What are Probiotics and their Benefit to Health?

What are Probiotics and their Benefit to Health?

By Jamie Costello, a nutritional sciences student

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be found in fermented foods or supplements. When we think of bacteria, we tend to default to the idea that they are bad for us. However, probiotics are different. They can provide “good” bacteria to your gut, helping to maintain a healthy balance for your digestive system. Doctors and health experts recommend probiotics as part as a healthy lifestyle. Here’s a guide to what probiotics are and how they can benefit your health:

How Do They Work?
They can restore the natural balance of “good” bacteria in your gut whenever you lose it. This “good” bacteria can be lost when you take antibiotics, for example. Essentially, probiotics help to help your body functioning the way that it should.

1. They Help To Balance Your Friendly Gut Bacteria
An imbalance of bacteria can result in digestive issues, allergies, obesity, and even mental health problems. This can be caused as a result of illness, medication, and poor diet. Many people may be unaware that in order to help their digestive problems they should be taking probiotics, whether that’s through food or supplements.

2. Probiotics Can Improve Mental Health Conditions
Some mental health conditions can be improved with probiotic capsules. Several studies have shown that taking probiotics regularly for one to two months can help anxiety, depression and OCD. Though it’s recommended that anyone suffering with mental health issues sees their GP before taking any medication, it’s certainly positive to see that probiotics could be a more natural positive solution.

3. They Help Infectious Diarrhoea
When anyone contracts something whereby they need to take antibiotics, it can wipe out some of their protective gut bacteria – which can result in diarrhoea. Evidence suggests that taking probiotics can help to stop the growth of harmful bacteria that can cause illness. In fact, there are claims that taking probiotics can shorten treatment time for infectious diarrhoea by up to 24 hours.

4. Improving Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem caused by some dairy products. Research has shown that some probiotics, such as Lactobacillus and Acidophilus can help to improve the symptoms of the problem. Supplements can be the best way to help this as if you are lactose intolerant, as the other form of probiotic is yoghurt drinks – which you wouldn’t be able to consume.

5. They Can Help Maintain A Healthy Heart
There are some probiotics that can help to maintain a healthy cholesterol level and blood pressure. This is because lactic acid producing “good” bacteria can reduce cholesterol by breaking down the bile in the gut. The probiotics can then prevent it from being reabsorbed (which is how it enters the blood as cholesterol).

Regulating Probiotic Intake
The best way to take probiotics is with supplements or yoghurt drinks. Because of the nature of probiotics, in some cases they can be destroyed by stomach acid before they have the chance the reach the gut and help your digestive system. That’s why it’s important to regulate how and when you take the probiotics by following the suggested guidelines.

About Jamie Costello
Jamie Costello is a nutritional sciences student based in Manchester. He’s currently in the process of writing a portfolio as part of his studies, which he creates using the knowledge he’s learnt so far on the course but also from resources that are backed by scientific research.

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