Vital for Gut Health

Written By - NCNR Team Thursday, March 28, 2019

Probiotics have received a lot of attention in past few years. These living bacteria have been credited for providing health benefits related to gut function that’s why they often known as “Gut friendly bacteria’’.

The word “probiotic” derived from the word,’ pro’ = for and ‘bio’ = life. Probiotics = for life. Probiotics are live bacterial culture that are present in some fermented foods like yoghurt, buttermilk, cheese etc. Normally we have trillions of bacteria resides in gut. In fact, the average human has around 2 to 4 pounds of bacteria in the body. Most of them are harmless but few Beneficial bacterial cultures are linked to numerous health benefits. Although, still few people often think bacteria is harmful but many of them are vital for optimal health. They help our bodies to function properly by producing the essential B Vitamin, destroy disease causing microorganisms, help in digestion including weight loss, support immune function and many more.

Probiotics Vs Prebiotics

Do not confused the term Probiotics with prebiotics, Probiotics as explained are live bacteria whereas, prebiotics are dietary fibers that help feed these Probiotics or friendly bacteria which is already there in our gut. Prebiotics are cellulose, Fructon, inulin found in oats, apple, leeks, onion, garlic, cocoa, flaxseeds, banana etc.

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Our body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are "good" bacteria as they help keep the gut healthy. They also Help in digestion, nutrient absorption and require for certain B Vitamins synthesis.

How Probiotics are helpful?

Probiotics may help in keeping us healthy by:

  • Reduces the "bad" bacteria that can lead to infections or inflammation and restoring the "good" bacteria that have been lost when taking antibiotics to fight disease or infection like Typhoid.
  • Help in digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Require for vitamin B 12, vitamin K, folate and some short-chain fatty acids synthesis.
  • Help body to maintain gut ph.

Probiotics Types:

Dozens of different probiotic bacteria offer different health benefits. These could be externally as well as internally found in our Gut.

  • Internal - The most common groups of probiotics found in gut include bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces boulardii -A yeast.
  • External - Foods that contain probiotics are basically fermented such as: fermented milk, buttermilk, curd/yogurt, some soft cheeses, miso, tempeh, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and many pickles likes pickled cucumber etc. Lactobacillus acidophilus is very common the probiotic found in curd.
  • Supplements - are available in capsules, tablets, powders and liquid form -- each contain a specific type of probiotic. One most commonly used supplement is acidophilus. Many supplements contain a combination of different strains in a single supplement. The bacterial culture strength is measured in colony-forming units (CFU). It represents a bacteria or yeast that can survive and reproduce to form the group of same microbiomes. In most studies, Higher doses found to give the best results.

Benefits of Probiotics

Our Gut contains billions of bacteria with more than 500 different types of species. Specific bacterial strains may Have Specific Benefits. Commonly known probiotics providing the health benefits are various strains of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Saccharomyces. Few specific benefits of probiotics are:

  • Help Relieve Constipation- Several studies have shown that supplementing with certain probiotic strains i.e B. lactis, B. longum, S. cerevisiae and L. acidophilus etc. can reduce constipation.
  • Boost Immunity – Approx 70% of our immune cells are stored in the digestive system (Gut). Several studies have shown that probiotic supplementation may shift the balance of gut bacteria in a way that increases body's defenses against allergies, infections and certain cancer.
  • Improve Mental Health Conditions-like anxiety, depression, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and memory. – A Study published in Journal of Nutrition, March 2016 shows that taking probiotic supplements for 8 weeks, decreased depression levels and reduced levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) reduced insulin resistance, and glutathione level, when compared to people not taking probiotics.
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There are many other benefits of probiotics. They may reduce systemic inflammation, blood pressure, sugar craving and depression symptoms as well.
  • Prevent and Treat Diarrhea – Probiotics is found to reduce stool frequency in the infection-related diarrhea occurs due to food poisoning and gastroenteritis. It also significantly reduced antibiotic-associated diarrhea by 52% and acute diarrhea due to diverse causes by 34%.
  • Improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms A systemic review of 19 randomized controlled trials published in Journal Gut, March 2010 found that while some people reported improvement in IBS symptoms while taking probiotics. However, results varied between individuals. Also, they could not determine which probiotics strain were most effective.
  • Help Keep Your Heart Healthy - Research has found that certain bacterial strains may lead to favorable changes in heart health markers. The specific strains include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus reuteri. A Meta-analysis of 14 studies published in Indian Journal of Public Health, 2016 found that probiotics supplementation lower blood total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels significantly thus reducing the risk of developing heart disease.
  • May Help You Lose Weight – A growing evidence suggesting that the right balance of gut bacteria can greatly affect body weight. Probiotic supplements may help limit weight gain during high calorie intake. A Study published in the Journal of Beneficial Microbes, March 2014 found that probiotics which is effective for fat loss are Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and the combination of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis.
  • Support Brain Health - Microflora in the colon, digest and ferment fiber into short-chain fatty acids that nourish the gut. Research has shown that short chain fatty acid benefits the brain and nervous system.
  • Relieve skin Issues -. Probiotics have also been shown to relieve in allergic disorders such as eczema, allergic rhinitis and skin infections such as rashes and acne. Some strain of probiotics may also decrease inflammatory responses due to milk or dairy allergies.

So how do we know, you have a good healthy bacteria balanced gut or not. Few symptoms of an imbalanced Gut microflora are:

  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Leaky Gut Syndrome
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Mental fogginess
  • Learning and behavioral disorders
  • Irregular mood or Depression
  • Skin issues, like: Psoriasis, Rashes, Eczema, Acne
  • Bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea
  • Cramping after meals
  • Irresistible Food Craving
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One of the very best and first things you can do in these situations are to eat foods rich in probiotics as well as prebiotics.

We say

Maintaining a beneficial healthy gut bacterium is extremely important. If your gut is lacking in those healthy bacteria, our body cannot digest nutrients efficiently, no matter how much healthy food we eat. Although research is still emerging, but probiotics appear to provide benefits for several different conditions and may also support better general health. Eating fermented foods frequently will help to maintain the good gut friendly microflora for general health. Also, taking the right type of probiotics may help you target specific health problems and improve overall health and quality of life. Improving gut health, will be worth a shot. Afterall, if your gut is not healthy, you would not be either!