Health Benefits Of Probiotics–The Bigger Picture
Not all bacteria are harmful! Yes, you heard it right! You probably think of disease whenever you hear about bacteria. But recent research suggests not all bacteria are bad (1) (2). Your gut has both the bad and the good types of bacteria but in a balance. Whenever this balance is disturbed, you get a disease. We are constantly exposed to harmful bacteria through our foods. However, our gut does not receive enough friendly bacteria. Thus, harmful bacteria keep increasing and outgrowing the good kind, ultimately causing illness. But what if there was a way to replenish the good bacteria! What if there was a way to outgrow the harmful bacteria and prevent you from getting a disease. Well, this is where the probiotics enter the picture.
Probiotics consist of the good type of live bacteria you can consume in fermented foods and supplements! Probiotics improve your gut health and the health of the rest of your body as well. If you are worried that probiotics may damage your health, know that trillions of bacteria with over five hundred strains already inhabit the human body (3) (4) (5). Think of probiotics as a diverse community of organisms that helps your immune system to keep you healthy.
The interest in probiotics has considerably grown in recent years, with an evergrowing body of evidence suggesting various health benefits of taking probiotics. These health benefits may include the following!
Probiotics Improve Gut Health
Gut health issues are a huge concern for everybody. Diarrhea, for example, is the eighth leading cause of death worldwide, killing 1.5 million people each year (6). Although most of these deaths occur in developing countries, diarrhea and other gut diseases remain a significant health burden in the developed world.
But fortunately, probiotics are very effective at improving gut health, whether it is preventing diarrhea or other diseases, such as constipation, bowel inflammation, lactose and gluten intolerance, etc. (7) (8) (9) (10).
Probiotics Prevent Upper Respiratory Tract Infections
Probiotics prevent upper respiratory tract infections by inducing the immune system to produce specific antimicrobial antibodies (11) (12) (13). Thus probiotics are beneficial for school-going children and people living in cold temperate who often suffer from upper respiratory tract infections (14).
Probiotics Improve Mental Health
Mental health is increasingly becoming a huge health burden. The mental health of humans has consistently deteriorated over the past century. Today, 1 in 5 children and adolescents have a mental health issue, with suicide being the second leading cause of death in 15 to 29-year-olds (15).
Probiotics Can Help You Lose Weight!
Obesity has become an epidemic in the developed world. To put it into perspective, two-thirds of the US population is overweight, and one-third is obese (19). Obesity is linked to almost all the leading causes of death, be it diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or some cancers (20).
But lucky you, Probiotics can help you lose weight as well. Research suggests that probiotics prevent fat absorption and promote fecal excretion, thus preventing fat deposition in the body (21) (22). Probiotics also increase hormones in your body linked to weight loss, such as GLP-1 (23).
There are several ways you can take probiotics. For example, yogurt, buttermilk, and fermented foods and drinks are loaded with friendly bacteria that boost your gut health. You can also take probiotic supplements. Supplements come in various forms, such as foods, beverages, tablets, etc. You can choose what suits you the best.