Fun fact: Did you know that your body contains so much bacteria that they literally outnumber the cells in your body in a ratio of 10 to 1? Me neither. Moreover, being the germaphobe that I am, this fact alone makes me panic so much that you can’t even imagine. *sips dishwashing liquid to purify myself* However, after doing some research, I found out that there is no need to panic since most of our body’s bacteria are actually harmless.
In fact, having the right bacteria is key to having numerous health benefits. Such good little fella bacterias are linked to weight loss, improved digestive system, better skin, enhanced immune system to name just a few. Before you say shut up and take my money right now, let’s break it down what is this good bacteria that everyone is going crazy over.
Probiotics. I’m sure you’ve heard of them since literally everybody is saying you need them, and everybody is right. But before you rush to your local pharmacy, first of all, you have to know what exactly are probiotics, and it might even turn out that it is sitting in your fridge. If you are like me and thought that bacteria and yeast are filthy little tiny organisms that have to be eradicated to achieve world peace, you are wrong.
What are these good bacteria?
Turns out, that those teeny-tiny microorganisms are crucial to determine the way our bodies work. One of the most important roles that probiotics a.k.a good bacteria, play in our bodies is lining the parts of the gastrointestinal tract, where they help digest the food we consume, produce vitamins and fight off bad bacteria that bring us diseases. So these nice guys that our bodies contain in a large number, can also be found in the form of foods, dietary supplements, and other products that aren’t used orally, such as skin creams. A lot of microorganisms found in these probiotics, take yogurt, for example, are the same as or similar to the microorganisms that naturally live in and on our bodies. A lot of people confuse them with prebiotics, but the two are not the same thing. Prebiotics are dietary fibers that help feed the friendly bacteria that are already in the gut.
How do they work?
When someone is sick and takes antibiotics for a while, they are oftentimes left with diarrhea even after the infection is treated. This happens because antibiotics kill the bacteria in our bodies, including the good bacteria, which imbalances our gut flora. Although a great deal of research was conducted on probiotics, there’s still a lot to learn about them. What we do know so far is that not all probiotics are the same. In fact, if a specific kind of Lactobacillus, which is a probiotic, serves to prevent an illness, that does not mean that another kind of Lactobacillus would have the same effect. In a nutshell, our bodies are full of bacteria, both bad and good.
Probiotics are among the good guys, that whenever you lose your natural good bacteria, probiotics are there to help you keep a healthy gut. The above-mentioned Lactobacillus, is the most common probiotic, as it can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods. They are very helpful when it comes to diarrhea, but also when your body isn’t as good in digesting lactose or the sugar in milk. Another common probiotic is Bifidobacterium. Found in most dairy products, it helps ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other conditions.
How much probiotic dietary supplement should you take?
If you want to add more probiotics into your diet, a good start would be with yogurt productions. When you choose a yogurt, opt for the one that reads “Live and Active Cultures” on the product label. This means that the yogurt has at least 100 million active cultures for one gram of yogurt. For other types of probiotics, a lot depends on the bacteria type and for what reason are you taking them for. If you choose an encapsulated probiotic supplement, you might want to opt for a combination that contains strains of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, as this combination is naturally found in the human gastrointestinal tract.
Furthermore, scientists now suggest that our gut flora actually determines the body fatness. A study conducted with strains of probiotics shows that probiotics have helped with weight loss. In this study conducted in 2013, 210 people with central obesity or also known as lots of fat in the abdomen area, took part. They were given Lactobacillus gasseri and at the end of the study that lasted 12 weeks, they had lost 8.5% of their belly fat mass.
When they stopped taking probiotics, they gained the fat back within a period of 4 weeks. Although this needs to be studied furthermore, the results seem promising. In conclusion, taking probiotic foods and supplements is considered generally safe for most people, some people with immune system issues and other serious conditions should not take them without consulting their healthcare provider first.
* This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances.
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