Health Benefits Of Taking Probiotics Supplements, Pills, Capsules, & Drinks. Common Side Effects & Nutritional Value
Oddly, the human body is filled with millions, no trillions, of microorganisms. This extremely large population of microorganisms in the body is referred to as the “microbiome” which comprises both good and bad microorganisms responsible for one thing or another. Further, much of this microbiome is situated in the digestive tract (or the gut) and is known as the “intestinal flora”.
It is this community of microorganisms, or microbes, that to a large extent determine the overall health condition of the body. Too much bad bacteria means there is a problem and an equal ratio of good to bad bacteria means well.
A balance in the microbiome invariably means that the body will be in good health, why an imbalance signifies trouble to the body. Most times, this imbalance occurs when there is a higher population of the bad microbes than the good ones. This imbalance can be remediated, and balance restored, by taking probiotics.
So, since this article is about the health benefits of probiotic foods and drinks, you might be wondering (if you do not know already), what are probiotics?
What are probiotics?
Probiotics may be defined as bacteria located in the linings of the digestive tract that are important in the digestion process. These bacteria are living microorganisms that affect the general health in one way or another.
Put simply, probiotics are healthy or beneficial bacteria, and can be found in certain foods. These helpful bacteria help to refill the depletion in good body bacteria, thereby, bringing the body back to normal health.
Examples of foods that contain high amounts of probiotics include sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, yogurt, tempeh, and fermented cucumber. Basically, what these foods and drinks do is that they help to supplement the body’s probiotic content.
In this article, we take a look at some of the health benefits of consuming probiotic drinks, pills, and supplements.
Strains or types of probiotics
There are many strains of probiotics that are found in the body; about one thousand different types are suggested. However, only a few have been identified so far. The following are some of the already identified probiotics:
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Enterococcus faecium
- Saccharomyces boulardii
Benefits of probiotic products
The following are some of the many health benefits of probiotics in the body.
- Improves the microbiome.
The body is faced with many things that threaten the balance of microorganism population. Factors like stress, consumption of certain drugs, aging, and certain foods may cause depletion in the population of good microorganism in the body. Consuming probiotics is a good way of improving the microbiome when there is an imbalance. This is because probiotic foods are rich sources of the healthy bacteria that are lacking in the body.
- Boosts body immunity
About 80% of the body’s immune system is found in the gut (intestines), according to science. Since this is the case, an imbalance in the intestinal flora does not only cause problems to the gut, but also affects the entire body. This imbalance is mainly due to a reduction of the good bacteria, causing the bad ones to be more. Hence, it is important that the intestinal flora is kept in balance to maintain a strong immune system. This also implies that consuming probiotic supplements when the body’s defense system is weak can help to revitalize it.
- For good skin
It is said that the appearance of a person’s skin is a pointer of his overall health condition. By maintaining overall body health, the skin will be in top physical condition. Also, according to a study, feeding infants with probiotic milk can help to reduce the symptoms of eczema (contact dermatitis) in their skin. Another study also showed that women who consumed probiotics supplements while they were pregnant delivered children with a reduced risk of developing eczema.
- Treatment for stomach problems
Many stomach problems like indigestion, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and diarrhea are caused by an imbalanced intestinal flora. And as previously mentioned, various factors, such as taking medications, can be the cause of this imbalance. Drinking probiotic drinks or consuming probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut is a healthy way to repopulate a depleted good bacteria population.
- Improves absorption of vital body nutrients
When you consume food, they are broken down inside the body into nutrients that benefit the body. Much of this food absorption takes place in the gut, and the bacteria there are actively involved in the process. If much of the food we eat isn’t properly processed in the body, then there is almost no point in eating. Hence, nutrient absorption inside the body is a very significant process required for good health. To prevent a situation of abnormal absorption in the gut, you need a balanced microbiome and consuming probiotic-rich foods is an effective method of achieving this.
- Mood enhancement
The intestinal flora balance has far-reaching effects on the body than one can imagine. Aside from the physical effects on the body, a balanced flora also positively affects the mind and emotions. In fact, many neurotransmitters like serotonin (the “feel good” hormone) are produced in the gut. This means that the condition of your gut will also play a role in the condition of your mood. Consequently, a deficiency in the good gut bacteria can make one feel depressed, while a balanced intestinal flora will bring about happiness.
- For a healthy heart
Certain probiotics in the body play an important role in the breakdown of bile in the liver. This breakdown of bile (which is done by probiotics) occurs during digestion and helps to lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol level in the blood. Note that a high LDL cholesterol level is detrimental to heart health and should be prevented. So, by reducing bad cholesterol levels in the body, probiotics help to protect the heart.
