Better Gut, Better Health, sums up best of what are probiotics for. But what are probiotics in the first place? Well, let’s find out.
The human body consists of Trillions of different types of cells which serve various functions for life.
Of the many types of cells dealing with the human body is a group of microorganisms known as Bacteria.
Although many people might shudder at the thought of the word “BACTERIA”, there are actually more of the good than the bad bacteria.
Or at least there should be.
There are many forms or strains of bacteria, some pathogens (bad bacteria) such as E. coli can be quite dangerous and in some cases deadly.
There are also many good and beneficial bacteria (probiotics) which can help to maintain the bodies’ equilibrium within the gut flora.
Two of the most well-known are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
So what are Probiotics?
There are two ways to look at the word probiotics.
1. Fermented foods along with supplements such as capsules, tablets or powder can contain various strains of the good gut bacteria. This is another way the word probiotics are used.
2. Probiotics are live microorganisms found in the gastrointestinal tract. They are also known as good gut bacteria.
The word itself probiotics come from both Latin pro (meaning for) and Greek biotic coming from the noun bios (meaning life).
The term probiotic came into greater use around the mid-1970s.
Benefits of adding Probiotics
Within the gut flora, the pathogens (bad bacteria) under normal conditions pretty much lay dormant, as they are not in danger of creating harm to the body due to a large number of probiotics present keeping the balance of the gut flora.
To maintain a healthy balance the Gut flora would contain about 85% good and 15% bad bacteria.
Such a balance helps to keep the pathogens in check by stopping them from multiplying and creating havoc and harm to the homeostasis of the human body, not just within the digestive system but the body as a whole.
Here are some roles which can show how vital probiotics are to the health of the body.
• Helps to enhance digestion by breaking down and fermenting undigested food.
• Breaks down complex sugars, proteins and aids in nutrient absorption.
• Helps to synthesize vitamins B12, some B complex and K
• Stimulates and helps to activate the immune system to fight pathogens entering the body which may cause harm
• Helps to increase white blood cells (T-Cells) thus aiding the Immune system to respond to harmful bacteria.
• Breaks down plant fibres as the body is unable to do so efficiently without the good bacteria
• Probiotics can shorten the duration of diarrhoea particularly due to regular antibiotic use
• Helps to break down lactose (mainly found in dairy products)
• Can help to eliminate bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting
Imbalances of gut flora can be a result due to various factors
• Poor diets which can lack in maintaining a homeostasis of the gut flora.
• Poor eating habits or choice of foods
• Lack or poor hygiene standards, both in self-care and food handling.
• Eating food(s) that has been exposed and or unprotected can and will create further issues down the track.
• Eating in different countries has had its fair share of problems not to mention those unwanted frequent visits to the bathroom.
• Stress can create many issues that will affect not just our thinking but also our health.
• Overuse of medication (with antibiotics that could be the main problem itself)
It should be noted that although many forms of antibiotics can assist in destroying the bad bacteria that may be the result of certain illnesses.
Unfortunately, they also tend to destroy the good gut bacteria as well.
These days it seems that there is too much use of antibiotics, many times they are given to people who have been affected by viruses, cold and flues for example.
As a result of overuse or abuse of antibiotics, this has created further problems in that some bacteria called superbugs have now become resistant to certain antibiotics designed to destroy them.
Antibiotics DO NOT destroy viruses they work on bacterial infections.
This is a reason in itself for the need to bring back the necessary probiotics so that they can replace the lost good bacteria and help to strengthen the immune system and restore that balance once more.
Other health issues (due to an imbalance of your gut flora).
IBD, (Inflammatory Bowel Disease).
Although there may be other IBD issues here are two of the most well-known diseases that can be due to your imbalance.
This disease affects not only the colon and the small intestine but conditions such as Crohn’s disease can also affect the mouth, oesophagus and the rectum.
The main reason for this is the imbalance mentioned earlier in particular when certain bacterial strains are missing or minute thus creating such issues.
