10 Reasons Why You Should Be Taking Probiotics

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  • The type and amount of bacteria inhabiting your digestive tract, also known as the microbiome, has been known for a long time to affect gut health and digestion. The body contains around 100 trillion bacteria, which are approximately 10 times the number of cells of the entire body. Your microbiome changes easily. Your lifestyle, diet, stress levels and antibiotic exposure all affect the balance between the healthy vs the bad, pathogenic bacteria. This is why a good intake of probiotics is essential for the establishment of a healthy microbiome.

    What are Probiotics?

    Probiotics are live microorganisms, which when given in adequate amounts, benefit the health of the host. Probiotics are found in foods like yogurt, kefir and fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut. They are also found in some traditional Asian foods like tempeh, miso and kimchi, but many people nowadays get their probiotics from nutritional supplements. These “good” or “friendly” bacteria, as they are called, travel through the digestive tract and colonise the large intestine where they do most of their job.

    What are Probiotics Good For?

    Probiotics are essential for digestive health. But the latest studies show that the good bacteria you take from your diet have much more to offer. They appear to be essential for achieving optimal health and for treating many common health conditions.

    Benefits of Probiotics

    Probiotics help the body to:

    1. Digest food and absorb nutrients

    2. Fight allergies and food intolerances

    3. Produce vital vitamins

    4. Strengthen the immune system

    5. Protect against cancer

    6. Help in treating autoimmune diseases

    7. Produce a fatty acid that keeps intestinal cells healthy

    8. Fight depression, anxiety and autism

    9. Prevent diabetes

    10. Reach or maintain a healthy weight.  

    Digestion

    Probiotics are particularly beneficial in many gastrointestinal problems. They are mainly helpful for the treatment of diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. Probiotics have a long history of being used for improving the digestion of foods. People who are lactose intolerant are better able to consume fermented dairy products such as yogurt, with much fewer symptoms. This is because the lactic acid bacteria used to make the yogurt produce lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose.

    Food Intolerances and Allergies

    A meta- analysis of 7 studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that supplementation with lactobacilli bacteria during pregnancy prevented atopic eczema in children aged from 2 to 7 years. Other studies also suggest that respiratory allergies might also be prevented. The World Allergy Organisation recommends that:

    • pregnant women at high risk for allergy in their children should take probiotics in order to prevent eczema in the children

    • breastfeeding mothers of high risk infants should use probiotics,

    • high risk infants who do not breastfeed should use probiotics too. 

    Vitamin Production

    Beneficial bacteria living in the intestinal tract produce vital vitamins like vitamin B12 and vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is a vitamin you might have never heard of before, but may be the missing link between diet and many life threatening diseases. This form of Vitamin K, also known as menaquinone, is rare in Western diets. It can only be found in fermented foods and can be also produced by beneficial bacteria in the gut. Vitamin K2 plays an essential role in bone metabolism and studies suggest it can help prevent osteoporosis and fractures. Studies also suggest that high vitamin K2 levels are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, as vitamin K2 helps prevent calcium from being deposited in the arteries.

    Immune System

    The human gut plays a huge role in immune function, as the intestines contain more immune cells than the entire rest of the body. Gut associated immune system represents a surprising 70% of the total body’s immune cells. Scientists are just now beginning to understand the complex communication that takes place between the microbes in the human gut and other organs involved in the immune function of the body. Gut bacteria release chemicals that transfer important messages at sites that are distant from the gut.

    An explosion of research in the field of genetics is for the first time allowing researchers to understand some of this conversation and appreciate its significance. A good intake of probiotic foods also supports the body’s resistance to infectious and pathogenic bacteria. The beneficial bacteria in these foods (such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria) create a barrier that disables pathogenic bacteria from colonising the area. Beneficial bacteria also compete for available nutrients, making the survival and growth of pathogenic bacteria more difficult.

    Cancer Protection

    Scientific evidence links colorectal cancer, the most common cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, with an imbalance of the intestinal micro-organisms. Probiotics help in the prevention against colorectal cancer via a number of mechanisms. They improve the balance of the intestinal micro-organisms; they inactivate carcinogenic compounds; they improve the body’s immune responses; they regulate apoptosis (death) of cancer cells and help in detoxification.

    Autoimmune disease

    Creating a healthy microbiome has a key role in any treatment plan for autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Chrohn’s disease, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. Probiotics improve gut permeability. This is very important in healing the leaky gut syndrome that is strongly related to the aetiology of autoimmune disease.

    Probiotics also help control inflammation. They produce T-regulatory cells which help the body tolerate attacks of the immune system towards healthy body tissue.

    Probiotic intake and colonisation of the gut by healthy bacteria also stimulates the production of butyrate. Butyrate is a fatty acid that is produced by good bacteria in the gut when they ferment fiber from the diet. Butyrate has a special role in controling the healthy life of intestinal cells and has a major anti-inflammatory action throughout the body.

    Depression, anxiety and autism

    Data now indicate that the microbiome communicates with the central nervous system and influences brain function and behavior. Studies suggest a role for the microbiome in the regulation of anxiety, mood, cognition and pain.

    Probiotics have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression risk in healthy people.

    A number of studies have shown that certain probiotic strains have anxiolytic effects, while others are capable of improving behavioural and cognitive characteristics observed in chronic stress situations and in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.