- For a healthy weight
A good balance of bad and good bacteria in the gut helps to increase metabolism in the body, according to research reports. An increase in body metabolism means that the rate accumulation of fats in the body is slowed down. Besides, an imbalance in the microflora also contributes to food cravings, which when satisfied result in weight gain. So, if you are searching for foods to help in your weight reduction regimen, you should consider adding probiotics.
- Remedy for urinary tract infection
Well, according to some research results, regular intake of probiotics can be beneficial in the prevention of urinary tract infection, especially in women. This benefit is particularly noteworthy since such infections return back in many cases after treating with antibiotics.
- Works against halitosis
Halitosis, or offensive breath, is a condition characterized by a persistent foul-smelling odor in the mouth. Various studies have found that some probiotics can control this condition by inhibiting the growth of the causative bacteria. By dealing with the root of the problem – the disease-causing microbe – probiotics can bring a lasting solution to bad breath.
- Against allergies
Few available studies conducted on the effect of probiotic on allergies suggest that the risk of seasonal allergies can be reduced by consuming probiotic supplements.
- For respiratory health
Majority of the medications used for treating lung problems have been found to have a damaging effect on the body’s immune system. This is because, most times, they kill the good bacteria along with the bad ones and make it difficult for the good ones to survive. Since most of the body’s immunity is located in the gut, taking probiotics is an effective way of dealing with this problem. In addition, probiotics positively affect the mucosal immune system located in the lungs.
- Helps to improve weakness
Tiredness or weakness is a common symptom of several health problems. It can also be a result of excess resting, counterintuitively. Laboratory studies conducted on mice showed that probiotics intake can result in reduced fatigue and an increase in activity.
- Temporary anti-inflammatory action
According to a recent study, taking certain probiotic supplements can help to reduce temporary inflammation in various parts of the body, including the joints. And while more research is still needed on this subject, the prospect of using probiotics as anti-inflammatory food sounds interesting.
- For healthy bones
Taking probiotics supplements has been found to be an effective method of increasing bone mineral density, especially in aging men. This is due to the fact that bone health is also tied to the intestinal flora, as with the health of other parts of the body.
- Maintaining blood sugar levels
Probiotics can also help to balance blood sugar levels in the body. The bacteria in the intestine help to achieve this by communicating with cells and improving the way the body processes glucose.
Benefits of probiotics for women
In women, there is a relationship between intestinal flora and vaginal health. An imbalance in the gut bacteria in women can lead to bacterial vaginosis, which in turn, can result in a yeast infection. This means that a balanced intestinal flora is necessary for good vaginal health in women.
Also, pregnant women can also benefit from probiotics in that there is a proper development of the fetus in the womb and a reduced risk of pre-term labor.
Getting the best from probiotics
Undoubtedly, probiotics are influential in general body health, as they form a major part of the body’s immune system. However, there is so much that probiotics can do by themselves. Thus, it is quite necessary that they get as much push from you as you can give. You can get the best out of probiotics through any of the following:
Exercising: Staying active is a simple, but effective way of making the most of probiotics in your body. Jogging, walking, weightlifting, and other exerting activities should be encouraged, as they tend to increase the population of good bacteria in the body.
Consume lots of fiber: Fiber is great for digestive health as it helps in digestion. Also, many digestive problems (such as constipation) arise due to low fiber content in food. The bacteria in the gut feed on fiber to be active, so increasing your fiber intake is a must if you want to benefit from probiotics.
Stay away from things that reduce your good bacteria population: We have already stated that taking certain drugs can lead to depletion in the beneficial bacteria in the body. Other things that can cause probiotics depletion include exposure to toxins and living a bad lifestyle. You need to avoid these things (and others) in order to get the most out of probiotics.
Spend more time outdoors: Enjoying your time in the beauty of nature is another way of positively affecting your microbiome. This is because when you are outdoors, you allow your body to come in contact with more helpful bacteria. So, next time you want to go camping or hiking, try to relish every moment of the process.
Side effects of consuming probiotics
It is important that people take caution while taking probiotics products. This is due to the fact that certain probiotics foods and drinks may present some side effects in certain people. The side effects may be as mild as flatulence or as serious as sepsis.
What’s more, people who have a compromised immune system should first consult with a medical professional before taking probiotic supplements. This is because consuming probiotics in an already compromised body only increases the risk of infections.
Also, you need to be aware that most probiotic drinks contain too much sugar, which is definitely not good for your health. And besides, the process of making many of these probiotic drinks involves exposing the drink to very high temperatures that destroy the good proteins.
Probiotics are definitely good for the body. They benefit us in many ways as already mentioned. Consuming probiotics supplements should not, however, replace proper dieting. This is because the body still needs so much that taking probiotics alone will not be able to provide. So, while taking probiotic drinks, capsules, or pills, don’t disregard the need for a balanced diet.