Colitis is an inflammation normally but not limited to the lower part of the colon as the rest of the upper colon can also succumb to Colitis.
Intense diarrhoea, plus in many cases, added bleeding can occur as a result of an imbalance in the gut flora.
To find more information on IBD you can refer to the link here for an in-depth detail that may be of benefit
BV and Pregnancy
BV (Bacterial Vaginosis)
We already know how important it is to maintain the gut flora but did you know that the vagina has its own bacteria flora that needs to be maintained as well?
A normal Ph Balance would be below 4.5 this allows the vaginal flora to be slightly acidic thus maintaining the healthy environment required.
The most common good bacteria (probiotic) found within the vaginal flora is Lactobacillus which produces lactic acid thus keeping that slightly acidic balance within the vaginal environment.
Bad bacteria, thrives in a more alkaline environment so when this PH balance alters to a more alkaline nature it enables the bacterium to run amok and create havoc and problems.
Symptoms can results in a watery discharge along with a foul fishy type smell. Itchiness can also be another sign.
Causes and symptoms
• There can be various causes such as an increase in or constant stress
• Medication such as Antibiotics
• Wearing tight and restrictive clothing thus not allowing proper circulation
• Constant douching as this also takes away the good bacteria
• Use of new fragrant or alkaline soaps around the area
• Having more than one sexual partner thus increasing the risk of infection.
• Menstrual cycles
• Burning sensation when urinating
• Irritation and in some cases pain
• Using soaps and or gels when washing your private area many of which can be alkaline can allow the pathogens the opportunity to thrive creating further issues.
As you can see many issues may result due to a lack of proper balance of the vaginal flora.
This is not necessarily the fault of the individual but helping to maintain a balance of good bacteria will certainly help to create a healthy balance.
Not only is it of vital importance for women who are of childbearing age to maintain a healthy vaginal flora but also a greater importance to be noted for expectant mothers to be.
BV is a common infection that can affect around 1 in 3 women who are of childbearing age.
It is very important not to ignore the issue should you have BV while pregnant.
Apparently, studies have shown that around 50% of women with BV may not even be aware of the issue.
For some, they may show no symptoms for others some may be embarrassed to even consult their health care professional some may feel it will just go away.
Thinking it will just go away is too risky an issue to take when one is pregnant.
Complications during pregnancy can result in infections along with other possible issues such as premature birth, low fertility along with low birth-weights.
Premature birth may also create other problems as a result.
At times you may be prescribed Antibiotics for a particular issue.
While this may help in the short term, further issues may arise later as Antibiotics tend to kill the good bacteria as well as the bad; this can now create a whole new range of issues in lowering the gut flora which will also affect the vaginal flora as well.
One helpful way is to take probiotic supplements along with the Antibiotics.
Ensure that supplements or other foods such as fermented foods (where you can) contain probiotics especially the Lactobacillus strain as this is a major good bacterium not only for the gut flora but also for a healthy vaginal flora.
So if you are pregnant or if your partner is pregnant please ensure you consult a qualified health care professional for further advice before making any sudden changes.
Obesity is also an issue that has been associated with an imbalance of gut flora.
By introducing more probiotics which can be in foods or supplements can help to rebalance the gut flora and this, in turn, can be of great assistance in helping with weight loss.
The addition of probiotics can help to not only improve the digestive system but also the immune system as well.
As such can help to fight against the ill effects the bad bacteria has produced.
Thus promoting those four words mentioned at the top Better Gut, Better Health.
You could probably add a better life as a result.
Below you will find some links to a few Probiotics you can find on Amazon.
These have at least 15 different strains of good gut bacteria.
Not all probiotics state what it contains so be aware of these.
It is best to first look around at some others including the ones below and read the information provided.
This way you can make your own choice on which you feel is best for you.
It is best to have at least 10 different strains to give your body the best beneficial effect as not all strains work in the same area.
Having more than 10 allows the rest of the body to benefit not just the gut.
For added benefit Fermented foods can also be a great source of Probiotics.
A list of fermented foods can be found here most of which you can make yourself.