fermentation (not as gross as its sounds) will contain some natural Probiotics. The great news is, a lot of these foods are vegan! This includes vegan yogurt, vegan kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kimchi. All yummy stuff.
What is the difference between Probiotics and Prebiotics?
Probiotics are the good bacteria sent into the body. Prebiotics are the fuel Probiotics work on. Imagine working all day without having any lunch... Do you really think you would be as effective when your tummy is rumbling all day? Well, Probiotics are the same. A Probiotic that also contains Prebiotics basically means sending the bacteria in with a hefty lunch box full of snacks. With their bellies full, these Probiotics are going to be working harder for longer, and they are going to do a better job. Products that contain both Probiotics and Prebiotics are called Synbiotics. And, that’s quite enoughbiotics for us...
Here are the Home Truths.
Although Probiotics Supplements do great things for our guts, it is important to know the home truths in order to use them correctly.
Scientists still have a lot to learn
Although a lot of research has been done on the bacteria living in our gut, scientists still dispute the exact health benefits each strain has, and the best way to regulate gut bacteria. Because the bacteria in our gut is constantly changing, those pesky scientists are often publishing conflicting reports. So, it is important to realize that the health benefits aren’t always set in stone. Sticking with the most commonly used (and researched) bacteria, like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, is the best way to combat this.
Regulations for Probiotics can differ
Regulations on Probiotic treatments vary from country to country and product to product. This is why it is so important to verify which product you are buying. In the US, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is in charge of probiotic regulation, which means probiotic marketing doesn’t need approval. What does this mean? It means it is important to verify that marketing statements are backed up by research. The best way to do this? Check that supplements are third-party tested for quality or ask your doctor for advice.
Probiotic supplements aren’t the only way to keep your gut healthy
While Probiotics are great for your gut, a healthy diet and exercise are just as important when it comes to keeping your body, gut, and digestive system healthy. So, don’t rely on supplements alone, but take a holistic approach!