Benefits of probiotics are surprisingly many and much more diverse than previously believed. Probiotics are called “friendly bacteria,” and indeed the body needs many friends. In fact, it needs billions to stay well!
Harnessing the power of probiotics is not hard.
For centuries fermented food has been a staple for millions of people in many cultures. However, the benefits are still being studied and we now better understand how probiotics improve so many body functions, even those note seemingly related to the gut.
It turns out that many benefits of probiotics have to do with the more general role of microorganisms in the human body.
The body is a walking ecosystem of microorganisms
The body hosts trillions of microorganisms, it’s teeming with microscopic life—both on the inside and on the outside. They are all essential for our well-being and without them the body would die. Probiotic bacteria are only one part of this ecosystem but they play an important role to keep balance. One reason is that they are very “talkative.”
Research reveal that all microbes communicate in fascinating ways. Each species has its own “language” that can only be understood by that specific organism. There is also a “common language” understood by all species. This explains why bacteria—both good and bad—coordinate their activities so well. However, it also indicates why consuming probiotics affects the entire body. How’s that?
Probiotic bacteria residing in the gut “communicate” both with the brain and with other microorganisms throughout the body to regulate their activities. This explains why probiotics brings benefits to parts of the body located far from the gut, for example the skin.
Benefits of probiotics for the skin
There’s a strong link between the gut and skin. People with skin problems like acne, eczema, seborrhea, and dry skin often have gut imbalances. It has been observed that consuming fermented food often improve skin quality.
Colonies involved in cross-talk
The following species colonize different parts of the human body.
- In the throat: more than 4,000 species, mainly Neisseria lactamica
- On the tongue: almost 8000 species, mostly Streptococcus salivarius
- Inner elbows: over 2000 species, mostly corynebacterium simulans
- Behind the ears: over 2300 species, mostly Propionibacterium acnes
- In nostrils: over 2200 species, mostly Staphylococcus epidermidis
- Large intestine: over 33,000 species, mostly Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron
The total weight of all microbes in the body is about three pounds (1.4 kg), similar to the weight of the brain. Because it influences the entire body, this large colony is sometimes called the body’s “second brain.” So humans are basically walking colonies of microorganisms, all living in an amazingly complex symbiosis with our body.
Probiotic bacteria are part of a greater community of microorganisms in the body. But because probiotics are talkative, they benefit the entire body. The fact that gut bacteria make up 80% of the immune system shows how essential they are!
Ideally, we should have 85% good bacteria and 15% of the bad to keep the right balance
However, this balance can easily be disturbed. Chemicals, toxins, harmful ingredients in medication, toxic body care products, food, water, and stress can cause imbalances. This can cause harmful species to multiply uncontrolled. One important benefit of probiotic bacteria is that they help prevent and counteract such imbalances.
Benefits of probiotics
Much research confirms that consuming probiotics can have a positive impact on the body—a balanced digestive tract, increased energy, supple skin, better mood, lower chronic inflammation, alleviate autoimmune disorders, food intolerances and much more. Science is still trying to figure out exactly how this is possible. Over 200 medical studies show the benefits of probiotics for more than 170 diseases.
However, this does not mean that probiotics alone will solve all health problems. But it does show that friendly bacteria is part of a good health strategy.
Some potential benefits as indicated by studies
|Improved digestion||Better assimilation of nutrients||Heal the intestine|
|Boost immune system||Ease inflammatory conditions||Reduce bloating, gas, constipation|
|Alleviate upset bowel||Prevent infections||Control weight|
|Improved mood||Eliminate toxins, waste||Restore balance|
Exciting research on probiotics indicates that health benefits are deeper than previously known. It turns out that probiotic bacteria are able to affect gene activity and cellular reactions in the intestine. This is another piece to the puzzle on how probiotics can affect widely different health conditions and on multiple levels in the body.
Tailor the benefits
Even though everyone can benefit from probiotics and fermented foods, there are some differences in how men and women respond to certain bacteria.
Benefits for men
Males might benefit from a wider variety and larger amount of probiotics. One reason is how health issues like prostate problems and stress affect men. Inflammation is a root cause of many problems. However, studies show that consuming probiotics can lower a number of inflammation markers in the body. In addition, consuming a wide variety of probiotics species supports digestion, lower cholesterol, and strengthen bone density.
Benefits for women
Interestingly, certain benefits of probiotics have a stronger effect on women than men. For example, in one study obese women who consumed Lactobacillus rhamnosus lost 11.5 pounds (5.2 kg) for 24-weeks, but males lost no weight. The women also had a drop in leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone and a drop in certain gut bacteria responsible for weight gain. Therefore, if you are a woman and want to lose weight, try to include L. rhamnosus.
Akkermansia muciniphila is another weight loss bacterium. However, to my knowledge, Akkermansia is not yet available commercially. It colonizes the digestive tract of most people but is in insufficient numbers in obese individuals. Consuming additional fiber seems to strengthen the gut colony of Akkermansia.
Try preparing homemade fermented vegetables using a culture starter including L. rhamnosus. Women also experience that probiotic bacteria (as L. rhamnosus) lower stress hormones like corticosterone thereby reducing anxiety and depression. L. acidophilus colonizes important parts of a woman’s body and consuming this species helps prevent urinary infections. It’s usually best to consume a variety of probiotic bacteria, not just one or two strains. In addition, fibre promotes the growth of most gut bacteria.
Benefits for children
A baby receives gut flora from its mother at birth. If the mother’s gut flora is healthy, the baby will inherit this. But if the mother’s gut flora is damaged, the baby’s gut will be affected. At baby’s digestive tract is very sensitive and infections or antibiotics can be devastating.
Some mothers consume probiotics when breastfeeding the baby. Some specialists also recommend feeding the child tiny amounts of probiotics daily. One way is to dip a finger in the juice of fermented vegetables and let the baby suck. As the child grows the dose can be increased. Children who consume probiotic bacteria in fermented vegetables and yoghurt have a strong immune system, suffer fewer allergies and digestive problems.
7 ways to enjoy benefits of probiotics
- Probiotic supplements. Can jump-start things in the right direction. Check the Buyers Guide.
- Fermented vegetables. Simple, inexpensive and delicious. Try making a small batch, to begin with. Fermented vegetables are packed with probiotics, enzymes, and vitamins.
- Eat more fiber. Simple but very effective. Psyllium husk is safe and easy to use.
- Fresh vegetables & fruit. Contain natural microorganisms and enzymes. Vegetable juicing is an excellent way to consume more vegetables.
- Limit sugar and carbs. Too many carbs can create imbalances. Limiting sugars can have an immediate and positive effect!
- Organic food. Organic produce is cleaner, often contains more nutrients, taste better and is sustainable. Try growing your own vegetables and herbs!
- Antibiotics. Add probiotics before, during and after completing the antibiotic course.
You are what you eat—bacteria!
There is an immense amount of microorganisms living inside and outside of our body throughout our life. Humans are composed of more than 90% bacterial genes. Therefore, if humans are mainly bacterial in nature, then we can start to appreciate the benefits of probiotics.
Probiotics are extremely diverse in what they can do. They promote good digestion, cleanse the body of toxins and waste, strengthen the immune system, have a positive effect on our genes, improve mood, and they communicate with other microorganisms all over the body.
Benefits of probiotics: they work 24/7 to keep the body in vibrant health.