You probably already know of some benefits of probiotics. But do you also understand the importance of caring for the large colony residing in your body? Why? These humble microorganisms are called “friendly bacteria” because they are hard-working allies in your to keep it running well.
But to harness the full power of probiotic, we need to understand how they work. For example, what can they do for us? What do they like and dislike? Can we feed these creatures? Working together with your colony promotes your physical and mental health in ways we have just started to understand. One reason for the many benefits of probiotics has to do with the general role microorganisms play in the human body.
Humans are a walking ecosystem of microorganisms
Your body hosts trillions of microorganisms, it’s literally teeming with microscopic life—both on the inside and the outside. These microscopic creatures are essential for our well-being and without them the body would die. Probiotic bacteria are part of greater ecosystem colonizing all parts of the body and it seems that probiotics may play an important role to keep the body in balance. In what way?Probiotics (nih.gov)The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics- PubMed (nih.gov)World Gastroenterology Guideline
Research show that microbes communicate in fascinating ways. Each species has its own “language” that can only be understood by that specific organism. In addition, there also exists a “common language” which is understood by all species. This may explain why bacteria—both good and bad—coordinate their activities so well. And it also indicates why consuming probiotics can affect the entire body. How?How Gut Bacteria Communicate with Human Cells | Yale Scientific MagazineBacteria Recruit Other Species with Long-Range Electrical Signals (ucsd.edu)
For example, probiotic bacteria residing in the gut “communicate” both with the intestine, the brain, and with other microorganisms throughout the body and seem to regulate their activities. This is why consuming probiotics can benefit parts of the body located far from the gut like the skin or the brain.Gut and Brain, Inextricably Linked – Association for Psychological Science – APSThe Brain-Gut Connection | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Summary: The body contains billions of beneficial microorganisms living in a symbiotic relationship with our bodies. Keeping this large colony healthy, balanced, and well-fed can have far-reaching consequences on our physical, and emotional health.
Get acquainted with your colonies
Humans are composed of more than 90% bacterial genes. So if we are mainly bacterial in nature, then we can start to appreciate the need to work with them and not against them. Probiotic organisms are extremely diverse in what they can do in your body. Probiotics for Gastrointestinal Conditions: (aafp.org)
The benefits of probiotics include that are at your service 24/7 to keep many body processes working smoothly. Take a look at this list of species colonizing different parts of your body.Normal Flora: Definition. (microbiologynote.com)
- 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. But because probiotics are talkative, they can benefit the entire body. 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, a poor diet, contaminated water, and stress can easily cause imbalances. One important benefit of probiotic bacteria seems to be that they help prevent and counteract such imbalances.
An interesting discovery is that daily dietary choices can modify your gut bacteria composition. For example, consuming more meat causes a decrease in firmicutes that specialize in dietary plant material. This may have a direct link with obesity.Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome – PubMed (nih.gov)
Summary: Your body is teeming with microscopic life both on the inside and the outside. These organisms are vital for your physical and mental wellbeing. You lifestyle and diet choices have a great impact on how well-fed and in balance they are. It can truly be said that “you are what you do to your microorganisms!”
Benefits of probiotics
Research confirm that consuming probiotics have a positive impact on many body functions—it can balance an upset digestive tract, increase energy, make the skin more supple, affect mood, lower chronic inflammation, help to control food intolerances, and more. More studies are needed to determine the health benefits and to understand which bacteria species affects which body function.Probiotics: What You Need To Know | NCCIH (nih.gov)The benefits of probiotics bacteria – Harvard Health
Exciting new research indicates that the health benefits are deeper than previously known as probiotic bacteria are able to affect gene activity and cellular reactions in the intestine. This may be another piece to the puzzle on how probiotics can affect widely different health conditions and on multiple levels in the body. Gut bacteria even communicate with our brain and can control our mood.Probiotics Influence Intestinal Gene Activity | NHRI (naturalhealthresearch.org)That gut feeling (apa.org)
Different probiotic species do different things. Some produce anti-inflammatory molecules, others create vitamins, enzymes, or speed up the conversion of extra calories we eat into body fat.Biosynthesis of Vitamins by Probiotic Bacteria | IntechOpen
Everyone agree that probiotics are friendly and should be part of a good health strategy. However, probiotic bacteria alone may not solve our health problems.Health benefits of taking probiotics – Harvard Health
Summary: Though more research needs to be done, it’s fair to say that consuming probiotics can play an important role in preventing and treating many health problems. The sample below proves this.
