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Everything You Should Know About Probiotics

Though the benefits of probiotics have not been conclusively proved, as the Mayo Clinic states, many individuals have testified to a variety of health improvements they have experienced since they began taking them. Here are some key things you should know about probiotics before you consider incorporating them into your daily regimen.

What probiotics are

The Mayo Clinic defines probiotics as “foods or supplements that contain live microorganisms intended to maintain or improve the "good" bacteria (normal microflora) in the body.” They are typically bacteria, though certain yeasts can function as probiotics, according to Healthline.

How probiotics work

To understand what probiotics do to your body, it’s important to understand the natural state of the human gut. Your gut contains hundreds of types of microorganisms. This microorganism “community” is often referred to as your “microbiota” or “gut flora.” Per Healthline, the majority of your gut flora resides in your colon. Gut flora helps break down food and turn nutrients into vitamins as well as short-chain fats, which perform metabolic functions and feed your gut wall.

To put it simply, probiotics help balance the ratio of “good” bacteria to “bad” bacteria in your gut. This balance is essential to avoiding illness and certain diseases. Too much bad bacteria has been linked to a higher vulnerability of developing ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as WebMD confirms. According to Healthline, it has also been linked to the following diseases: obesity, Alzheimer's, depression, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, colorectal cancer and metabolic syndrome.

The health benefits of probiotics

Probiotic users testify to a spectrum of health benefits they’ve experienced as a result from taking them. Healthline lists just six ways that probiotics can improve your wellbeing.
  • Help improve some mental health conditions like depression and anxiety
  • Reduce the severity of certain allergies and eczema
  • Help keep the heart healthy by lowering LDL cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Assist with weight loss and reducing belly fat
  • Boost the immune system to reduce the body’s vulnerability to colds and infections
  • Reduce symptoms associated with inflammatory diseases and digestive disorders
  • Types of probiotics
Probiotics come in two different forms: food and supplement. Per Beth Janes and Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, with Good Housekeeping Institute, it’s best to try probiotic foods first before you speak to your doctor and start incorporating probiotic supplements.

Probiotic foods include dairy products — such as yogurt, kefir, some cheeses and fermented milk —and fermented products — such as miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and tempeh. You can also drink probiotics in kombucha. Regardless of which type of food or drink you go with, however, make sure to read the nutritional labels. Per Janes and London, look for at least five strains of live and active cultures on the ingredients’ list. And avoid items that include processed ingredients and added sugar.

For supplements, some of the most common probiotics contain strains of Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces and Bifidobacterium. Which supplement you go with depends on your individual health needs, your unique gut conditions and what medicines you’re currently taking. Speak with your doctor to discuss whether taking probiotics is right for you—and, if so, what type of supplement they recommend.

If you decide to incorporate probiotics into your daily routine, they’re a great way to equip your body to ward off colds and certain diseases while reducing the symptoms of current health conditions.  

This article is presented by Autohaus on Edens.
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