    Achieve optimum metabolism

    French researchers have shown that the type of bacterial species found in the gut of overweight and obese people affected their metabolic status. Their studies concluded that people who had a greater diversity of microbes in the gut had lower fasting blood glucose and insulin levels, lower blood lipids and a healthier body fat distribution.

    Prevent Type I diabetes

    Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means that a malfunctioning immune system makes the body attack and destroy healthy cells of the pancreas. Probiotic intake is associated with an improvement in the immune system’s homeostasis and helps control the development of autoimmune disease. By restoring the intestinal micro-organisms it is possible to see a decline in the cases of Type I diabetes in western countries.

    Reach or maintain a healthy weight.

    Overweight people appear to have alterations in the types of micro-organisms living in their intestinal tract. A particular bacterium, named A.muciniphila seems to be very important, as in healthy people it makes up 3-5% of the total microbes in the gut and seems to be lacking in overweight or obese people. In an animal study, restoring levels of A.muciniphila led to significant weight loss and improvement in insulin resistance.

    Other interesting studies showed that probiotic supplementation at the last month of pregnancy led to a healthier body weight in the infants at one year of age. On the contrary, children of the mothers that were not supplemented had a significantly higher body weight at one year.

    A study published in August 2014 by a team from the NYU Langone Medical Center, found a link between certain gut bacteria and metabolism in early life. The team found that disruption of certain gut bacteria in early life by antibiotic use increases the risk of obesity in later aduldhood.

    So… Think You Could Benefit From Some Probiotics?

     

     

    References:

    1. Mechanisms of the effects of probiotics on symbiotic digestion: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1134%2FS1062359015050131

    2. Szilagyi, Andrew, et al. "Educating Patients on Nutritional Options for Lactose Intolerance." (2015): http://www.mdbriefcase.com/Content/Programs/CaseStudy/LactoseIntolerance_4600/assets/pdf/Lactose_Intolerance_Final_mdBC_AI_EN.pdf

    3. Kuitunen, Mikael. "Probiotics and prebiotics in preventing food allergy and eczema."Current opinion in allergy and clinical immunology13.3 (2013): 280-286.

    4. http://www.cell.com/cell-reports/fulltext/S2211-1247(15)00340-X

    5. Doege, Katja, et al. "Impact of maternal supplementation with probiotics during pregnancy on atopic eczema in childhood–a meta-analysis."British journal of nutrition107.01 (2012): 1-6.

    6. Fiocchi, Alessandro, et al. "World Allergy Organization-McMaster university guidelines for allergic disease prevention (glad-p): probiotics."World Allergy Organization Journal8.1 (2015): 1-13.

    7. https://authoritynutrition.com/vitamin-k2/

    8. Galdeano, C. Maldonado, and G. Perdigon. "The probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus casei induces activation of the gut mucosal immune system through innate immunity."Clinical and Vaccine Immunology13.2 (2006): 219-226.

    9. Vighi, G et al. “Allergy and the Gastrointestinal System.”Clinical and Experimental Immunology153.Suppl 1 (2008): 3–6.PMC. Web. 13 June 2016.

    10. Kumar, Manoj, et al. "Probiotic metabolites as epigenetic targets in the prevention of colon cancer."Nutrition reviews71.1 (2013): 23-34.

    11. Uccello, Mario, et al. "Potential role of probiotics on colorectal cancer prevention."BMC surgery12.Suppl 1 (2012): S35.

    12. http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Alterations-to-gut-microbe-environment-may-have-role-in-type-1-diabetes-risk

    13. http://www.nature.com/news/gut-microbe-may-fight-obesity-and-diabetes-1.12975

    14. Microbiome 'disruption' in early life linked to obesity in adulthood , ByNathan Gray+, 26-Aug-2014, Certain gut bacteria  could help to shape our metabolism in early life, while disrupting these bacteria appears to increase the risk of obesity in later adulthood, say researchers. http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Microbiome-disruption-in-early-life-linked-to-obesity-in-adulthood

    15. Borre, Yuliya E., et al. "Microbiota and neurodevelopmental windows: implications for brain disorders." Trends in molecular medicine 20.9 (2014): 509-518.

    16. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/24/one-of-the-most-important-steps-you-can-take-to-improve-your-health.aspx

    17. Davari, S., S. A. Talaei, and H. Alaei. "Probiotics treatment improves diabetes-induced impairment of synaptic activity and cognitive function: behavioral and electrophysiological proofs for microbiome–gut–brain axis."Neuroscience240 (2013): 287-296.

    18. Razmpoosh, Elham, et al. "Role of Probiotics in Glycemic Controls and Body Weight in Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic of Human and Animal Studies."Iranian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism17.1 (2015): 63-87.

    19. Foster, Jane A., and Karen-Anne McVey Neufeld. "Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression."Trends in neurosciences36.5 (2013): 305-312.

    20. Hunter, Zoë J.Probiotics and the Microbiome: Clinical Intervention for Anxiety and Depression. Diss. Acadia University, 2013.

    21. Sears, Cynthia L., and Wendy S. Garrett. "Microbes, microbiota, and colon cancer."Cell host & microbe15.3 (2014): 317-328.

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