Potential benefits as indicated by studies
Tailoring the benefits
Most people can benefit from probiotic bacteria and fermented foods but there are some differences in how men and women respond to certain bacteria. Therefore, consuming a wide array of bacteria strains seems to promote greater benefits.Intestinal microbiota in human health and disease: the impact of probiotics | (biomedcentral.com)Evaluation of single- and multi-strain probiotics: ScienceDirectMonostrain, multistrain and multispecies probiotics – ScienceDirect
Akkermansia muciniphila has been called a 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 may strengthen the gut colony of Akkermansia.Akkermansia muciniphila and diet induced obesity | PNAS
Benefits of probiotics for men
Males benefit more from a wider variety and larger amount of probiotics. One reason is that health issues like prostate problems, low testosterone levels, and stress affect men. Inflammation is a root cause of many problems and studies show that consuming probiotics can lower a number of inflammation markers in the body. Consuming a wide variety of probiotics species can raise testosterone levels, support prostate health, supports digestion, lower cholesterol, and strengthen bone density.Probiotic Microbes Sustain Youthful Serum Testosterone Levels (nih.gov)Probiotics to improve testicular function – Wiley Online Library
Summary: Males may benefit from probiotics to prevent and treat prostate issues, low testosterone levels, general inflammations, and a number of digestive issues.
Benefits of probiotics for women
Interestingly, certain 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) during 24-weeks, however males lost no weight. The women also had a drop in an appetite-regulating hormone and a drop in gut bacteria responsible for weight gain. So if you want to lose weight, include L. rhamnosus.Certain probiotics could help women lose weight — ScienceDailyLactobacillus rhamnosus on weight loss | Cambridge Core
Women also responds well to probiotics for urinary tract infections. And especially effective are Lactobacillus rhamnosus and L. reuteri.Probiotics for prevention of urinary tract infections in women – PubMed (nih.gov)
When preparing homemade fermented vegetables most good culture starters will include 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 this species helps prevent urinary infections. But again, it’s usually best to consume a variety of probiotic bacteria. In addition, adding fiber promotes the growth of all good bacteria species.Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: ScienceDirect
Summary: Females may enjoy unique benefits from probiotics like lower stress markers in the body, weight loss, fewer urinary tract infections, less digestive issues, and more.
Benefits of probiotics for children
Probiotics during pregnancy can help prevent health complications.The Probiotics in Pregnancy to improve maternal health during pregnancy (nih.gov)Probiotics and pregnancy – PubMed (nih.gov)
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 may be affected. At baby’s digestive tract is very sensitive and infections or antibiotics can be devastating.Probiotics for Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea in Children – PubMed (nih.gov)Probiotics for diarrhea in adults and children – PubMed (nih.gov)Probiotics for acute infectious diarrhoea – PubMed (nih.gov)
Some mothers consume probiotics while 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 fermented vegetables, kefir, and yoghurt may suffer fewer allergies and digestive problems.Probiotics to treat excessive infant crying: PubMed (nih.gov)
Summary: Probiotics may prevent complications with allergy, food sensitivity, and a number of digestive problems. And probiotics may help protect the child’s gut when taking antibiotics.
7 tips to support your gut colony
- Probiotic supplements. Can jump-start things in the right direction. Check the Buyers Guide.
- Fermented vegetables. Simple, inexpensive, and delicious. Try a small batch to begin with. Fermented vegetables are packed with probiotics.
- Eat more fiber. Simple but effective way to feed your gut colony. Psyllium husk is a good choice.
- Fresh vegetables & fruit. Contain natural microorganisms and enzymes. Vegetable juicing is excellent.
- Limit sugar and carbs. Too many carbs can create imbalances. Limiting sugars can have an immediate and positive effect on gut bacteria composition.
- Organic food. Go for cleaner products with more nutrients, better taste, and which are sustainable. Try growing your own vegetables and herbs at home!
- Antibiotics. Add probiotics before, during and after taking antibiotics.
In many cases, benefits starts to show after a few weeks.How Fast do Probiotics Work? – International Probiotics Association
Yes, for the vast majority of people probiotics are considered safe. However, individuals with preexisting medical conditions should first consult with a doctor.Clinical Uses of Probiotics (nih.gov)
Timing is important when using a supplement so that the bacteria will colonize the gut properly. It’s usually best to take a probiotic supplement on an empty stomach first thing in the morning and last thing at night. However, consuming fermented food such as kefir, fermented vegetables, natto, kimchi, and others can be consumed anytime throughout the day and together with other meals.